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  • some guy

    wow, there is literally no news in the cycling world today

    • We always try to have an easy read on Fridays. If you want something more involved, try this: https://cyclingtips.com/2017/11/story-behind-story-journalist-exposed-team-sky/

    • Chris

      Where do you think you are? This is what I love about CT; it’s not cyclingnews.

    • HamishM

      Did you ever hear the expression, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all?

    • George Darroch

      There is news. It’s in the news section. This is the ‘writing about cycling’ section.

    • edelman

      “This is not worth reading,” complains man who just read it and commented on article.

  • Marcus J

    Another reason for patching is to reduce environmental impact from making yet another tube and – if recycling is not available – from landfill.

  • Ryan S

    It seems like the only flats I get these days are catastrophic failure. Usually the metal valve stem separates from the rubber tube, and no patch helps. Has the quality of tubes gone down in the last several years?

    • Adam Fuller

      I think it’s the quality of the tyres.

      • James Huang

        Actually, my guess is that this has something to do with the valve hole in the rim, not the tire.

        Regardless, if the valve stem is tearing away from the tube, that suggests to me that the tire and tube are sticking to each other, and that they’re then rotating on the rim.

        If that’s what’s happening, maybe try talcing your tubes to keep them from fusing to each other.

        • Stewie Griffin

          This + check the rimtape at the stem. Should be overlapping to avoid sticking or rolling or puncturing

          • Ryan S

            I have filed the edges of the valve holes in the rims to limit any sharpness and check rim strips every time I switch tubes.

        • Bob

          Hope Jobst isn’t listening from the next dimension, there’ll be headwinds for a whole month.

        • Ryan S

          Baby powder on tubes is a great tip for helping install.

          As far as adding any long-term lubricity, I find the first big rain ride usually let’s in enough moisture to clump everything up.

          • James Huang

            Yep, I keep a big container of it in the shop just for tubes. Pay close attention to the ingredients, though! Most baby powder these days are made of corn starch, which I don’t think is as fine as gets gummy when wet. The real stuff is talc and is harder to find, at least in the US.

    • Coogs

      I had the same problem from cheap tubes. Lesson learned.

      • Ryan S

        I bought dozen tubes in one of those blowout internet deals a couple years ago. They are Vittoria branded, albeit made in the far East. I’m finally nearing the end. Guess I will try spending some more bucks on higher end tubes.

    • Frank

      Another possibility (rare, but it happened to me). If the rim is narrow and the clincher beads are thick the base of the valve may not seat properly on the rim bed and the tube will eventually fail.

      • Ryan S

        I think you’re onto something, because both training wheels me and my g/f use have somewhat narrow rims. I make an effort to push the valve down as far as it’ll go, but no guarantees.

    • Larry @CycleItalia

      http://cycleitalia.blogspot.com/2009/07/dont-let-this-happen-to-you.html
      I think quality has slipped, even my favorite Michelin tubes are no longer Made-in-France! Unless the tubes are just junk, valve stem separation is usually caused by something else. I often see folks jam pump heads on too tight/too far and then yank the stem out when trying to get the pump head off after inflation. If the hole in the rim for the valve stem has sharp corners that can’t be covered with the rim strip, sometimes a piece of old tube can be cut (with a hole for the valve stem) as extra protection for this delicate area.

  • PeteB

    Hey, I did this myself a few months ago. One evening gave me half a dozen repaired tubes packaged into zip lok bags and I think of it as $60 I can spend on something else.

  • Geoff

    I for one agree wholeheartedly with this approach, although I tend to patch tubes as soon as possible after I get home from the ride. I also agree wholeheartedly with the comment about reducing what goes into landfill and hence impact on the environment. It goes beyond tubes though – when my rims wear out, I replace the rims (easier than a complete rebuild). The next repair I need to do on my commuting wheels is to replace the freewheel ratchet, which is nearing the end of its life. – Why replace the whole wheel when only one part is warn out.
    It is sad, what is happening to our consumer society, where it has become so habitual to replace rather than repair. In the process, people are becoming idiots as they lose the skills to do things themselves.
    What disgusts me even more than the people who don’t bother to patch their tubes is the fact that some people just dump punctured tubes on the side of the road, leaving their litter behind, rather than taking it home with them.

