Tire Liners Work Great Against Punctures

I admit that I am a pinch-penny.  My family says I have a bit of Jewish heritage, so I usually use that as my excuse.  :-)  But, really, I bicycle because it’s fun and it saves me money in commuting costs and in vacationing costs.  Bicycling to work is fun and very feasible, and I consider cycle-camping an absolute blast.

Buying tires that are tough enough to withstand the vast majority of punctures can be expensive and require some research.  In Idaho, we have a thing called goat-head thorns and those things can go right through any regular tire and force you to stop every 10 miles or so to patch a tube, like I did on this ride.  On that ride I was using some cheap Kevlar belted tires I bought online for about $12 a tire and, as you can read in the article, they didn’t work out so well.  In the past, I’ve purchased Specialized Armadillo tires for $35 a piece at a local bike shop and they lasted for a good 2,500 miles of riding without a single flat.  However, they were pretty dang rough to ride on and not very comfy at all.  And besides, what budget-minded cyclist wants to spend that much per tire?

I believe I have found the holy grail for bicycle riding penny pinchers.  Tire liners!  Yes, these wonderful urethane liners are very flexible, but they completely impenetrable by the vast majority of sharp objects found on roads (glass, thorns, metal, etc.).   I first bought some 2-inch wide ones for my mountain bike.  After about 1000 miles of on and off-road riding, I have never had a single flat.  In fact, recently, I noticed that my aging mountain bike tires were starting to crack and split and I could see the liner through the tire in a spot or two.  If the liner had not been there, either the tube would have burst or something would have punctured the tube.

Months later, I wondered if they made tire liners for road bike tires (700×23 mm, 25 mm, etc.).  Local bicycle shops seemed to only carry tire liners for wider tires, so I visited froogle.com and did some searching.  If you search for the phrase “tire liner 25 mm” you’ll get several results for Mr. Tuffy tire liners for road bike tires, which are about $12 for a pair.  The “Orange” version of these liners fits 700 mm tires with widths of 20 mm on up to 26 mm or so (Mr. Tuffy brand tire liners are a different color for the different widths of tire they fit).  I’ve personally used this size with my 23 mm and 25 mm tires and they fit fine.  When I first took them out of the package, I noticed how shiny and slick the surface of the liners were, which I later found greatly aids slipping the liner in between your tire and tube.  Also, if you try to stab your thumbnail into the liner, you’ll notice it is very difficult to make any kind of indentation.  Yeah, urethane is some tough stuff.

Installing them can be a little tricky at first, but it is not that bad.  If you search google.com for “how to install bicycle tire liners” or something similar, you’ll get some good advice.  Here’s how I do it:

  1. Take your wheel off of your bike and deflate the tire.
  2. Take the tire and tube off of the wheel and then take the tube out of the tire.  You do this because the tube is usually pretty much adhered to the tire.
  3. Lay the tire on the ground and place the tube back in the tire.  It helps to inflate the tube a little bit to do this.
  4. With the tube inflated a few psi, slip the liner in between the tire and tube.  The liner is rather slippery, so this is pretty easy.  I joke with my friends that the liner almost feels like it’s pre-lubed with K-Y.  ;-)
  5. The liner is a little longer than the circumference of the tire, so you’ll overlap a little which is normal.  After the liner is all in, check with your fingers that the liner is well centered with the tread of the tire.
  6. Put the tire/liner/tube combo onto your rim carefully so as not to move things around too much.  Inflate carefully to make sure your tire is properly fit onto the wheel and you’re good to go!

I’ve taken my road bike out to some well-known thorn territory to give the liners a good test and I was absolutely elated that I didn’t get a single flat!  So, anyway, I believe the tire liners are the perfect choice for those who want to buy cheapo tires but who want a puncture-proof ride at the same time.  By the way, you can buy some really cheap tires online for around $10 a tire.  Yes, yes, the cycling connoisseurs will scoff and say “but the rolling resistance of those tires are absolutely ghastly and they weigh far too many grams!”  However, the vast majority of cyclists in the world really aren’t concerned with those things.  Your commute to the grocery store to pick up some beer probably isn’t going to be effected by the quality of your tire; however, you may want to have some tire liners for some protection against those nasty thorns ;)

2 comments to Tire Liners Work Great Against Punctures

  • Jeff S

    I have had good luck with the Mr. Tuffy brand of liners. I recommend using ~2″ (5cm) of double-sided tape every ~8″ (20cm) when installing the liners to keep them centered. The liners can easily get off-center and will stay in whatever shape they end up as within the tire after installation, so if they slip into any kind of squiggle, they’ll be, and stay, off-center, leaving you susceptible to punctures where the liner strays.

  • Ah, double sided tape. Nice. I used to use tire liners with 23 mm road tires and tubes, and I used flexible, rubbery automotive glue to keep the liners stuck to the tire, and that worked pretty well. Nowadays, I don’t mess with liners in my skinny tires; I just fork over the dough for high quality, puncture resistant tires. However, I still use liners with 32 mm and greater-width tires. The liners are *much* easier to install on fatter tires, and they seem to mostly stay where you put them, too, without any help from adhesive.

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