Author Topic: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch  (Read 10794 times)

Pixelshot

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bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« on: May 22, 2014, 07:30:11 AM »
popped another bike tube today as I was zipping through DC traffic. Those dreaded cutouts in the pavement...

It's my normal practice to throw out the old tube and put in a brand new tube - about $7. I found that a patched tube often fails and is just not quite reliable enough for a daily commuter to and from work appointments, picking up my son from school with the bike trailer, etc.  To me, that extra $7 is worth it.

Yet, it seems like such a waste to just chuck the tube in the trash.

What do you do? Patch? Not Patch? Recycle??

TickInTime

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2014, 08:04:23 AM »
I patch.  Park tools patch kit seem to hold incredibly well.

GuitarStv

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2014, 08:04:46 AM »
I carry a spare tube on my ride, but will bring the popped one home to patch.  A patched tube will last just as long as a new tube if you do it properly.

brandino29

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2014, 08:07:29 AM »
I carry a spare tube on my ride, but will bring the popped one home to patch.  A patched tube will last just as long as a new tube if you do it properly.

Agreed.  I always give it at least one patch.  I've ridden some patched tubes for months, just always be sure to carry a new tube and hand pump with you to change it if (and when) you flat again.

Russ

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2014, 08:09:14 AM »
yeah if your patch doesn't hold you're doing it wrong

I use tubes roadside and will patch at home if the puncture isn't too bad

also get better tires

Ottawa

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2014, 08:09:43 AM »
Good question!  My philosophy used to be - always patch.  But, I always noticed that patched tires tend to slow leak over time.  I had to take inflation back up to ideal once a week.  That's a nuisance.  This could be due to the product I use - the Mountain Equipment Co-op Patch Kits.  Although I find them really good to apply.

 


Pixelshot

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #6 on: May 22, 2014, 08:18:12 AM »
Yes, I have the same issue. Slow leaks for sure. Maybe it's the way I'm patching.

Pixelshot

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #7 on: May 22, 2014, 08:24:46 AM »
Also, I forgot to mention that this is a 700/23 size tube for a road bike. Maybe the small tubes like this are more resistant to patching?  I have some pretty solid tires and I don't flat often.

brandino29

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2014, 09:03:49 AM »
I wouldn't say they're more resistant to patching, but they are smaller so you'll want to use a smaller patch size to fix it.  Personally, and others may disagree, I would recommend patching it at home (rather than on the fly when you flat) and being sure you do it right, then putting that same tube back into the tire and inflating it sufficiently.  The pressure of the patch against the sidewall of the tire should ensure a strong seal.  If you patch it and then fold that tube up and toss it in your saddlebag, the patch is more likely to seal poorly and it won't be as effective when you need it. 

With all that said, I won't patch the same tube more than once. 

frugaliknowit

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2014, 09:13:46 AM »
Don't know what type of bike and tires you have but if you are riding on low resistance tires such as on a road bike (say 23-28 MM wide...) you might consider getting "puncture resistant" or "amardillo" tires.  While they are pricey, getting flats is super aggravating.  Personally I run "amardillos" on my lightweight bikes and on the very rare occasion I get a flat (average about once per year), I just throw on a new tube.  I have tried patching and do not think it is worth the effort unless you have a work bench, a collection of "C-clamps", and a place to organize all of this crap.  I live in a condo and am always space challenged.

brewer12345

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2014, 09:17:46 AM »
DD had a flat yesterday on the school's 12 mile bike ride/trip.  We had to patch it in 2 places on the fly.  I decided to get the tube changed out with a new one and to avoid being wasteful kept the patched one as a spare.

Ottawa

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2014, 09:24:58 AM »
DD had a flat yesterday on the school's 12 mile bike ride/trip.  We had to patch it in 2 places on the fly.  I decided to get the tube changed out with a new one and to avoid being wasteful kept the patched one as a spare.

