Having a flat tire during the bike portion of a triathlon is one of the most potentially time consuming delays you can encounter. Despite how attentive you may be to preventing this from happening, it is bound to happen sometime. What you do when your triathlon bike wheels go flat depends largely on how far along you are and if you are actually racing when this happens.
To Patch or Not to Patch
Whether you are at the beginning, middle, or early parts of the end of your biking event, you have a choice to patch the tube or replace it altogether. The bottom line is that it’s less expensive to patch the tube, but replacing it goes a lot faster. If you get your flat during training, by all means patch the tube, but if you are actually in a race, replace the tube.
One thing you should know: It is extremely important in either case to find and remove whatever may have pierced your tube. If you skip this step, you could very well get another flat later in the race.
Inflating Your Tri Bike Tires—CO2 or Hand Pump?
CO2 cartridges are great time savers for inflating tri bike tires, there is no arguing that. However, they have their drawbacks, so it is in your best interest to have a hand pump around all the same.
First of all, you only have to buy a hand pump once, but CO2 carts are disposable.
Definitely, if you’re training or if it’s early in the race, just use your hand pump to inflate your tires. This has benefits beyond saving money. CO2 is thinner than normal air. The lighter butyl bike tubes will leak CO2 but not the air from a hand pump. If you inflate your tires with CO2 too early in the race, you could be dealing with another flat by the end of the race.
You should save your CO2 for later in the race. The rule of thumb is that it is much easier to make up the time you lost early in the race than it is later in the race. This increases the closer you get—if T2 is within your sight when you go flat, it might be better to just “run” your bike to the end.
Tip: If you bring CO2 cartridges, bring your hand pump anyway. It is a rare occurrence that you can top off a tri bike tire with CO2.
2 Timesavers on Triathlon Bike Tire Changing
If you notice that your back tire is going flat, switch to the lowest gear before you pull over. It makes removing and replacing the chain much easier and faster.
Practice, practice, practice. Removing and replacing the chain, wheel, tire and tube, along with patching, should all be firmly imbedded in your muscle memory before the next race. Fumbling at any stage of a tire change is wasted time.