Trip Tip – Tires, Tubes, & Flats
Are flat tires an unwelcomed eventuality that comes with the territory when triking overland on epic journeys? If you read the chronicles of most long haul trikers, you are likely to conclude the answer to be in the positive for this very negative experience. There isn’t a triker alive who would rather be hunched over attending to a flat on the side of the highway instead of merrily cranking out the miles and enjoying the scenery. It has been said by a few that changing a tire is no big deal, which may be true enough for some who are experienced at doing it, but there are often hazardous sections of road and extenuating circumstances where attempting to change a tire could get you injured by a motorist or snuffed by inclement weather. Not all flats happen on warm sunny days on quiet flat backcountry roads.
Consider this: Flats are not part and parcel to trike touring, and not all tires and tubes are created equal. If you run standard cycling tires and tubes, your out of pocket expenses will initially be less, but you will indeed experience flat tires with annoying regularity. The upside to this, of course, is that standard tires and tubes are a snap to change because they are so light duty in their construction, which makes them easily manipulated by human hands. That is why sharp objects, like goatheads, easily penetrate them … the rubber compounds are thin and not resistant to a breech. You may believe that you’re saving money and getting a great deal on these tires and tubes, but if you look at the costs of replacing them often, along with the irritation of changing them in questionable roadside conditions, it may become apparent that installing the best tires and tubes you can afford is the preferable solution.
Superior tires also have longer tread life, which translates to more miles and years of service. Superior tires are heavier than standard tires, and they are not easily manipulated with your hands. Superior tubes are heavier than standard tubes, and spares take up more room in your panniers. The good news is that superior tires (such as the Schwalbe Marathon Plus) and superior tubes (such as the Kenda Q-Tubes) are as close to immune from flats as you can get, thus you don’t need to carry numerous spares. Do your homework. Get tires with thick flat protection designed into the tire behind the tread. Get tubes that are extra thick in the portion that rests behind the tire’s tread. They may be a bear to install at home initially, but you can count on them out on the road when other tires and tubes fail.