This is what I tend to do.  I have also put in tuffy tape in lieu of the expensive kevlar or armadillos.  So far only one blowout this year...and that was hitting one of the notorious Ottawa spring potholes full force with the back wheel...which surprisingly didn't taco.

GuitarStv

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2014, 09:27:55 AM »
Good question!  My philosophy used to be - always patch.  But, I always noticed that patched tires tend to slow leak over time.  I had to take inflation back up to ideal once a week.

:P

I pump the tires before every ride.  Takes about 10 seconds with a floor pump, and you'll be much less likely to flat out with properly inflated tires. . .

Hamster

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2014, 10:25:06 AM »
Good question!  My philosophy used to be - always patch.  But, I always noticed that patched tires tend to slow leak over time.  I had to take inflation back up to ideal once a week.

:P

I pump the tires before every ride.  Takes about 10 seconds with a floor pump, and you'll be much less likely to flat out with properly inflated tires. . .
Agreed. If you are running 23mm tires and keeping the pressures that requires, it's been my experience that they always need to be topped off weekly, even with perfectly intact tubes. Thin rubber and high pressures needed for a 23mm tire will always lose air, not like a car tire with very thick rubber, large volumes,  and relatively low pressure. Keeping your psi above the recommended minimum will help avoid pinch flats. Just do it.

TrMama

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2014, 11:34:21 AM »
Frequent flats are generally a sign of needing new tires. DH was getting flats weekly until I bought and installed new tires for him. Problem solved.

I keep good quality Schwalbe tires on my road bike and only get a flat about once a year. At that frequency I just put a new tube in.

Guses

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #15 on: May 22, 2014, 02:16:16 PM »
Frequent flats are generally a sign of needing new tires. DH was getting flats weekly until I bought and installed new tires for him. Problem solved.

I would say that this depends on what caused the flat. I had a period last year where I kept getting flats (like 1-2 per month) and I could'nt figure out why. Turns out there was a very small hole in the tire that I was not seeing and my tube would flat out when a rock would poke exactly at the right spot. I patched my tire and haven't had a related flat since. I did get a blowout two weeks ago :*(

Moral of the story is to make sure you also fix the problem when you have a flat and not just change the tube.

Regarding the OP, I am in the patch camp. I patch my tubes with a pot of contact cement and a piece of tube cut off from another flat tube that I sacrificed for this purpose. I do have a workbench, clamps, sand paper etc... I test my patches and then carry them for on the road repairs. I rode a tube for several years that ended it's life with 4-5 patches in it without problem. I ride a mountain bike though.

When I meet an unfortunate cyclist that has had a flat and don't have a spare, I can donate my patched tube to them and not worry about it.

Joggernot

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #16 on: May 22, 2014, 02:20:34 PM »
When I commuted 7 miles one way, I carried a spare tube, and patched the bad tube when I got home.  I'm a glutton for punishment, but when I hit 6 patches, I let the kids use the tube to launch things in the field.

luigi49

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #17 on: May 22, 2014, 02:43:22 PM »
When I patch it myself pssssssss after 3 rides.  When I go to my son school using there patching service it last for a long time.  Been 2 years now. 

Russ

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #18 on: May 22, 2014, 02:44:57 PM »
I have tried patching and do not think it is worth the effort unless you have a work bench, a collection of "C-clamps", and a place to organize all of this crap.

a patch kit takes up less space than a tube, and you need literally nothing else, so... ??

SDREMNGR

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2014, 02:54:36 PM »
You need a patch kit even if you carry a tube.  I have a bag under my seat with a patch kit, 1 spare tube, and a multi tool.  The tube is for major blowout that can't be patched.  A good patch job will fix the tire for many many many patches.  Tiny pinholes from thorns will happen every once in a while and there's no need for a new tube for those.

I've had to do roadside repair patches during bike races and you need to know how to do it for races or just riding home.  Otherwise, bike riding will become a real drag when you get flats.  20 min repair is not hard.

m8547

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #20 on: May 23, 2014, 06:37:48 AM »
When I patch it myself pssssssss after 3 rides.  When I go to my son school using there patching service it last for a long time.  Been 2 years now.

