Tire Wipers

Tire Wipers

Many cyclists are tempted by the performance and comfort of supple tires, but they are afraid that they might get too many flats without puncture-resistant belts and reinforced sidewalls. Tire Wipers improve the flat resistance of your tires without detracting from their comfort and performance.
Few foreign objects are so large and so sharp that they puncture the tire upon first impact. Most require several revolutions of the wheel to work their way through the tire. When you roll over debris, you often hear the “pock, pock, pock” as the debris gets pushed into the tire with each wheel revolution, followed by a “pshhhh” as the tube deflates.
If you could get rid of the debris after it is picked up, but before it gets hammered into the tire, you could prevent a good number of flats. Enter Tire Wipers – small wires that lightly rub your tires and remove debris before it gets lodged in the tire.
Do they work? Flat tires are so random that this is hard to quantify, but the general consensus is that they do prevent many, if not all, punctures.
Tire Wipers have been hard to find in recent years, but Scott Gabriel is making them again. Compass Bicycles carries them, in two models. One attaches to the brakes of bikes without fenders, the other is installed at the exit (front edge) of your fenders (above). Click here for more information.

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Comments (30)

  • Svenski

    My dad used to have those on his Mercier racer in the 70ies.. They used to be called “nail extractors” I think, they could do that, but nowadays you hardly find a nail on the road anymore. The minute glass particles that cause most punctures most certainly will escape them. As tire wipers were a constant hassle to adjust in the past, I wouldn’t burden my bike with more components to hassle with, and of doubtful use.. But anyway, it’s good they’re back for those who want them;-)

    May 10, 2013 at 2:29 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The minute glass particles that cause most punctures most certainly will escape them.

      The minute glass particles and wires are exactly what the tire wipers brush off. In fact, they also brush off most road dust, which is a minor inconvenience, since it ends up on your bike if you mount the tire wipers on the brake.

      May 10, 2013 at 6:21 am
  • Daniel

    I remember these from the 1970s and 1980s but haven’t seen them since. I’d be tempted to find a set for a dirt road ride like the D2R2, regardless of what tire I used.

    May 10, 2013 at 3:49 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      For off-pavement riding, I don’t think you need them. You rarely get punctures on gravel.

      May 10, 2013 at 6:22 am
      • Andy

        On the contrary, nearly all my punctures are on gravel. The fissile shales of central NY state brakes into fine sharp pieces that press in the tire and caused many flats for me when I was trying to use certain tires. Hopefully that’s not an issue in other regions, but it’s certainly an annoyance here that made me choose slightly thicker tires.

        May 13, 2013 at 7:31 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Sorry to hear about the shales – I can see how they break into sharp pieces. Tire wipers may be worth a try. Around here, gravel is rounded by the last glaciation, and flats off-pavement are rare. Even glass seems to get pushed into the ground rather than into the tire when you ride over it.

          May 13, 2013 at 7:45 am
    • Ron

      I too remember these from the 70s & 80s (and 60s, hi dad!)…they made a whirr, and seemed more like wishful thinking than anything else. Riding tubulars in the 70s and 80s they having them on or off didn’t seem to make any difference in frequency or number of flats. Belts & suspenders perhaps?

      May 10, 2013 at 7:51 am
  • Bruce Hodson

    Had those on my bike back in the mid 1970’s when I switched to sew-ups and was TERRIFIED of flatting out in Middle-of-Nowhere, PA. Did they work? Not possible to quantify, as you so adroitly pointed out. I will say that the spare tire I reluctantly bought to carry was never pressed into service while riding.

    May 10, 2013 at 5:07 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      That was my experience, too. When I raced on tubular tires, I averaged one flat every five races. I finally got tire wipers, and didn’t have a single flat in three years, except once, when the tire wiper had become dislodged and no longer wiped the tire.
      Unfortunately, I didn’t keep track of miles and we didn’t do a statistical analysis to see whether those results were significant. Otherwise, we might have proof that tire wipers actually do prevent flats. Today, I have too few flats to determine whether tire wipers make a difference.

      May 10, 2013 at 6:34 am
  • Matthew J

    Thanks for stocking these. I have several sets of NOS Pelissier tire wipers. So far I have been reluctant to use them, however, because, well, they are NOS Pelissier.

