Traveling by Bicycle Across America

How Many Flat Tires Did You Have Biking Across America

Continental Contact Tire

Continental Contact Tire

As amazing as it may seem, I did not have any flat tires in my 4540 mile bicycle ride coast-to-coast across the USA! I did wear out the first set of tires. I rotated the front to the back in Circle, Montana and replaced those tires on my rest day at home in Illinois in mid-July. I installed a set of Continental Contact tires 700c x 28mm. These were a little narrower than the tires I started on. the Continental Contact tires had less rolling resistance. According to the advertising they have Continental’s SafteySystem. “The SafetySystem Puncture Protection is made of a strong and tight Nylon fabric. This fabric is additionally reinforced with Kevlar®. The result is a tire construction that is highly resistant against pinches and cuts.” One of the common hazards for a bicycle tire on a tour is the debris and small pieces of wire from failed truck tires that litter the shoulder of the highways and by-ways. Puncture resistance is a big plus. Many of the touring cyclists that I met had fitted Schwalbe Marathon tires, usually 700c x 32mm or larger. The Marathon comes in a Plus or Supreme versions. These tires have a reputation for being very durable and capable of long life.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus bicycle touring tire

Schwalble Marathon Plus Touring Tire

The Specialized tires that I used at the start of the trip seemed to wear faster and did not roll as easily as the Continental Contacts. Remember this is not a direct comparison, since the Contacts were a narrower tire. The tread and casing design seems to be superior on the Continentals. I didn’t have any flats on the Specialized tires for more than 3200 miles, so they did a good job too. I wore them down to the Kevlar under the tread. I tired to keep these tires inflated to about 75psi. I know that some of the time they were down around 60psi. A heavier rider might well have experienced problems at that pressure.

Specialized Tire After 3200 miles

Tire After 3200 miles

While I didn’t have any flats, I did talk to other people who did. A rode and camped with Thomas Mach, a German citizen here on vacation. The day we rode to Fairhaven, New York, Thomas experienced his 24th flat tire. He pulled B.O.B trailer like mine with his Stevens road bike, using narrow 700c x 23mm tires. He had also experience a flat on the trailer tire. As he examined his tire that day, he found a very small embedded piece of wire from a truck tire. I do not recommend touring with regular road tires. In the interest of full disclosure, the front tire developed a slow leak in Vermont, after my wife joined me for the last ten days of the ride. I used the floor pump in the morning and in the afternoon, and it made the duration of the trip. If I had to pump the tire up every day with the frame pump, I would have installed a new tube. You will find an article on bicycle touring tires at the Bike Across USA website:


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What Equipment Failures Did You Experience


  1. This would have been the most common failure mode I would have expected in the biking apparatus. Glad it worked out.
    Were there any other mechanical or equipment related issues that a bicyclist should anticipate or try to guard against? What’s the next 1 or 2 things to regularly inspect?

  2. Kay

    Thanks for the informative blog on your tires.

  3. Thomas

    I have later bought a Continental Gatorskin. I would not call the Gatorskin a regular road bike tire since I would never use it on a road bike. But anyway the Gatorskin was not better than the Compact Sport I bought before.

    My experience is that the Continental GP 4000S are good tires. That are the ones I usual use. My only problem was that all 4 tires of this type I took with me to San Francisco were already used for about 1000 miles. With 4 new ones I would have had definitely much fewer flats.

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