Please, please hold – ye patches


in Rants, The outdoors

Getting a bicycle tire puncture while out riding is just bad luck. Doing so miles from home with no repair equipment is the compounding of bad luck and bad planning. Somehow getting four separate punctures – three in one cluster and another halfway around the wheel – seems genuinely malicious. Especially when one is at least 1mm in diameter, so you patch it and put the wheel back on, only to learn that there are three more holes so very tiny that you can’t even see them. It’s even worse when you only find the third whole after going through the whole rigamarole of putting the wheel back together (harder than you might think).

That said, I now have the experience of fixing a puncture three times, as well as a replacement pump for the one that has gone AWOL, and some tire irons, a fresh backup tube, and chain lube just to round the whole thing off. Total cost of new kit: about 20% of the value of the bike.

Now, the plan was originally to speed my twenty minute walk to the department by fixing the bike. After one and a half hours of mucking around with rubber cement, that doesn’t look so viable. Still, my productivity and cardiovascular fitness in coming weeks should both rise given the return of my bike to an operational state.

Provided my inexpertly applied patches hold…

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous June 5, 2006 at 2:57 pm

Do you have any particular reason for believeing the patches will not hold?

Milan June 5, 2006 at 3:01 pm

The trouble is, I couldn’t really get the patches to stick at the edges. I used sandpaper to roughen the surface, then applied a thin layer of contact cement which I allowed to nearly dry (as per the counterintuitive instructions), then I stuck the patch on and held it down for thirty seconds or so.

When done, and after peeling off the paper backing, lots of the patches were still disconnected at the edges. As such, I poured a tiny bit more cement underneath and held them again. In some cases, this made them attach completely. In others, simply almost completely. Hopefully, the pressure between the tube and the tire will further attach them – or at least hold it all together.

Milan June 5, 2006 at 3:28 pm

I note with approval that the pump I purchased, from Walton Street Cycles, is one also sold by MEC. It’s only marginally more expensive here, as well. I got it for thirteen quid.

Alex June 5, 2006 at 10:39 pm

Dear Milan,

To make things even more worse: All people who are more serious about biking would strongly discourage you from using any patches at all. Patches should just be used if you have a flat tire in the middle of nowhere and no spare. What I usually do is to buy a new hose which, at least in my home town in Germany, you can get for as cheap as 5-8 pounds. Patches are rarely a permanent solution and are likely to become dysfunctional after a while.

– Alex

Milan June 5, 2006 at 10:55 pm


My father is about as avid a cycler as can exist, and he seems to be a believer in patches. I will let people know how long these last. On the basis of riding around today, they seem to be doing fine.

Tubes are available at Walton Street Cycles for £4.50, about twice what my father says they cost in Canada, but less than they seem to cost in Germany.

See you in class tomorrow.

R.K. June 5, 2006 at 6:04 pm

You could try duct-taping the patches down. If they are airtight but in danger of falling off, that might help.

Of course, you would have to take off and disassemble the wheel again…

Ben June 6, 2006 at 12:31 am

This is why I tend to just take my bike in the shop. Although punctures are quite expensive, and do have the annoying habit of coming like buses… On my previous bike, I invested about £50 on puncture proof kevlar tyres. I’d been wondering whether I could transfer those over, but again it’d be a lot of fiddling with my bike!

Milan June 6, 2006 at 12:34 am


With a set of three tire irons (plastic, ideally) and a bit of practice, taking wheels off and putting them on again isn’t that much bother. As long as the rims are the same size, switching the kevlar wheels over shouldn’t be that bad.

I was considering buying some kind of tough liner for my wheels, but we shall see if another puncture happens to justify such investment.

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