Flatting in the Rain

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If you watched today’s stage of the Tour de France you’d see how many riders flatted in the rain. This is a pretty common occurrence in the sport. On the road, and off-road.

I used to think that the flats were more prevalent because that the water allowed small pieces of sand, glass, etc., to stick to the tire and it got driven into the tread/casing by the pressures between the tire and the road.

But, that isn’t the case. I was talking to Steve White, the head guy from Michlein tires a few years ago and Steve told me that the reason there are so many flats in the rain is that the water acts as a lubricate and allows the slicing of the tire.

He told me a story about working at a race track and that they used to cut car tires in half to use as protection barriers in the corners. He said that if you took a super sharp blade and tried to cut through a dry tire, you’d get nowhere, but if you added water, it would slice through like butter.

I’d never thought about that, but it instantly made sense. I tried it a little while later with an old, worn out, MTB tire and he was exactly right. No wonder it is so easy to get a sidewall cut on a MTB tire on rocks when it is mucky and wet out.

I tend to wipe my tires off with my hands when I’m racing tubulars in the rain. A small piece of sand can cause a flat in no time.

Anyway, just a little fun fact for the day.

Michlein patented this to test the grip capacity of their tires in the wet.  I would like this job.  I could give them some pointers about corning in the wet.  This picture makes it look like they could use some help.

Michlein patented this to test the grip capacity of their tires in the wet. I would like this job. I could give them some pointers about corning in the wet. This picture makes it look like they could use some help.

15 thoughts on “Flatting in the Rain

  1. Richard Wharton

    Steve – when you get back to complete health, we’d love to hire you for a weekend of MTB and CX classes at Cycling Center Dallas. No one has published a ‘How To’ book or video for a LONG time now, and we have a videographer who could certainly do something with you as the star.

  2. Jacob

    So, what are your pointers about cornering in the wet? I used to think I was pretty good at it but crashed hard in an off-camber corner in a crit last year, and haven’t gotten my mojo back. Couple that with carbon rims that might as well be covered in grease when it’s wet, and I am pretty darn insecure about cornering in the wet. Very interested to hear what your advice is.

  3. mark

    like to read your comments on Rojas kicked out of TDF for riding too close to team vehicle on the Tourmalet descent. Seems a bit extreme but what do I know

  4. Uh Huh

    Wait. Didn’t you just crash and break your hip and pelvis going around a corner in the dry weather? You wanna give pointers in wet conditions cornering? That’s funny! Maybe you used to be pretty good at it, but I’m thinking I wanna seek advice from someone not all jacked up on every inch of his body from crashing!!!!

    Maybe you could get that anti crash contraption strapped to both side of your bike for crits. The pro guys would love that. Just be sure to put it on before the races too, you seem to have issues there also.

    It’s time for golf Tilly……… ;~]

  5. Steve Tilford Post author

    Uh Huh-Small correction. I fell and broke my hip, but it was wet.

    Nearly every bike racer that has been racing for a long period is somewhat jacked up from crashing. It’s just part of the sport. So, if you’re hoping on seeking advise from a rider that has never been hurt racing, I very much doubt his advise would be much use.

    Think Sagan is a good bike handler?


  6. Austin

    That’s not what Paul Sherwen said – it’s all the sand and grit being washed into the road. Michelin should hire Paul for his expertise – screw scientific testing.

  7. Bolas Azules

    Once again, a lot of today’s crashes in the rain iare due to the terrible (i.e. wind tunnel) bike set-up and poor weight distribution. The tiny frame, slam the bars & jack the saddle is great for going in a straight line but one tiny pebble or luggie in the road and the front wheel slides out.

    ’80’s style bike set-up allowed a good rider the chance of a correctable ‘two wheeled slide’ that you will never see on these bike that are set-up to go straight

  8. Uh Huh

    Come on man. You don’t see the irony and humor. You’re mending from a broken hip suffered from a crash in a pre race spin on the course . You were going easy through a corner because there was a kids race going on, and this is the result. Now a few weeks later you’re spewing on about how to teach some experts on how to corner in the rain? You must feel at least a little ridiculous saying that. Check the ego man!

    Sagan is a 20something year old stud, with peds coursing through his body in the crashfest that is known as the Tour de France. Every rider has crashed at least once it seems. Everything is on the line for these guys, they’re taking huge risks willingly in hopes of glory and fame and riches. Are you comparing your geriatric, pre race stroll over a local, wet crit course with Sagan trying to win a stage of the tour? Wow.

    Your other injuries aren’t even healed yet from your other crashes. You need to see the light man. This isn’t gonna end well.

