Wednesday Wisdom - Flat Kit Considerations

Wednesday Wisdom

Flat Kit Considerations
By Michael Raynor, Service Department Manager

Other than crashes, one of the biggest concerns we hear from triathletes and cyclists alike is getting a flat tire. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be scary, and packing the right items and tools in your saddle bag can make fixing a road-side flat a breeze.

First things first in deciding what items to take with you is determining what issues you’ll likely face and how confident and capable you are in tackling issues. If you’re not comfortable doing any maintenance on your bike and don’t have a desire to learn how to change a flat, it may be helpful to carry a “fix a flat” can as a super quick and easy option to get you back home. We carry an item like this called, GÜP. This is a product that contains sealant and CO2 in one to fix small holes in your tube/tire and inflate your tire to get you home. However, something like this doesn’t always work, depending on the size and source of your flat tire. It’s also a good idea to carry a spare tube in case you get a flat. Even if you don’t know how to change your tube, a fellow cyclist may ride by that can help you out, and it’s nice for you to have your own supplies so they aren’t having to use their supplies to help you.

If you know how to change a tube or are comfortable learning how to, it’s a good idea to carry 2 tire levers, a spare tube, and an inflation device (either a CO2 inflator or a small pump). I always recommend carrying 2-3 tire levers. It’s good to have a backup in case your tire is really tight and stubborn, or in case you break a tire lever. When it comes to selecting your spare tube, make sure your tube matches the tire size and is long enough to fit through your rim (especially if you have deeper aero wheels).There are also now tubes on the market made from TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) that make a compelling case to be the spare tube in your flat kit. While more expensive than a traditional butyl tube, TPU tubes are very light (making your flat kit smaller and lighter) and they’re more puncture resistant than butyl tubes, making them an appealing option to help reduce the chances of a follow-up flat if you’ve got a small hole or cut in your tire.

If you’re riding tubeless tires, you may want to carry a tubeless plug kit that can plug small to medium sized holes in your tubeless tire to get you back home (you’ll still need an inflation method for this). I also recommend carrying at least 2 CO2 cartridges as well. Again, this is to have a backup, but also because it’s not uncommon to fumble with the CO2 cartridge and lose some of the air trying to get it to work if you’re not familiar with it. To that end, it’s always a good idea to practice with the contents of your flat kit. You don’t want the first time you’ve ever tried your tire levers or CO2 inflator to be on the side of the road when a group is waiting for you or when you’re racing sunset home. Be familiar with the items in your flat kit and how to use them.

Bonus items that can be a good idea to carry include tire boots, a multitool, and some cash. Tire boots allow you to reinforce your tire if what caused your flat left more than just a small hole. In a pinch, empty energy gel packets or dollar bills can work to reinforce larger holes or cuts in tires, but a tire boot will be easier and more effective to install. It can also be helpful to carry a multitool with you to help in removing your wheels if you have thru axles, or to make adjustments on the go if something is out of place or comes loose. Finally, it’s always a good idea to carry a little cash with you. This can be great for buying fluids and snacks at a gas station if your ride went longer than expected or you can use this as a thank you if you have an issue on your ride and someone stops to help you out.

So, in an ideal world, the flat kit I typically recommend to people is:

  • 2 tire levers (that you like and can use)
  • 1-2 spare tubes (TPU tubes are an appealing option) or a tubeless plug kit
  • A CO2 inflator and 2 CO2 cartridges OR a hand pump
  • A multitool
  • A tire boot
  • A small amount of cash ($10-20).