Surprisingly, I myself do not have a solution. There have been attempts to coddle the issue: softer rims, stiffer sidewalls, stiffer rims, softer rubbers (so you can run more PSI) – hell, call tubeless a solution, rather than an innovation. But burping those setups is a real possibility and they are not perfect either – though they are far superior, they are also quite expensive and a little less straightforward than a tube, a tire, and a floor pump. Again, what is the solution? Can tubes be given a sweet coating, a spray-on armor? Can the rubber be made of tougher compounds? Super heavy duty tubes were not the answer, they were a nice try, but were simply just too heavy and actually affected the way the bike handled. We all scramble to locate that one brand, that one size, and if it’s not available, well, we’re SOL it seems.
There are many horrible sounds we all have to put up with in our day-to-day: car alarms, cell phone users in line for coffee, most top-40 music, babies crying, etc. But one sound that trumps them all has to be that fateful sound of air rapidly escaping from your tube inside your tire while riding, or worse yet, a timed race run; You deflate with it, curse the on-trail culprit, and your poor line choice. But, what I still can’t figure out is, of all the wild mechanical improvements in the past five years e.g. drive trains, suspension guts, even rubber compounds! – how we have yet to improve the tube.
The one item on any bike that truly makes a bike work, is the ultimate Achilles heel of the entire operation. Titles have been won and lost because of flat tires (you were so close to that KOM on Strava, but that damn ledge rock!!!!); fun rides turned into scenes worthy of any Hollywood drama; commutes turned into tongue lashings from an annoyed coffee shop hipster boss – the list of mishaps is endless really. But what is being done? An item that has a single digit wholesale cost, has upended multi-million dollar investments on the World Cup circuit, and ruined your hard-earned weekend of fun/racing. However, it has yet to be changed in, as far as I can tell, the entire history of these two-wheeled machines.
One thing I’d like to point out: patch kits are insanely cheap, and as “uncool” as it may see to patch a tube, you’ll save a ton of money and always be able to keep riding, albeit after at least a 20 minute rest because fixes take a little while. I am cheap, and I continue to salvage and breath life back into tubes whenever the damage is minor. Now, this doesn’t solve the problem of having the flat occur, but sometimes a solution once the problem comes around is half the battle. If I had more knowledge about rubber and the process by which it and rubber products are made, I’d be working on this issue instead of typing about it.
This is my Call To Arms, it goes out to all of the engineers in the crowd (so, like, 90% of you) – join this great and noble cause of ending flat tires globally! With your help, the horrible hissing sound of escaping air and the odd sound of a rolling, airless tire will be eradicated and left to the halls of history! I want to see races won and lost with bravado and ability, not because of yet another technical failure. The Earth is not flat, and our tires should not be either! Together, we can keep the air all for our pleasure, and leave the wallowing of deflated sports equipment to forgotten balls in garages and PE classes across the world. We live in the future, it’s about damn time we have a means to stop leaks in our tubes, otherwise we are no better than BP…for shame!