    • Larry @CycleItalia

      Same here. I only patch a tube ONE TIME though..after that it’s recycled in some way. Cutting them into rubber bands of various widths gives them a new use. I’ve got a nice watch with a rubber strap but the retainer loop for the strap rotted away. A new strap cost as much as the damn watch so a rubber band from an old tube is doing the trick now for more than a year. I agree with James, if your’e going to take the trouble to patch tubes the REMA stuff is the only product worth using unless you’re in the middle-of-nowhere with no spare tubes. The biggest mistake I see people make with patches is not letting the glue dry completely before they stick the patch on. The other is not sanding a large enough area around the puncture.

  • Micky D

    Pro tip. Wrap the folded tubes with cling wrap instead of rubber bands. It keeps them really compact and has the added benefit of preventing abrasion induced holes while stored in a saddle bag.

    • James Huang

      I already keep them in a ziploc baggie (with talc!) for that reason, but I like the two-in-one idea. I’ll give it a shot.

    • dG

      Excellent idea

  • Eric Blair

    “Me? I ride so that I don’t have to think about anything at all.”

    Here, here! Sometimes, when I’m riding with folks, I’ll think about tactics n’ sech but, for the most part, I’m usually humming a single line of a single song over and over and over and over. Good way to take a break from grad school.

  • Larri Viste

    I get punctures maybe once a year though lately my average is up because I have to use a bike path where folks seem to want to break bottles. I don’t fix tubes because I never feel very confident that the patch will hold. Is that irrational?

    • Marcus J

      I’ve used tubes over and over by patching them. Generally, the patches give no problems, unless they aren’t applied properly – which mainly means, letting the glue dry, and also, pealing off the backing sheet carefully. I’m not sure what the brand is, but the ones I use come stuck to long strips of foil, and they look like slivers of the same butyl that the tubes are made of. They do the trick nicely.

  • HamishM

    Love your writing James.

    • James Huang

      Thanks!

      • Il_falcone

        Me, too, James. :-)
        But it brings up the question why and where you still ride with inner tubes? Mountain? Most probably not. Gravel? There isn’t a single bike category where tubeless makes more sense IMHO. So it must be riding those road bikes you ride for testing, right?

        • James Huang

          You are correct. The only category where I regularly ride inner tubes is on the road. Everything else I prefer to run tubeless.

          • eurotodd

            James, what glue do you use? I recently purchased a bulk box of Rema patches and was wondering if I need the rema glue or could I use something else like Vittoria tubular glue?

            • James Huang

              Honestly? I use whatever glue I have available from the random patch kits that I have here. While I have found definite variation in how well different patches work, I haven’t noticed much of a difference in how well the different brands of vulcanizing fluids work (my guess is that they’re likely all coming out of a small number of factories, anyway). I always seem to end up with more glue than patches in any particular kit, so I usually have leftovers sitting around to use.

              • eurotodd

                Thanks for the reply James, I’ll keep using the Vittoria tubular glue then.

                • James Huang

                  Wait, you’re actually using tubular glue for patching tubes? I’m no chemist, but even just from experience I can say that vulcanizing fluid and tubular glue are very different things. I would stick to the former for repairing tubes, and leave the latter for gluing tires.

                  • eurotodd

                    Yeah, I’ve used it a few times to patch latex tubes and it worked just fine. I did buy a tube of Rema when I purchased the box of patches so I’ll be using that.

        • winkybiker

          I think you mean “where TUBES makes more sense”. But for me it’s not true anyway. I have set of “gravel” wheels that aren’t getting any use during the winter. They’re full of sealant which will have agglomerated into a hard mass by spring. I’m going to put tubes in them when I clean them out. My road wheels all run inner tubes and I wouldn’t have it any other way. All that mucking around with sealant just isn’t worth it for me.

          • 2wheelsandme

            Yes! 4 years or so of using tubeless systems road and Mtn, and I was done with the mess and CORROSION of my wheels, ruined a new set of DT R460’s leaving cafe latex (stans never gave me that problem) in over the winter… plus during one rear wheel puncture the sealant sprayed up all onto a good set of Bibs which are still stained with sealant, looks like I spooged all over myself, they’re indoor bibs now. This past season I went back to tubes, queue angels playing horns..,and I couldn’t be happier.

  • Mikael Olofson

    I find that once the tubes are punctured, they are done, and yes I have tried multiple times to repatch. I use the old ones for various uses, hang up things in them, use them as extra attachment points and handles on my bike bag when flying. But when my lovely Veloflex and Challenge tires have done their last mile I will join the tubeless bandwagon and say sayonara to the tubes… That is if they are able to make the tubeless tires a bit more supple than today.

