Pinch flats. For those who ride and race dirt bikes, this is one problem that continues to confound all of our attempts to solve it, despite years of experience and modern technology. To riders, pinch flats are like Kryptonite to Superman, the heel of Achilles, or Wil Wheaton to Sheldon Cooper. Last year I attended a Hare Scramble that took place in the desert over rocky terrain, and I was amazed at the number of flat tires that the racers were sustaining. There was a crew dedicated entirely to changing tires for the participants, and they were at it non-stop from the start of the race until it was over. The enemy was clearly riders getting pinch flats. Despite loudly proclaiming that he was immune to pinch flats because he was running a Tubeless System on his bike, a friend of mine got two front flats, and then a third sent him over the bars at a high rate of speed which earned him a broken pelvis and a dislocated shoulder. He said he’s never running Tubeless again. Pinch flats are a controversial issue that many riders claim to know the solution to, but does anything really work? Let’s take a look at some of the best options for eliminating pinch flats:
There are several different brands available that use a similar technology, and here’s how it works. Instead of your standard inner tube, you place a tubeless system inside your tire that seats on the rim. The Tubeless System is a small inner tube encased in a thick rubber liner. When the components are installed, you inflate the small tube to 100 psi, which forces the liner against the beads of the tire to form a seal. Using a second valve stem, you can then inflate the tire to your desired pressure and run it without fear of pinch flats because there is no inner tube.
Sounds great, right? Well yes and no. Off-road motorcycle tires are not and have never been designed to hold air. I’ve heard several manufacturers are working on this, but tubeless tires aren’t available yet. This system can also turn into an issue when you’re out on the trail. If you do have any problems with the Tubeless System, you might need to carry plugs to repair your tires so they’ll hold air, and that little pump in your pack you took off your wife’s 10-speed bicycle isn’t going to inflate anything up to 100 psi. Tubeless Systems run about $100 per wheel. Lots of guys swear by them, but I’ve seen them fail tons of times.
This is a newer product that’s been out for a couple of years. A Tube Saddle is a U-shaped piece of foam that mounts on the inside diameter of your inner tube. You typically place it onto the tube and then install the Saddle and tube together, which is pretty simple. The foam protects the inner tube from damage due to pinches or tire irons. I don’t know anyone who has run the Tube Saddle on their bike, but the design is good. This product should provide a layer of protection for your inner tube, which could allow you to run lower air pressures. Tube Saddles will run you about $60 per wheel.
This is a product similar to the Tube Saddle, but in a two-piece design. The Squatch Racing Tube Guard system consists of two flat pieces of nylon that mount on both sides of a standard inner tube between the tube and the tire. Each piece provides a seriously tough barrier against damage on your sidewalls, eliminates the possibility of pinch flats, and protects the tube during tire changes. Installation looks relatively easy and is similar to building a sandwich. Just install the first tire bead, first Tube Guard, inner tube, second Tube Guard, and seat the second bead. Testing of this product has been done running 9 psi with no recorded flats. The Tube Guard is available for 21” front wheels at http://MojoMotoSport.com for $69.99 with FREE shipping.
If you want to know you’re not going to get a flat because it’s impossible, you might want to get a Bib Mousse. This product is a solid foam insert that replaces the inner tube completely. You don’t have anything to air up, so you can’t get a flat. They last about 6 months with normal use before the foam starts breaking down. From what I’ve heard, they can be tough to put on, they ride rough, and they’re heavy. There is no air pressure adjustment available with this option, so don’t get your hopes up for the ride and feel that you want. A good Bib Mousse will run you around $125 a wheel.
Another major factor that affects pinch flats is the rider’s choice of inner tube. Tubes are available in standard, heavy duty, and extra heavy duty. The heavier the duty, the thicker the rubber, so the more the tube will weigh. Thicker tubes can also be more difficult to install, but the added toughness is definitely worth it. Running a heavy duty tube can allow you to run lower pressures because the thicker tube can take more abuse and resist damage due to tire pinching. Standard tubes cost around $20, heavy duty ones go for about $30, and extra heavy duty tubes are around $40.
One factor many riders overlook concerning pinch flats is their choice of tire. If you want to avoid pinch flats, you need a tire that has thick sidewalls so it flexes less and resists the tendency to pinch your tube. Stay away from Dunlop AT81’s, which come stock on a lot of bikes, because their thin sidewalls will pinch your standard tube and give you a flat with the first hard hit. A better option is Dunlop’s MX32 for better sidewall stiffness and less chance of pinch flats.
The main reason that pinch flats are even an issue is the fact that riders want to run low air pressure. Is this really necessary? Are you really gaining that much more traction? Personally, I’m still not convinced you gain anything by running lower air pressures, except for flat spots on your rims. In my opinion, the solution to all of this nonsense is choosing a good tire, running a heavy duty tube, and inflating your tires to the manufacturer’s specifications. Sounds crazy, right? It works well for me.
What do you think?
But who cares what I have to say? We want to hear from you! Feel free to chime in on the Pinch Flat issue below, and be sure to share what works for you. Any other products or tips that can help the riding community will surely be appreciated. Thanks!