Dodging the dreaded winter road debris

by Raymond Parker on February 7, 2013

in Cycling

Dastardly Detritus

Dastardly Detritus

We’ve been lucky here on the “Wet Coast” this year; it hasn’t snowed so you’d notice. The post-snow tirepocalypse associated with detritus pushed onto shoulders by snowplows is happily absent. Still, as usual, the rain-washed objets de déstruction are still plentiful enough to be wary.

And wariness is a good thing while travelling at speed on skinny (not to mention expensive) tires in any season. At the best of time, fixing a flat is a pain; on a cold winter day, doubly so.

It is one of the great mysteries of the universe why municipalities neglect the sweeping of highway shoulders, where cyclist dare to tread, while diligently scouring suburban gutters. But there you have it … along with rumble strips. Don’t get me started on rumble strips.

The best we can do is keep an eagle-eye for tire shredding crud, and grit one’s teeth when traffic won’t allow avoidance procedures, i.e. swerving into traffic. Don’t do that.

Some people swear by various goos and liners, inserted into tubes and tires. I swear at them. Personally, I’ve never seen reason to add complication and oozing glop to my cycling routine, and have very few punctures. Sometimes they come in threes, mostly I’ll go for years without so much as a slow leak. Proper inflation, replacement of worn tires, and most of all debris avoidance, keep me rolling pneumatically.

What’s your method?

{ 10 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Conor Ahern February 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm

Back in my racing days I would use tubular tyres inside clincher tyres, mostly to increase rotating weight as a form of resistance training. It made for a heavy wheel, but never any punctures.


Raymond Parker February 8, 2013 at 10:57 am

On my first crossing of British Columbia, I used tubulars. I became an expert sewer! 🙂


ofoab February 8, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Just as its hard to get your mind out of the gutter, cycling sometmes forces you there. Carry the holy trinity, Tube, Patch-kit and Pump. Extras include money , duct tape and clean -wipes . I always use baby -powder , between tire and tube , stops snake-bite and makes me smell nicer . Tire label or pressure info at valve for consistency. The litte square of talc and tire savers ! Reminds me of L’Eroica.


Raymond Parker February 9, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Serpently a good plan, Lee.


Bob Goodison February 9, 2013 at 8:10 am

Almost dnf’d the Cascade 1200 after six flats on the second day. Lessons (re-)learned- check your rim strips whenever you change your tire, make sure there are enough patches and glue in your patch kit.


Raymond Parker February 9, 2013 at 5:54 pm

Good tips, Bob. Thanks. Redundancy is a good thing. An ounce of prevention, and all that.


Patrick W February 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm

Fat low pressure tires just seem to handle it better, Hetre’s rule. Of course now I’ll get a flat tomorrow.


Raymond Parker February 9, 2013 at 10:36 pm

Well, I’ll agree (as another 42mm Hetre disciple) you’re less likely to fall afoul of roadside debris.

This may start another discussion: what tires best serve to avoid punctures without robbing riders of performance?


Ryan February 11, 2013 at 3:51 am

Right now we out east just have to worry about ice building in the bike lane and shoulders.
Fortunately after this past snowfall, my city cleared the bike lane (or at least the one outside my place).
During the clear weather the bike lanes/shoulders are cleared of debris only a few times a year, once every two months perhaps.

On my last bike I took an old tube, cut it then lined it in the tire. The entire time I had it like this I had only one flat, and that wasn’t because I picked something up — but hit a curb hard.
Of course this probably works well with tires that are wider. Might be more difficult for road/racing bikes.


Raymond Parker February 11, 2013 at 10:37 am

Glad that DIY liner worked for you. My experience (in bike shops) is that liners, at least commercial ones, can squirm around and actually cause flats.

As Patrick notes above, wider, lower pressure tires seem to perform better in this regard, passing over a lot of stuff that would puncture a narrower, high-pressure tire.


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