  • James Huang

    Based on several comments here, I feel like a video or pictorial tutorial on how to properly patch inner tubes may be in order.

    • Cruz er

      I have a bunch of old tubes laying around, just can’t bring myself to toss them. But, my fear is it will fail on a ride. I just figure it’s worth having a new one and not ruin a ride.
      A pictorial or vid would be great! I can put those old tubes back in commission.

    • Crash Bandicoot

      I’ve had issues with vulcanized patches failing in warm weather. I used to patch when I lived in NY but honestly mid august in Texas they would fail. I don’t get nearly enough flat tires on my training wheels to make it worth while (Vittoria Rubino Pro G+ FTW) and my race wheels are latex tubulars. I figure since I do 99% of my own maintanence, BB changes, etc. that I can be a little lazy in one area.

    • Do it! I have this friend who tells me he doesn’t know how to make the patches stay stuck. Apparently he’s tried a few times but lacks the mechanical aptitude to get it right. My friend would really appreciate it

      • mouse

        Right. “Your friend”.
        Is he also an Olympic Rower? :)

        • No… he’s me. :)

          • mouse

            You know, you could have said it was Drew….

            • oh yeah… that’s what I meant… it was Drew. Definitely drew

    • Cameron Harris

      You’re probably right. I’ve worked my way through a couple of the brands of the self adhesive style patches, and have decided they are rubbish. The a park tool self adhesive patches seem to be better, but I’ll only use those if the tube I’m carrying dies too. I admit I’ve started straying into the no patch club – seeing how it’s done properly would be good!

      C!

    • Henrik Andersen

      As a European, I’ve watched my father apply patches from the age of 4. From the age of 16-ish, I had to do it myself. I must have used dozens, if not hundreds, of those Tip-Top patches.

      Still doing it; it’s easy, it really doesn’t take that long, and if you check the adhesion of the patch after putting it on, the tube is as good as new. Never had a re-puncture because of a faulty patch.

      Only thing I’m not patching these days is tubulars. Back in the old days, we used to open them, fix a patch and then re-sew them. Today, I don’t know anyone who does that.

    • James Huang

      Ok, consider all of your comments heard loud and clear! We’ll definitely get something going.

  • José Carlos Gil

    Washing and detailing my bikes, that’s what works for me, just before getting them filthy again. I know exactly that feeling/need of emptying the mind. Being a school teacher does that to you…

  • thechesh

    Silly question James but can you use a regular butyl patch to repair latex tubes?

    • James Huang

      I’ve used Rema patches successfully on latex tubes before, but I find latex tubes to be quite finicky in general when it comes to patching so I rarely bother with repairing them these days.

    • Lyrebird_Cycles

      Make your own patches from a dead latex tube, bond them in place with latex adhesive or even with flexible superglue.

      The patches made for bonding to isobutylene isoprene (aka butyl, the rubber used for “normal” inner tubes) are not compatible with latex. They are both “rubber” but that’s a description of mechanical behaviour, chemically they are very different.

  • PsiSquared

    Replace the tea with a beer and the TV show with a DVD, and with you, brother.

    • Mark Fletcher

      I’m with PsiSquared. a beer and music for me. I find it calming to sit out the back and patch away for an hour. I think people have failures because they don’t keep the patch under pressure for long enough after applying. I use 2 small blocks of 5 ply approx 50mm square and a little pair of nylon spring clamp (https://www.bunnings.com.au/craftright-assorted-nylon-spring-clamp-16-pack_p5860093) and leave it clamped for 10 mins or so.
      I just hate throwing useable things away.

  • singlespeedscott

    Question is, how many patches till you toss the tube?

    • James Huang

      I usually cap it at two.

      • velocite

        So do I, but I’m not sure that I have worked out a good reason for that. The next puncture has nothing to do with the last.

      • Carlos Flanders

        I have several tubes with 5 patches. Work fine. In college I got up to 17 patches on one tube.

        • James Huang

          17! Surely that’s some sort of record.

  • Avuncular

    Good read. Takes me back to the days pre good HP or clincher tyres where singles (tubs) were the go. You’d wait til the long dark winter evenings to do your repairs on punctured tyres. Needed patience and some skill to locate the leak then unstitch the tyre, patch the puncture and sew it up again. Sometimes you got it wrong! No wonder there was a niche market for someone to do it for you.

