The cyclists in the pioneering days of the penny-farthing and safety bicycle enjoyed totally puncture-free rides because of a technical advantage denied to today’s cyclists. Their tyres were composed of solid rubber. After John Boyd Dunlop fitted the first practical pneumatic tyre to his son’s tricycle in 1887 in Belfast, he also introduced the world to punctures.
In an effort to prevent them, Dunlop’s first manufactured tyres had a tough canvas layer added to the inside of the rubber. However, once punctured, they were nearly impossible to fix. Then in 1891 Edouard Michelin invented the detachable tyre with an inner tube that could be patched if penetrated.
In principle, little has changed in bicycle tyre design in the century or so since then. Tyres may have advanced enormously in terms of tread patterns, thickness, and types of rubber compounds to suit different kinds of cycling – city, mountain, cross-country, touring – but as long as they rely on pressurised air to keep going they inherently vulnerable to punctures.
That is why it is important to say at the outset that no pneumatic tyre can claim to be 100% puncture-proof.
Nor have punctures changed. They have a habit of occurring at just the wrong time – when the cyclist is late for an appointment, when they are going to get drenched replacing or patching the inner tube, in the remotest location from a bicycle shop, when traffic is at its heaviest, the night at its darkest and the repair kit is on a shelf in the shed. So it is worth exploring how to reduce the frequency or severity of puncture incidents by fitting what can more accurately described as puncture-resistant tyres and treating them with care.
What are bike tyres?
Essentially there are four parts to a bike tyre. Tyre manufacturers seek to prevent punctures by varying the design and composition of these elements:
- The beads are two hoops of strong steel cable that hold tyres against the wheel rim.
- The cords are layers of fabric such as nylon forming the body of the tyre between the beads.
- The rubber covers the other parts and is thicker on the tread which makes contact with the ground.
- The inner tube is a continuous tube usually of butyl rubber with a valve to let air in and keep it from escaping.
What are punctures?
A puncture is a small hole in a tyre resulting in an escape of air. This can happen in three different ways, causing three different types of puncture. To combat each one, tyre manufacturers devise solutions which buyers should look for when evaluating tyre specifications.
Running over sharp objects; broken glass, thorns, nails, tacks, bits of wire or debris which pokes a hole through the tyre into the tube.
Tyres with reinforced or added cords; thicker or stronger rubber.
Pinch cuts or ‘snake bites’
Hitting stones, kerbs or potholes which compress the tyre to expose and then pinch the inner tube against the rim, typically causing two holes close-together, hence ‘snake bites’.
Tyres with more resistant side walls.
Spokes can wear through the rim tape and rub holes in the inner tube.
Stronger rim tape.
What Makes Tyres Successful Against Punctures?
Bicycle tyre designers turn to stronger or thicker materials in the beads, cords and rubber in order to boost anti-puncture performance. Kevlar is widely used.
Kevlar is the very tough artificial fibre used to make bullet-proof vests.
It is incorporated as a layer under the tread surface to withstand penetration by sharp objects. A further option is to buy separate Kevlar belts which can be installed inside normal tyres.
Some tyres have an extra, thick layer of rubber which most sharp objects cannot penetrate all the way through to the inner tube. Others have an additional layer in the side-wall to guard against pinch cuts or ‘snake bites’.
Special thorn-proof inner tubes can be bought which are very thick on their outer circumference. Tubes made of latex are lighter and more flexible than the usual butyl rubber, so sharp objects tend to deflect the tube rather than going straight through.
Popular examples of puncture-resistant tyres
These tyres and others from the same manufacturers are likely to feature prominently when you search eBay, but it is advisable also to look into other brands which have the characteristics described above.
Continental Gator Skin range
There are several variations of this technology to appeal to racing, commuting, mountain and hybrid bike users. What makes these German made tyres different is a DuraSkin polyamide mesh fabric which protects sidewalls against cuts, abrasions and impact.
There is also a Kevlar or Poly-X breaker belt under the tread which extends down into the shoulder for extra coverage. Gator Skin Hardshell has an extra layer to prevent tyres from splitting.
Specialized Armadillo series
Now in its second generation, Armadillo is a layered, tough, ‘Aramid’ nylon casing that runs from bead to bead to protect the tyre sidewalls as well as the tread and works well especially against cuts.
There are versions of Armadillo for road racing, hybrid, off-road, mountain biking and all conditions riding. The lightweight dual compound tread adds both extra wear and puncture resistance.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus City
The strong puncture resistance of the Marathon range of tyres is down to the thick Smartguard layer beneath the tread. This is made from a flexible special rubber developed by this German manufacturer to offer particular resistance to shards of glass and flints.