  9. Steve Tilford Post author

    Uh Huh- First of all, you don’t have to be so mean. 2nd, I didn’t say anything about teaching experts. I said I’d like the tire testing job. I surely wouldn’t be riding an upright handlebar bike, with road tires, around on wet pavement, with my seat 3 inches too low, like the picture shows.

    And, finally, I’ve raced the World Championships, both Elite and Professional in MTB, Cyclocross and on the Road. I’ve been on the podium in numerous criterium National Championships, races that were held on dry pavement and in the rain.

    I have to say I am definitely qualified to have an opinion on what good cornering style is and what it takes to corner in the rain. No one has to listen to it, but this my blog, so I don’t think I’m being egotistical stating my thoughts here.

  10. Uh Huh

    Sorry to hurt your feelings. Is this high school? I’m not trying to be mean, just factual and believe it or not helpful. You WERE one of the best ever in the US. That was a long time ago, you’re not close to the same athlete anymore. People age and when they do their skills and reaction times diminish.

    These glory days you speak of were 20 – 25 years ago. That’s the average age of the kids you’re racing with now. I know for a fact that they hate your presence in the races. Getting in the way when it matters the most.

    You used to be in the high speed lane of the highway in your heyday. You were accident and crash prone for sure but few were braver, more fearless or tougher. That got you lots of results, but you’ve also laid in hospital beds around the globe. As I said, few were tougher, so you kept getting back on the horse. Admirable to a point. That point was a long time ago. Now its just flat out wreckless!

    The only logical outcome considering the trend here the last few years is not a good one. You’re slowly crippling yourself and its quite frankly hard to watch. You’re walking with a cane now. Will that become permanent or will you move up (down) to a wheel chair?

    You went through the travel lanes of the highway in your late 30’s and 40’s and now you’re in the breakdown lane, limping from rest area to rest area. The problem is you continue to crash off the highway into the woods, guardrails and even the occasional icy pond. You’re still tough as nails, so you keep coming back for more. Not smart at all now. You were probably carrying yourself so lopsidedly due to not yet fully healed injuries, that your weight distribution was all wrong, causing to crash and break your hip. Whats next? How will all that hardware look after you crash hard on it again? You bone mass is shit now. Your hip could end up in crumbs, but “hey, that’s bike racing”. No that’s ignorant.

    You’re really just competing against yourself now. Trying to recoup and rehab enough to “get back in there”, but you’re driving all over the country to visit various specialist about your various injuries, not to mention things like DVTs and shingle as side dishes.

    You need to hear this POV because theres a legion of jock sniffers that read this blog that just keep saying “Heal up quick Tilly, get back out there”. That’s because that’s what jock sniffers do, stroke the ego of their hero in hopes of forming a bond with him. It’s hero worship101 in the comments section, with a few speaking out like me occasionally. Right now all you jock sniffers are reading this and getting pissed, I don’t care! You’re part of the problem here. Its wreckless and you all know it, but you wanna be friends with the cool kid. You’re nothing more than enablers. How many times has Steve ever even taken the time to answer any of your dumb ass questions in the comments? The answer is never, but I comment the other way and already 2 replies right from Steve. That means adoration is the norm and acceptable, but contradiction and criticism are unacceptable. You wanna make him the star of your ‘how to” videos and books. Are you even serious????

    Anyway, I’d hate to see Steve Tilford, American legend of cycling push it too hard for too long and pay the ultimate price. That’s what I see happening, so I’m speaking in a way to try to help prevent it, rather than join in all the suck ups and say “atta boy Steve”. If you guys wanna be like Steve, grow a backbone and stand alone with a clear voice.

    Peace, Be Safe

  11. Mark Hathaway

    Uh Huh,
    I do understand what you are saying and you do make some points. Some are valid and some are not. Steve is an adult and fully capable of making his own decisions.

    The problem is with your delivery and your tone. You resort to ridiculing not only people commenting, but also the guy who writes the blog. There’s no need to do that and in the end, it’s you who looks like a disgruntled asshole. Any point you make is lost because of your negative personality. You lose.

    As far as people growing a backbone, I would say that it’s you who needs to grow a backbone and put your real name on your comments.

  12. timm

    This anonymous backbone guy is amazing… Uh Huh, where’s your blog? I want to adore you and read about your lifetime of achievements. Sick of these stories about dogs and birds.

  13. Larry T.

    Uh huh – check out cyclingnews.com their comments section is chock full of experts like you. They’d LOVE to have your wit and charm over there, trust me! Perhaps it’s time for Tilford to exercise some editorial control on his blog?


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