Clinchers, Tubeless, and Tubular Tires

Tires — Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Pneumatic tires, standard in most vehicles on our roads and most airplanes too for that matter, were first brought to us thanks to the bicycle, or, to be technically correct, the tricycle. Before that time, wheelwrights used to “dress” a wheel with a heated band of iron or steel, which would restrict when quenched to wrap tightly around the wheel. This “dressing” was also known as “attire,” which was later shortened to the English word most commonly used for una llanta.

In the late 1800s, John Boyd Dunlop invented the first practical pneumatic tire out of concern for his ten-year-old son Johnnie whose vigorous tricycle riding on the bumpy streets of Belfast, Ireland were becoming a constant source of severe headaches. The cushion that was formed when the rubber tire was inflated absorbed much of the impacts of these bumpy roads, thus allowing Johnnie and billions of people to ride without rattling our teeth out.

Much like with other vehicles, maintaining proper air pressure in your bicycle tires helps get the most life out of them and keeping the right balance between absorbing the bumps of uneven surfaces and minimizing the drag of the rubber tire exposed to the surface of the terrain you travel over.

A danger with underinflated tires is something called a “pinch flat.” Pinch flats occur most commonly when a tire passes over a crisp edge, like the corner of a concrete curb that you try to hop over. The inner tube (or sometimes even a tubeless tire) is pinched against rim so hard that it perforates it, usually causing an instant flat.

The telltale sign of a pinch flat is that you will typically see two distinctive “snakebite-like” side-by-side holes in your inner tube. Not only will you have to repair or replace your innertube or tire, but you’ll also have to check your rim for damage… and those are more expensive to replace!

Avoiding pinch flats is easy if you stay aware of your tire pressure. Sure, you can use a gauge, but with practice, you can develop an eye for it by a simple test. Before mounting your bike, just push down on your handlebars while looking at the front tire then push down on the seat while looking at your rear tire. There should be just a little give, but the tire should not bulge much at the sides.

When out in the countryside, bring a tire repair kit with you in case of a flat. Here in town, fortunately, you’re hardly ever far away from a bike shop to push along your aluminum companion.

Are you an avid biker looking for an adventure this fall? Then mark your calendars for the weekend of November 16 and 17 for the annual Puerto Vallarta to San Sebastián Challenge—a 70-kilometer route climbing from our coast up to a Pueblo Mágico of nearly 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) in elevation. Register today: If you don’t feel quite in shape for that much of a climb, now just might be time to buy an e-bike or install a conversion kit!

Remember: keep Puerto Vallarta safe and friendly by always sharing the road with care and looking out for bicycles.