Even a drawing pin cannot penetrate through this layer as far as the inner tube. As well as the City tyre suitable for hybrids, there is a Durano variant for performance road bikes.
From one of the world’s largest tyre manufacturers, this tyre for hybrid bikes features a Kevlar puncture resistant belt that projects against cuts from glass and road debris. In price terms it is worth comparing with premium brands.
Tyres Without Air
The only tyres which can truly claim to be puncture-proof are those which require no inflation. Unlike the 19th century solid originals, today’s alternatives, such as the Greentyre or Air Free tyres, are designed to offer the same resilient feel and supportive suspension as pneumatic tyres. That is because they are made with proprietary versions of polyurethane and other foam technologies.
Puncture Avoidance Strategies
The chances of a puncture-resistant tyre sustaining a puncture can be further minimised by the way a cyclist behaves on the road and looks after their investment in a tyre.
- Always run the tyre at its maximum inflation. This enables it to deflect lots of objects like flints out of the way. These would otherwise cause damage. Fully inflated tyres also roll better, which keeps you moving faster. Fully inflated tyres will also last longer.
- Check the tyre routinely for debris, especially having ridden over an unavoidable river of broken glass. By removing splinters it is possible to prevent a puncture developing later.
- Scan the route ahead of you to avoid potential puncture threats. All sorts of debris tend to collect in the gutter; this is another good reason for cyclists to hold their own in traffic lanes.
Buying Puncture-Resistant Bike Tyres on eBay
Now that you've worked out which bike tyres you want, find them quickly on eBay. While you shop, don't forget Bearings, Brake Pads, Brake Shoe, Hub, Rim Tape, Saddles, Tyre/Tubes Set. To start shopping, go to the Sports and Leisure category. Click the Sporting Goods portal and click Cycling.
- Categories: The Categories list on the left side of each page will help you narrow down your listings by item type. You'll find links for Bikes, Bike Parts, Clothing, Footwear & Helmets, Cycling Accessories, Trophies and Other Cycling. As you refine your search you'll be able to narrow down your choice by subcategory.
- Product Finder: Use the Bike Tyre Finder to quickly narrow down item listings by type of tyre, brand, model, condition (new or used), and shaft material.
- Keyword search: Search eBay listing titles for specific words. For example, if you want to find puncture proof tyres, type the keywords " new puncture proof tyres" (without quotation marks) into the Search box. Click "Search title and description" to expand your results. Visit eBay's Search Tips page for more tips on searching with keywords.
If you can't find exactly what you want, try browsing eBay Stores or tell the eBay Community what you’re looking for by creating a post on Want It Now, or save a search on My eBay and eBay will email you when a matching item becomes available.
Buy Puncture- Proof Tyres with Confidence
Make sure that you know exactly what you’re buying and understand how eBay and PayPal protect you.
Know your item
Read the details in the item listing carefully.
Remember to add delivery costs to your final price. If you’re buying a high value item, check that the seller will insure it until it is delivered to you.
If you want more information, click the “Ask seller a question” button on the seller’s profile or the “Ask a question” link at the bottom of the item listing page.
Always complete your transaction on eBay (with a bid, Buy it Now or Best Offer) otherwise you will not be covered by eBay Buyer Protection.
Never pay for your eBay item using an instant cash wire transfer service like Western Union or MoneyGram. These are not safe ways of paying someone you do not know.
Know your seller
Research your seller so that you feel safe and positive about every transaction.
- What is the seller’s Feedback rating?
- How many transactions have they completed?
- How many positive responses do they have?
- What do buyers say in their Feedback?
- Are they positive about the seller?
Most top eBay sellers operate like retail shops and have a returns policy.
- Do they offer a money-back guarantee?
- What are their terms and conditions?
In the very unlikely event that you do not receive your item or it is not as described, eBay Buyer Protection your purchase price plus original delivery cost.
Extra-thick layers, Kevlar belts, reinforced side walls and other technologies that increase puncture resistance in tyres usually have a trade-off. They tend to have greater rolling resistance, weigh more and premium priced compared with the generality of normal tyres. Nevertheless, the slight decline in speed and increase in cost should be balanced against the greater peace of mind that comes with considerably reducing the risk of encountering punctures. In the long run, tyres less susceptible to damage will have a greater service lifetime and deliver better value.