It sounds like you're doing it wrong. Prep work is important to get a patch that will last  First find the hole. You might need to inflate the tube to stretch it and hear the leak. If it's right next to the valve stem it's probably not worth patching, otherwise mark it with a sharpie unless it's obvious. Then clean the tube. At least wipe off any dirt/dust, but ideally clean the area to be patched with something like rubbing alcohol. Next sand the area. You need to sand down any ridges so there's no gap for air to escape, and you are also sanding off any release agent left on the tube and making a rough surface to help the glue bond. It's hard to sand too much, and if often takes me 10 minutes of sanding with the little scrap of sandpaper that comes in a patch kit. Once an area larger than the patch is sanded flat and smooth, wipe off any excess rubber dust. Apply a thin layer of glue to an area larger than the patch and let it dry. About 10-15 minutes is usually good. A thinner layer will dry faster. It won't work to put the patch on while it's still wet, and it always seems weird to me to let it dry too long, but it will still work even after it's completely dry.

While the patch is drying, check the tire for anything that might cause a flat. Sharp things sticking through are a common cause, but a hole in the tire could do it, too. If the hole is on the rim side of the tube, not the tire side, check the rim and make sure the rim tape is good and covering any spokes/holes/sharp spots.

Now apply the patch and press firmly. I usually squeeze it in my hands for a minute, but I don't think that's completely necessary. It's an instant bond. You should leave the clear plastic that's stuck to the top side of the patch. I'm not sure why it's there but removing it will usually damage the patch.

Now reinstall the tube and tire. It's common practice to line the tire label up with the valve stem so that next time you get a flat you know where to look for something sharp on the tire. Make sure the tire is on in the right direction, if applicable for your bike.

You'll get the best results with a good quality patch kits. Most patch kits sold at most bike shops are good quality. Park Tool and Rema are good. Don't get glueless patches, they won't last.

One trick I learned recently is that if you're patching at home, you can use rubber cement instead of the little bottle of glue in the patch kit that dries up after one use. I put the rubber cement only on the tube and didn't let it dry as much as I normally would since it didn't seem to stick to the patch very well after drying. Then I clamped the patch under some books and let it dry overnight. It didn't seem as strong as the regular glue, but it's held air ever since. Contact cement may be better since I think the formulation is more similar to the glue in patch kits. My office supply store had rubber cement (Elmers) in a jar or contact cement in a large tube. The rubber cement is made of rubber and heptane, and the contact cement had other solvents and stuff, and I think the formulation was more similar to the glue that comes with patch kits. Rubber cement was a bit cheaper, though, and it's what a guy at a bike shop recommended.

REI recycles old tubes. Sometimes they have a bin up front, otherwise you can hand them to someone at the bike service desk.

daverobev

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #21 on: May 23, 2014, 11:21:04 AM »
Never had an issue with patches leaking.

Nudelkopf

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #22 on: May 23, 2014, 06:06:34 PM »
I hate patching tubes.. I just put in a new tube. But I've only had two flats in the last year - one was on my brother's mountain bike, which I replaced for him with a thorn-proof tube, and one was when I got my new bike & the shop didn't have any thorn-proof tubes in stock (and got a flat on Day 1). Which I then replaced with a thorn-proof tube.

So, for riding 365 days with 2 flats while using non-thorn proof tubes? It was worth it to me to just replace them with decent thorn-proof tubes. Total = $30.

RapmasterD

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #23 on: May 23, 2014, 09:18:04 PM »
New tube...and new tires every few years.

In fact I'm due for new tires in a few weeks and am going to put some kick ass puncture resistant tires on.

No...I'm not too frugal when it comes to biking because by default the bike is so much cheaper to ride and maintain... and so much easier on mother earth than the car.

