As part of Road Safety Week, the Road Safety Authority was busy tweeting today about #NationalTyreSafetyDay and the #GetAGrip hashtag.
They RSA seems to think that only cars and trucks have tyres – but we know better!
So, what do cyclers need to know about tyres? Here’s a few tidbits.
(We won’t be covering tubeless tyres here, so off with you if you’re into that fancy business..)
Your tyres are grippier than you might think
Tyres for bikes and trikes come in many shapes and sizes, including a wide variety of surfaces.
Examples of tyres: Grippy; grippier; grippiest.
But even the ‘smoothest’ of tyre surfaces will provide you with good grip on road surfaces. Typically on bicycles (though not with tricycles), people tend to lean as they turn. Nervous cyclers can be wary of this, for fear of slipping or falling, but even in rainy conditions the rubber and road surface will grip together and keep you rolling along normally.
Word of warning, though:
You should be wary of greasy or oily surfaces, and things like drains and manhole covers. These can be very hazardous, and even the bumpiest tyres may slip badly on slick surfaces like these. (If you can’t avoid such hazards, try not to turn or brake while cycling over them.)
Don’t over- or under-inflate your tyres
If you inflate your tyres too much or too little, either one can cause a puncture, for different reasons.
“How on earth is a girl to know,” I hear you cry! Never fear, there is a way to find out.
Tyres can teach you, and they don’t have to charge.
The sides of bike tyres contain important information! As well as the brand name, if you look more closely and carefully, you’ll see some numbers and figures moulded into the sides, too. These give you details about the width and diameter of the tyre, plus the recommended maximum and minimum range of pressure. Hurrah!
In the example above, it reads: “6.0-8.0 bars, 85-115 psi”. Here, bars and psi are two ways to measure pressure, and the numbers give the range for each. Some tyre pumps include a dial to help to ensure you’re keeping within the recommended range (squeezing tyres won’t cut it!).
What to use to inflate your tyres?
Tyre pumps, I hear you say? Well, there are many to choose from.
Behold! An array of just some bike pump examples.
The pics above show (from left to right) a track pump, a mini bicycle pump and (if you’re adventurous) a CO2 tyre inflator.
The track pump here has a dial where you can keep an eye on how much pressure you’re using. The mini pump is handy to throw into a pocket or bag, and you can sometimes get versions of these with a dial – fancy! The CO2 inflator is just a way to get a bit of gas into your tyres quickly, without the effort of a pump – be careful, though, as they contain pressurised CO2 and get very cold when in use.
You won’t always get a puncture right away if you cycle over glass
Punctures occur when the inner tube fails for some reason. The inner tube is a separate tube within and between your tyre and the wheel rim.
Inner tubes are delicate, while tyres are a little (or sometimes a lot) tougher. If cycling over broken glass or similar, a puncture may not happen right away, even if some lodges in your tyre. Often, as you continue cycling, the piece of glass can work its way through the tyre. Eventually, it can pierce through and that’s when it meets the inner tube and, voila, puncture.
Is there a way to stop this? Not entirely, but you can fend off most of it.
Be sure to set aside a little time to regularly and carefully check the surface of your tyres for pieces of glass. You should do this especially after every time you cycle on wet roads: due to the adhesive properties of water, bits and pieces from the road are more likely to stick to your tyre surface, and so the ‘workening’ begins.
To check your tyres, be sure to raid your make-up bag or DIY set for the pokiest tweezers you can find, or else something that comes fairly close, like one of those betting shop pens, or even fashion your own poking device.
Tweezers for poking!
Then use your poking device of choice to gouge out any bits of glass or other crap that has become lodged in the tyre surface. It’s weirdly therapeutic and odd, like Dr Pimple Popper, but without being gross.
A puncture doesn’t always mean you need to get new tyres
Even after punctures and embedded bits of road debris, you’ll be surprised how long your tyres will last you. Once the puncture is repaired on the inner tube, or the tube replaced, you can usually continue to use the same tyres for some time afterwards (unless some serious damage has been done, of course).
Tyre tread: do the same rules apply to cars and bikes?
Not really, but sort of.
There aren’t legal requirements around specific tread depths for bike tyres, you must ensure your bike (or trike) is in working order.
That said, you can use your tyres quite a lot before the need to replace them.
Also, a tip if you’re budget-conscious, it can sometimes work to keep an eye on your rear tyre: this tends to wear down more quickly, so if you feel then need, you can swap the front and back tyres, get a bit more wear out of them, and then repeat that process – keeping the newer/less worn one on the rear wheel – as you replace one tyre at a time.