The Right Way to Clear Debris From Your Tire



“What are you doing with your water bottle?” – David K.

This is the question I got the other evening on the weekly no-drop ride. I like the ride because it’s the same two routes and seems to always leave on time. I also get to meet new riders, as well as hear a slew of questions. 

We had just rolled through a garden of glass that littered the bike lane. While I was almost positive I had missed it all, I reached for my water bottle and skimmed it across the top of the front and rear tires as we continued on. This is the method I recommend and use to clean my tire just in case.

I normally don’t ride with gloves on, but even when I do, I still don’t use my hand like I see so many riders doing. The risk of something actually being in the tire and then transferring into my hand just seems silly, and then the thought of it being lodged into my glove and potentially my hand later or maybe whatever else I touch. 

Bottles are inexpensive, readily available, work like a charm and safer than putting my hand on the tire. Also, there is the risk of a tired mind and body that could misjudge the action and get a finger or hand caught up in the wheel. To send this point home, just a few weeks ago I was riding in a bike lane that is normally full of glass and debris. I diverted around a small collection of glass, and a brief moment later I felt something in my rear tire. I used my bottle to try to clean the tire as I was still rolling at over 20 mph. Well, turns out, it was a 1-inch nail, and if I had used my hand, it would have shredded my palm just like it shredded my bottle, leaving a gash large enough to drain all my water in seconds. Stitches diverted. 

Bonus Question

“I just got a great deal on a set of carbon wheels, which is an upgrade from my alloy hoops. Is it normal to have a build-up of residue on the brake pads after the first ride?” – Daniel G.

 While most of the industry is transitioning to disc brakes, the majority of riders still enjoy their rim-brake bikes. This also means you can take advantage of this transition by picking up a very nice set of carbon wheels for much less. 

The short answer to the question is no, there shouldn’t be buildup of material on or around the pads. The key here is to make sure that whoever installed the wheels also changed out the pads. All new rim brake carbon wheels should come with pads that are optimized for that specific wheel. A few brands don’t supply them but they do specify what to buy.

If you are coming from an alloy braking surface, then this is very important, because as you brake, small bits of alloy get lodged into the brake pad. If you run these pads on your new carbon rims, then the pad will wear the carbon braking pad surface down quickly, and this is most likely what is happening. 

Now if you already have carbon rims with a carbon braking surface, you can get away with using the same pads on a new set of wheels. Just remember that you might not be getting the most optimal braking if you don’t switch to the recommended pad and may be voiding the warranty, too.


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