Surviving and Preventing A Flat Front Tire

by Murray Hawke

I was leading a “cavalcade” of 15 bikes on our regular Sunday run.  I had stopped at an intersection to ensure all riders took the correct turn.  With all riders in sight and aware of the direction of travel, I proceeded to rejoin the group as leader.  I had just completed a passing maneuver to regain my position as leader and was slowing down to normal road speed, when at 80 mph I noticed a change in the handling of my beloved Cade.

  1. As I reduced speed further the problem intensified.  BIG PROBLEMS!  Flat Front 
    Tire!  I have never experienced this before and I must say I never want to experience it again.  Controlling a 300 plus Kg Cavalcade from 60 mph to stop, with a flat front tire, is something I will never forget.

    My first thoughts were to try and control it for as long as possible to reduce speed to a point where the possibility of major body damage would be minimized for both my self and my Cade.  As luck would have it, I maintained some form of control until I came to a halt in the grass verge of the roadway.  Throughout the process of slowing down, the Cade performed an ungainly dance with the font wheel losing all steerage.  I used the complete roadway in my attempt to control the beast, in the face of an oncoming car.  I have no recollection of the car passing me but some how we missed each other.

    The riders that were following watched and waited for what they thought was the only possible outcome, one Cavalcade and one human type body spreading across the road.  Much to everyone’s relief both the Cade and rider came to a safe stop.

    With everyone now stopped and crowding around my Cade, inspecting the tire 
    for nails, or obvious tire damage, finding no initial reason for the sudden deflation, out came the emergency aerosol tire kits.  It took 2 to inflate the tire.  With fingers and toes crossed, I re-started the journey traveling at a somewhat more sedate speed.  I had traveled no more than 1km when the battle 
    of the front wheel started again.  FLAT AGAIN!  “BUGGER!”  This time having to slow down from 40 mph. This was no easier than the first time.  Much to my surprise and everyone elses, I came to a safe stop.

    On closer examination the cause of the problem was found.  The valve stem had torn at the point of insertion in the wheel rim.  The only reason we could find for this happening was the valve extension connected to the valve to ease the inflation of the tire, had damaged the rubber valve stem.  With the wind pressure on the extension, combined with the speed, the valve stem finally let go.

    All that was required to repair the problem was to replace the valve stem for the tubeless tire.

    Lessons to learn:
    1. Don’t use valve stem extensions.
    2. Replace the valve stem whenever you replace the tire.
    3. Don’t use you front brakes if you ever get a flat front tire.  This only increases the adverse handling effects on the front wheel.