There’s a Flat In Every Tire

Last year, fed up after what seemed like an endless number of flat tires, I decided to pay real money and get some durable tires.

I paid a ridiculous retail price at a local bike shop for a Continental Gatorskin, because I had heard so many good things about them — mainly, that they resisted flats.

I liked the Gatorskin so much, that I bought a second one for the front — ordering online at a much lower price this time. As a full Gatorskin bike owner, I was now set.

I gotta say, they’ve been great. A big difference between the Gatorskins and previous brands I’ve owned — Specialized, Vittoria, Hutchinson — is that they seemed to resist the normal cuts and gashes tires get in normal everyday riding conditions. Let’s face it — it’s a jungle out there, with broken glass, radial tire wire, and microscopic metal shavings all waiting to take your tire down.

The knock against these tires is that they’re heavy, and slower than comparable tires. But if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know I’m no speed demon, so that doesn’t matter to me.

Just the other day, I was inspecting the tires for cuts, and there just weren’t any to speak of. Oh, a couple of really tiny ones — but you’d expect more than that after 1200 miles.

Today, my luck ran out. I was on one of our most popular local routes — the Mopac Expressway — when I heard a “pop — whissssh.” The best tire I’d ever owned fell in combat against a glass-littered shoulder.

I felt around the inside of the tire, but couldn’t locate the cause of the flat. The new tube went in easily, and I used my trusty Topeak Road Morph pump to inflate it to 105 pounds. Then I saw it.

The first big gash I’ve ever seen on my Gatorskin.

I must have hit a dandy shard of glass, because the gash across the tire stood out like a boil on a baby’s butt. When I ran my finger over it, I could feel it protrude up from the surface of the tire. There was a space between the cut tire edges. If I’d noticed it before I did the repair, I could have added a boot to the tire — I keep strips cut from ride numbers in my seat bag just for that purpose — but the last thing I wanted to do was pull the tire off and put it back on all over again. I got on the bike and pedaled gingerly for the remaining four miles home.

Later tonight — or maybe tomorrow morning, depending on my mood — I’ll take off the cut tire, boot it, and put it on the front. I’ll rotate the front tire to the rear.

Then, just to be on the safe side, I’ll go online and order another tire. It’ll be a Gatorskin.

  • Gatorskin 700x25c Tire
    Brooks England
    The Continental Gatorskin is constructed of a durable carbon black mixture, a well regarded puncture protection system, and DuraSkin-anti-cut fabric making it a real long distance runner.
    $54.95 from Paragon
  • Continental Gatorskin Folding Road Tire
    Continental Gatorskin Folding Road Tire. High mileage and puncture resistance team up in this fast-rolling, folding road tire from Continental. Made with DuraSkin polyamide fabric to ensure excellent sidewall protection without compromising weight or ride quality. Smooth in the center and grippy on the shoulders, this durable tire provides superior cornering in any condition. Designed for bike commuting, touring and serious training.
    $54.99 from Performance Bicycle
  • Continental Gatorskin Tire - Clincher
    If you're logging big miles year-round, the Continental Gatorskin Tires just might be your new piece of must-have gear. They're similar to the GP4000-4 season tires, but a little heavier and a little slower -- geared more toward training than all-weather racing. The Gatorskins feature two distinct layers of puncture protection: a Duraskin mesh at the sidewalls to prevent cuts, and a dense, nylon breaker under the tread to protect against direct punctures and road debris.
    $39.95 from Competitive Cyclist


  1. oldguy says

    I’ve decided that flats are just one of god’s little jests. She does love her practical jokes. I too thought I was immune with my Armadillos. Turns out it was just hubris.

    Hadn’t thought about doing the boot thing. Good tip.

  2. says

    I had the shop put on Gatorskins on my bike when we did the tune-up. Cost me $40ish each…not bad considering prices of other tires.

    Have only done one ride on them outside, so a bit hard to judge…

      • Doug McLaren says

        Performance Bike will pricematch other stores — even what you find online.

        And they do stock Gatorskins.

        So you just print out the page with the price, take it to PB and get it cheap now rather than waiting …

  3. tracywilkins says

    I’m a pretty big believer in the Gatorskins. They can take a lot of abuse, but as they age it seems like the sidewalls get kind of weak. That’s where I usually have failures, but those are usually after a couple thousand miles.

    I agree that they’re a little heavier than a lot of tires, but not nearly so heavy as something like the Specialized Armadillos.

  4. KK says

    If I recall, Sheldon Brown counseled that the integrity of the front tire was more important than that of the rear tire – the consequences of failure were harsher. I’d boot it up and leave it on the rear wheel.

    • says

      Very true, front wheel contributes much of the stability and traction while cornering. However, the rear wheel also bears most of a rider’s weight. So it’s a double edged sword either way IMHO.

  5. says

    Similar thing happened to me a week ago. My Gatorskin had about 2600km in it, which is a little less than the 4000km I’m averaging over the last two sets, but I’m not complaining, I’ll keep buying them.

  6. mildstallion says

    I’m switching to Gatorskins from Conti 4000s this year. Is the ride feel significantly different?

    I was able to get a clearance deal from the LBS – $22.50 each. I couldn’t turn that down!

  7. Jeremy Mazur says

    This is an interesting post. I’ve been an avid advocate for Continental Gatorskins for over three years. Before then I used other brands and types and typically wound-up with a flat once a month. That history changed with Gatorskins. Since using them I have had two flats that I recollect. The first was a nail that hit the tire at the right angle in the right place (this happens). The second was a pinch flat. I’ve found the Gatorskins to be a great riding tire, and typically can log about 2000 miles on a pair before swapping them out for good measure.


  8. says

    Most roadies wouldn’t be interested, but I use tire liners (don’t remember the brand) in my MTB tires. Have really yet to have anything penetrate the liner, though I did have a piece of flint (the size of a tooth!) bury into a tire and cause a “pinch” type of flat when bottomed out against the rim.

  9. says

    I subscribe to the theory that the front tire is much more important. If I have a questionable tire, I’d MUCH rather have it on the rear. The point about weight is a good one, but if your rear tire starts slipping out from under you, you can usually recover. If your front one starts slipping, you’re almost certainly going down.

    • says

      It’s just a crack in the tread, and to once again invoke the wisdom of the late bike guru Sheldon Brown: “Cracks in the tread are harmless. Small punctures in the tire such as are typically caused by nails, tacks, thorns or glas slivers are also harmless to the tire, since the tire doesn’t need to be air-tight.” It’ll last me until its replacement arrives.

  10. RamonH says

    +1 for the Continental Gatorskinz. I have a set on my bike and a set on my wife’s bike. I also sport tire liners, and yes, I know it is overkill :) Just be aware that these tires don’t like running on tubes with low air, just make sure to air-up your tires before every ride (which is something you probably should be doing anyways). I have gotten a couple of pinch flats due to low air on the tubes. The only other flat I can recall had to do with a metal staple/torn which would have gone through just about anything.

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