Bakari

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #24 on: May 23, 2014, 10:36:16 PM »
When I patch it myself pssssssss after 3 rides.  When I go to my son school using there patching service it last for a long time.  Been 2 years now.

It sounds like you're doing it wrong. Prep work is important to get a patch that will last  First find the hole. You might need to inflate the tube to stretch it and hear the leak. If it's right next to the valve stem it's probably not worth patching, otherwise mark it with a sharpie unless it's obvious. Then clean the tube. At least wipe off any dirt/dust, but ideally clean the area to be patched with something like rubbing alcohol. Next sand the area. You need to sand down any ridges so there's no gap for air to escape, and you are also sanding off any release agent left on the tube and making a rough surface to help the glue bond. It's hard to sand too much, and if often takes me 10 minutes of sanding with the little scrap of sandpaper that comes in a patch kit. Once an area larger than the patch is sanded flat and smooth, wipe off any excess rubber dust. Apply a thin layer of glue to an area larger than the patch and let it dry. About 10-15 minutes is usually good. A thinner layer will dry faster. It won't work to put the patch on while it's still wet, and it always seems weird to me to let it dry too long, but it will still work even after it's completely dry.

While the patch is drying, check the tire for anything that might cause a flat. Sharp things sticking through are a common cause, but a hole in the tire could do it, too. If the hole is on the rim side of the tube, not the tire side, check the rim and make sure the rim tape is good and covering any spokes/holes/sharp spots.

Now apply the patch and press firmly. I usually squeeze it in my hands for a minute, but I don't think that's completely necessary. It's an instant bond. You should leave the clear plastic that's stuck to the top side of the patch. I'm not sure why it's there but removing it will usually damage the patch.

Now reinstall the tube and tire. It's common practice to line the tire label up with the valve stem so that next time you get a flat you know where to look for something sharp on the tire. Make sure the tire is on in the right direction, if applicable for your bike.

You'll get the best results with a good quality patch kits. Most patch kits sold at most bike shops are good quality. Park Tool and Rema are good. Don't get glueless patches, they won't last.

One trick I learned recently is that if you're patching at home, you can use rubber cement instead of the little bottle of glue in the patch kit that dries up after one use. I put the rubber cement only on the tube and didn't let it dry as much as I normally would since it didn't seem to stick to the patch very well after drying. Then I clamped the patch under some books and let it dry overnight. It didn't seem as strong as the regular glue, but it's held air ever since. Contact cement may be better since I think the formulation is more similar to the glue in patch kits. My office supply store had rubber cement (Elmers) in a jar or contact cement in a large tube. The rubber cement is made of rubber and heptane, and the contact cement had other solvents and stuff, and I think the formulation was more similar to the glue that comes with patch kits. Rubber cement was a bit cheaper, though, and it's what a guy at a bike shop recommended.

REI recycles old tubes. Sometimes they have a bin up front, otherwise you can hand them to someone at the bike service desk.


All of this is spot on, except you don't have to wait 15 min.  5 is enough.

Do it this way, and the patch will last forever, and it won't leak air any faster than a new tube would.  Its normal to need to top off the air pressure every week or two.
I always line up the PSI range with the valve, so it is easy to find when you are pumping it up.


One other thing: never use tire levers (or any other tool) to put the tire back on.  You run the risk of pinching the new tube.  Use just your hands.  It is hard on some rims, especially high pressure road rims, but it is possible.
And check very carefully inside and outside the tire for what caused the original puncture - a lot of times people miss a tiny thorn, and it just causes another flat right away.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: bike tubes: to patch or not to patch
« Reply #25 on: May 24, 2014, 06:28:31 AM »
I hate trying to find the leak in the field, so I swap the tube, but I patch the old one. I've had great results with the Park vulcanizing kit. Comes with a lot of different size patches for the price. One of my tubes has 2 patches in it. I plan to keep patching as long as I can.

The only tubes I've had to throw out were because the valve itself failed (my fault, from when I was a noob).

I haven't noticed any air leak issues. All bike tires leak air.