    May 10, 2013 at 5:31 am
  • thelazyrando

    My GF was complaining about her commuter bike’s performance so I ordered her a set of GB Cypres 32 x 700 tires for her bike. She rides ~75% of days to work and loves them. She was concerned by how light/supple the casing was compared to her old tires and whether that would mean more flats.
    In 2 years she has had 1 flat. She actually had more flats with the old stiff tires.

    May 10, 2013 at 6:32 am
  • William

    Loose Screws has sold these forever as “tire savers” part # ub-ts1. Brake caliper mount.

    May 10, 2013 at 8:29 am
  • David

    Ugh. Now I have an even greater temptation to get a set of tubulars…

    May 10, 2013 at 9:12 am
  • Wayne Sulak

    How much noise do tire wipers make as they rube the tire?

    May 10, 2013 at 10:09 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      If you set them to rub the tire lightly, it’s not a lot. It’s noticeable when you ride alone, but when other bikes are around, the drivetrain noise drows the noise from the tire wiper.

      May 11, 2013 at 7:51 am
  • GuitarSlinger

    Tire wipers are pretty darn effective against the dreaded Colorado goat thorns that permeate the trails , roads and bike lanes on the Front Range . Personally though I’ve chosen the compromise route …. choosing added weight and uninterrupted rides ( liners and thorn proof tubes ) over lightness , speed and a bit more comfort . BTW goat thorns are everywhere here … dirt included . They are the unavoidable curse of riding in Colorado . But the rides , weather and the scenery make em worth the trouble 😉

    May 10, 2013 at 11:39 am
  • Franklin

    Can I use these with knobbies?

    May 10, 2013 at 11:41 am
  • Bubba

    Is there any problem running both wipers and flaps on the trailing edge of the same fender? Seems like it would work fine.

    May 10, 2013 at 12:58 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You run flaps on the leading edge of the fender (looking at the rotation of the tire, not the direction in which the bike moves), whereas the tire wipers go on the trailing edge.

      May 11, 2013 at 7:53 am
      • Bubba

        So in the picture above, we are looking at the wiper up on top of a front fender? At first glance I thought we were looking at the back end of a rear fender. The shadows played tricks on me. On the rear fender, the wiper would be mounted near the bottom bracket?

        May 13, 2013 at 12:02 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          You are looking at a rear fender near the bottom bracket. The fender extends beyond the BB. You can see the chain…

          May 13, 2013 at 12:05 pm
  • John Duval

    I recently switched from Cypres tires to some Marathon Racers because of frequent flats from glass. It was such a major step down in performance, I immediately switched to Extra Leger tires and put a tire wiper on the rear. I have had one flat in about 600 miles so far, on the front. The intermitent buzzing sound (and crackling in the rain) sometimes bothers me at lower speeds.
    Have any tips for minimizing the sound and maximizing the effectiveness? The Bicycle Research Tire Savers I have are very soft and easy to reshape.

    May 11, 2013 at 1:55 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You do want the wiper to touch the tire lightly. It doesn’t need to grind on the tire. However, if you set it too loose, it may get dislodged so that it doesn’t touch the tire at all. With some experimentation, you’ll find the optimum setting.

      May 11, 2013 at 7:54 am
      • Doug M.

        Obviously drag is dependent on the setup, but would you say it is negligible, more or less like the drag from a dynohub?

        May 13, 2013 at 8:28 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The drag of a tire wiper is negligible. When you spin a wheel with a tire wiper installed, it doesn’t appear to slow down any faster than a wheel without.
          A wheel with a dynohub, even switched off, will slow down quicker than one without. Even there, the drag is small and insignificant compared to other choices, like tire resistance and rider position (air resistance).

          May 13, 2013 at 9:13 am
  • Gordon T

    Jan do the brake mount tire wipes work with caliper mounts?

    May 15, 2013 at 12:14 pm
  • Roberto

    When I raced in the 60’s very few rode with these, most just touched the tire with a gloved hand every once in a while to clean off stuff. Ah, the fond memories of front range goat’s heads and spending Sunday evenings stitching up sew ups. Fewer flats today even though I live in Tucson and ride mountain mostly, thanks to Slime, et al.

    May 17, 2013 at 10:21 am

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