How Common Are Flat Tires In Triathlons? Causes And How To Avoid Them


There is nothing more frustrating than getting a flat tire during a race, especially when you have gained ground.

What is even more horrifying is experiencing it multiple times without the right equipment to deal with it; It makes you want to quit the entire race.

A flat tire during a race can send you into panic mode regardless of the preparation you have put in place. Knowing how frequently this event might give you a little peace of mind by being prepared mentally to handle it.

So, how common are flat tires in a triathlon race? The probability of triathletes experiencing a flat tire in a triathlon race is around 2.5% or 1 in 40. The rear tire is more prone to a flat because it bears more load than the front tire.

I compiled the list in the table below of the triathletes experiencing flat tires during races from forums with which I was able to come up with the above conclusion,

TriathleteNumber of racesNumber of flats
Edward cross501
Scott Richey401
Adam Rice261
Total races1163
Comparing the number of races vs flat tires
Frustrated cyclist after getting a flat

Also check out Top 47 Tips For A Triathlete on a Budget: How to afford triathlons? & Top 50 must-know tips for every beginner triathlete

What Causes Flat Tire During Triathlon

Having a flat tire is not likely to occur, but there are possible explanations for it if they do.

Once you know the cause of the problem, getting a solution is easier.

If you keep getting a flat and you think it’s bad luck, chances are; they are not! There may be an explanation for your flat tire woes. Here are some of the reasons (source) why you may have a flat tire;

  • Something sharp is stuck in your tire; one of the most common causes of flat tires. If this offending object is not removed, I’m afraid, changing the tube is a lost cause because it is likely to deflate the next tube.
  • If your tire is underinflated, there is a high possibility of developing a flat.
  • Collision with a pothole or sharp object can also lead to a flat tire, although this situation is avoidable in most cases.
  • Be alert if you are using old and worn-out tires for a race because they will likely be subjected to wear and tear.
  • When a tube is caught between the brake track and tire, it is likely to result in a flat.

How to Avoid a Flat Tire in Triathlons?

Surprisingly, it is quite possible to completely avoid a flat tire. I know the beginners will think “it is impossible!” but on the contrary, it is possible. If you are religious in following a set of principles, then you will be fine.

Jake north, a professional triathlete, has never had a flat tire throughout his 14 years of racing. So if you are an amateur or enthusiast, you shouldn’t fret as the chances of having a flat tire is probably 1 in 100 provided some things are in place!

Don’t get me wrong; you can still be susceptible to a flat if the universe decides to do its thing; nevertheless, avoiding it is simple.

A flat tire is unlikely if you are proactive. Here is how to avoid a flat tire in a triathlon:

1. Check your tire for wear and tear

Before you embark on any race, always check your tire for wear and tear. Better still,  change your tire to a better wheel if you are not comfortable with the old one. This way, you are on the safer side.

Besides, a bike tire is designed to last about 1000-2000miles, while a high-end tire can withstand about 2500-3000miles before it wears out.

Save yourself the hassle and check out my recommended tire and triathlon gear: Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

If your tire falls in this category, then it is time for you to replace them. Also check if Leaving The Bike In The Sun Bad? Can Bike Tires Blow Up Because Of It!

2. Check your tires for cut or debris that can lead to a cut

Check your tires for cuts and debris; however, they are not always the culprit for flat tires. Sometimes the real problem might be coming from inside the rim. Old rim tapes can depress into a spoke hole which can puncture the tube. The best action Is to replace the old rim tapes with new ones.

3. Ensure your tires are at the proper pressure

Underinflation is one of the leading causes of a flat tire in a triathlon. Sometimes this happens because of the pressure difference.  For instance, if you inflate your tire in the morning and end up riding your bike in the afternoon when the temperature has increased. You are a potential victim of a flat tire because temperature change also affects pressure.

If your tire tends to be underinflated then, inflating your tire regularly can help in this situation.

4. Ensure that the rim tape is fully covering the spook hole

Ensuring that your spook hole is adequately covered to prevent any sharp edges that can puncture the tube.