  • My pro tip: along with wrapping each tube in a baggie with a bit of talc like James does, I also include a piece of paper identifying the length of the valve stem. With 3 cyclists and many rim depths in our household, it’s important to know what length valve is on the tubes in your saddlebag depending on the wheels you’re using that day.

  • OverIt

    Reading this at work this morning after getting my first flat in about 12 months (in the rain), was rather comforting. :)
    I know a few guys that laugh at me for patching tubes…..

  • Tommy Barse

    There is definitely something therapeutic about disconnecting from the world for a bit to patch a collection of dormant tubes. I like the Rustines patches. I’ve gone tubeless for road and commuting but it’s always important to have spares. Nice article, James.

  • Steven

    I really enjoyed this article, it’s unfortunate that we’ve become a society of throw away and replace. Thanks for a refreshing viewpoint.

    • James Huang

      Glad you enjoyed it. I honestly miss sometimes the simplicity of being a shop mechanic back in my day: broken bike comes in, fixed bike goes out, customer is happy. End of story.

  • oak

    have you ever tried lighting the glue let it burn for a few seconds then blowing it out do that until it won’t light patch it while it is still warm works a treat

    • James Huang

      No, but I will now!

  • ericobrien

    I admire this piece’s ability to capture the meditative, calming, and educational benefits of repairing gear.

    But it makes me wonder: why tubes and not tubeless? You’ve written about road tubeless a lot.

    (pulls pin in grenade and runs away)

    • James Huang

      Ha ha! I usually like to run tubeless on my personal bikes across the board, but I’m riding loaner bikes for review far more often, and those almost always come with tubes.

      Boom!

  • oonnoo

    Yes do a video! I struggle to get Rema patches to stick!
    Also, what’s the little rubber tube for in the Rema puncture repair kit??

  • Angel Jaffe

    YouTube video on your patching sequence please James. Thanks.

  • Mark Fletcher

    I’m with PsiSquared. A beer and music for me. I find it calming to sit out the back and patch away for an hour. I think people have failures because they don’t keep the patch under pressure for long enough after applying. I use 2 small blocks of 5 ply approx 50mm square and a little pair of nylon spring clamps. Leave it clamped for 10 mins or so.

    I just hate throwing useable things away.

  • Superpilot

    I patch all the time. My riding buddies mock me, but I pocket their tubes when they don’t want them too. Works for both of us then :)
    I have a habit of not letting the glue dry enough or too long.
    With patch failures, you can’t test them outside of a tyre. The patch needs to be forced against the inside of the tyre, with the tube pushing on the other side. When you test a patch outside of the tyre by pumping it up in open air, the patch is still the weakest link, but with nothing to hold it in place on the outside, it will sometimes fail prematurely tested this way.
    Likewise, if you have a tear in your tyre, sticking a section of gaffer/duck tape on the inside of the tyre can work better than the dollar bill as the tube pushes against the tape and holds it in place and the adhesive helps even more. With tubeless there is no tube to push the tape against the tear, so you gotta put a tube in instead.
    The only time I will bin a tube is when a hole develops close to the valve. I’ve found patches in this area fail rapidly. Presumably the stress in this area of the tube is higher. Also seems to be where cheap tubes tend to spontaneously fail as well.

    • James Huang

      The next time any of your buddies compliment you on a recent equipment upgrade, you should quote the cost in terms of inner tubes saved.

  • noob_sauce

    And here I thought by this point most writers on cycling websites just run tubleess, lest they be ridiculed by their cycling media peers.

  • Mark Fletcher

    Slightly off-topic. Does anyone else remember the patches that were on a metal sphere with cardboard with some sort of cordite? (from memory).
    You got a little clamp with the patches that would screw down on the lip of the metal disk.
    Then tear an edge of the cardboard and light it up.
    So much fun as a young kid…

  • Cesar Zimoni

    I patch my tubes on the road with glued patches. I just like it that way. I ride alone so I’ve got the time to do it. What takes the most time anyway, is getting the tube out and putting the tire on. Patching itself takes maybe a couple of minutes more than replacing the tube. I also find it messy and dirty to take of the wheel. I normally replace the tubes when they have 3-4 patches.

  • HamishM

    Hey James, which size Rema Tip Top for road tubes (28mm)?

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