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Tube Patching

January 21, 2010

Flat tires are inevitable.  Everyone who rides a bicycle more than a couple of miles from home on a regular basis ought to know how to fix them.  But even among people who know how to change a tube, very few know how to patch a tube well. Patching tubes is much easier on the environment than replacing a tube, it’s very economical (6 patches = $2; 1 tube = $4), and knowing how to patch a tube can mean the difference between walking home and riding home.

When properly applied, vulcanized patches (the type where you apply the glue and the patch serparately) will typically last for as long as any unpatched tube.  The tubes in my tires usually have several patches each because I’ll patch a tube until there’s nothing left to patch.  Assuming you already know how to effectively repair a flat by replacing the tube, this brief outline of patching procedure should come in handy.

Step 1: Sand the tube.

The tube is sanded primarily to remove the talcum powder that is applied to tubes when they’re manufactured.  The talc prevents the tube from sticking to the tire, but it will also prevent your patch from sticking to your tube.  If the hole in your tube is very near the seam, you should try to sand patching area down until it’s fairly smooth.

Step 2: Apply the glue.

Spread the glue thinly and evenly with the tip of the glue tube.  The glue area should be thin enough to dry quickly and it should cover an area larger than the patch that you’re applying.  I’ve often seens patches fail because of too much glue.

Step 3: Allow the glue to dry.

If you’re not sure whether or not the glue is dry, wait at least 5 minutes.  The glue must be completely dry.

Step 4: Apply the patch.

Carefully peel off the silver backing and press the patch onto the hole.  Hold it firmly in place for about 30 seconds.  I usually leave the clear plastic on top of the patch because it will discourage the patch from sticking to the inside of the tire.

Voila!  Good as new.

It is recommended that you carry a spare tube in addition to a patch kit because there are some flats that are not patchable.  Pinch flats (snake bites) on narrow tubes can be very difficult to patch effectively.  This is also true of holes that are very near the valve or the seam of the tube.

A good patch will last forever, but even a bad patch will usually hold air long enough to get you home.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Alex C permalink
    February 1, 2010 6:42 pm

    oh, and, for the Dinkus’s (Dinkae?) like me:

    Before you apply the patch, be sure you have next to no air in the tube. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a shrivelly, wizened rubber pimple that is about as healthy as it looks.

  2. September 24, 2012 11:31 am

    News you can use! Thanks, Jason.

  3. Ray permalink
    September 24, 2012 9:47 pm

    I never considered leaving on the clear plastic cellophane. Thanks for that idea. Now, how about a discussion on “pump” or “CO2”!

    Ray

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