5. Avoid Collision with an object that can puncture your tire

Although race officials do everything to make the racecourse safe for triathletes, there is only so much they can cover. Keep your eye on the road to avoid potholes and Collision with any object that can puncture your tire. And if an object is unavoidable on the road, lift the front tire of your bike to hop over it gently.

You may also want to consider bike insurance. Check the post we wrote about How much do bicycle insurance cost for bikes under 1,000, 3,000, and 6,000 USD?

6. Perform a safety check on your bike

A safety check is essential if you want to avoid a flat tire during a race. To perform a safety check, you need to take it to a local bike shop, and if you can do this yourself, that is a bonus. Safety checks should be done preferably two weeks before the event to give enough time to get your bike from the shop.

Nevertheless, if you are performing a safety check on your bike, here is what to look for; loose bolt, brake pad, and tire thread, among other things.

7. Get a puncture Resistant tire or tube

A puncture-resistant tire can save you from developing a flat. You can walk into a local shop or order them online.

What to do if you get a flat tire while racing?

Eventually, If you experience a flat tire during any race, don’t be frightened. Trust me, being calm in this situation will get you out of it faster than you think! The truth is getting a tire is no big deal if you know how to handle the situation. There have been stories of triathletes who had a flat tire during a race and still won the podium. The above video will help you out with the process, here is a simplified list of steps to fix your flat tire (Source);

Remove the tire

The first step is to remove the wheel from the bike. You can achieve this by shifting your bike in an upright position and unread the thru-axel to remove the wheel. Once this is done, you can remove the tire; Hook the flat end of one tire lever under the bead to unseat the tire, clip the other end of the lever to the adjacent spoke to keep the tire in place. Use a second lever to slide off the tire.

Find what is causing the flat tire

Carefully inspect the tube, tire, and rim ) for the source of the flat, which could be debris, thorns, or any sharp object. This should be done carefully; otherwise, you are at risk of developing a flat again.

Fix the problem

Replace the old valve with a  new one, and inflate it. Install the valve stem through the rim hole, position the tube inside the tire; roll the tire back Into the rim. Ensure that the tire bead isn’t pinching the rim.  Now pumped up the tire to the required psi.

Reattach your wheel

If everything looks good, reattach the wheel to the bike. After this is done, you can continue your race. Hopefully, you don’t experience another flat again till the end of the race.

Check out How Long Does Bike Tire Pressure & Punctured Tube Patch Last ?

What you should carry in case of a flat tire?

As a triathlete, you need to be prepared for an unforeseen event; that is why a toolbar is essential. Some basic tools need to be present in your tool bag. The tools are of enormous help in case you develop a flat tire during a race.

Spare tube

Spare tubes are vital; even if other triathlete stops to help you during a race, they are not likely to give you their own spare. It is advisable to have at least two spare tubes, which should be kept in a sandwich bag before storing them in your tool bag. This will prevent the tender surface of the tube from being punctured by your other equipment.

Set of tire levers

They are pieces of plastic that can save the day. As a triathlete, be sure the set of levers are present in your toolbar.

Mini bike pump

A mini bike pump is helpful, and they come in handy. An air cartridge is a great addition, but it doesn’t always work at the first trial. A more suitable option is a mini-pump combined with a Co2 cartridge.

Patch kit

If you think a patch kit is irrelevant, wait till you have more than one flat in a race. Generally, they are compact and don’t take much space. They come with instructions for easy usage; trust me, you will be glad you spent that 6 dollars getting the patch kit!

Check out our post on How Long Does It Take To Change Bike Tires? Hacks For A Quick Tire Fix

Conclusion

The likely hood of getting a flat is at around 2.5%, which is relatively low but and when they happen, when you are ill-prepared can make a bad racing experience. So what is the solution; be prepared in any case.

Although having a flat is not likely to happen if you are the meticulous type, but if they do, it pays to be prepared!

Fixing a flat is not as difficult as you think but be sure to arm yourself with the knowledge to be on the safer side.

Bonus read, check out our post on The cost of bike fitting and what to expect (Amateur, advanced and professional)

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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