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  1. #1
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    Is Patching Tubes Now Obsolete?

    This past Saturday I went for a very nice ride along the Hudson River, from Battery Park up to Piermont, New York. The weather was perhaps hotter than I like, but otherwise all was well. A nice 60-mile out-and-back ride.

    On the return leg of the journey, maybe five or six miles for the George Washington Bridge, I was flagged down by a rider. Turned out she had a flat front tire. She asked me if I had a spare tube. She said sheíd given away her spare earlier in the day to another rider with a flat (she didnít have a pump or CO2 cartridges or tire levers, either, so Iím not sure how much good a spare would have done her anyway). I didnít have a spare tube (and if I did, it might not have fit anyway, because she was riding 700x20 tires, and I was riding 700x28). But I did have a patch kit and CO2 cartridges, so I offered to patch her tire.

    We all know the procedure for repairing a tube. The wheel comes off, the tire comes off, you locate the hole in the tube, you spread glue over the area, let it dry, and then slap a patch over the hole, press it on good, mount up the tube and tire, inflate, and put the wheel back on the bike. No problem. While I was waiting for the glue to dry, I told her to check the tire, inside and out, to make sure that whatever punctured the tube wasnít still stuck in the tire. She didnít find anything. When I reassembled everything and inflated the tire, there were no leaks, so I put the wheel back on and told her she was good to go.

    While I was fixing the flat, we talked about various rides she went on. She enjoyed riding in the Hudson Valley and in the Berkshires. She did a lot of day rides of respectable mileage (60 miles and more). She seemed quite fit. She was a few years younger than me, I think, perhaps 40 or 42, somewhere around there. She was obviously an experienced cyclist. She was riding a nice (and fairly expensive) bike. Carbon-fiber frame with nice Shimano components.

    After the flat was fixed, she said something like ďwow, Iíve never seen anyone patch a tube before. It looks so easy!Ē And it is easy, of course. The whole procedure never takes me more than ten minutes, and thatís going about it in a pretty leisurely fashion. Iíve been doing it for more than thirty years, ever since I fixed the first flat on my single-speed coaster-brake bike from Sears.

    So hereís my question. Is the art of patching tubes now obsolete? Is it possible that a serious or semi-serious cyclist has not only never patched a tube, but never even seen it done? Is patching tubes going the way of repairing sew-ups, or, say, adjusting points on an older car with mechanical ignition? Am I just getting old?

  2. #2
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    tubes are cheap. so, i can definitely see why someone with disposable income would just replace them.

    not me though, it's wasteful to toss a tube with a pin sized hole in it. i usually replace a tube on the road and patch the old one when i get home.

  3. #3
    No Rocket Surgeon eubi's Avatar
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    I patch tubes, but also replace them fairly regularly. I always carry a spare tube. It's a bear to fix a tube during my 3:30 AM commute!

    Also, patch kits only last a year in the So Cal heat, so I keep a fresh one in my bag.

    I teach the Scouts I take on bike rides how to fix flats too (It's required for Cycling Merit Badge). For many of them, it's the first mechanical repair they ever learn to do!
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  4. #4
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    I will replace the tube on the ride and the bad one I just end up tossing it into the trash when I get home.
    "Advantages Must Be Pressed, Disadvantages Must Be Overcome"

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmhaan
    tubes are cheap. so, i can definitely see why someone with disposable income would just replace them.

    not me though, it's wasteful to toss a tube with a pin sized hole in it. i usually replace a tube on the road and patch the old one when i get home.
    Seems to me if you are going to carry a tube and have to remove the tire from the wheel, well, why not patch? If you patch you have to remove the tire from the wheel, but you have room for other things if you carry a patch kit. But really, both ways are valid; it is just what do you want to do? All cyclists should know how to patch and to just replace.

    Oh, I forgot, you may have to take just a little more time to patch than if you replace a tube. Also, replacement could be a big plus for all us aging, formerly-listening-to-lotsa-loud-rock-music cyclists, as one may not be able to hear the "hiss" of escaping pressure from a tire on the side of the road. . .

    I patch. Husband patches, repeatedly; he;s cheap-wait, he's frugal. Gawd forbid we should waste a couple of bucks more on a new tube. I think the only way he would replace a tube is if the valve blew or he could no longer fit patches on the tube, or as you mentioned, he got a large unpatchable gash in the tube. As far as I know his none of his patches have ever failed.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmhaan
    tubes are cheap. so, i can definitely see why someone with disposable income would just replace them.

    not me though, it's wasteful to toss a tube with a pin sized hole in it. i usually replace a tube on the road and patch the old one when i get home.
    Yeah, let's say a $5 tube takes 6-minutes to repair on average. That's a $50/hr rate there.

  7. #7
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    All I've ever tried are gluess patches, but they must be worthless because the 3 I've tried to use so far (all on other bikers thankfully) have all failed to adhere.

  8. #8
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Saintly Loser
    She said sheíd given away her spare earlier in the day to another rider with a flat (she didnít have a pump or CO2 cartridges or tire levers, either, so Iím not sure how much good a spare would have done her anyway)...She did a lot of day rides of respectable mileage (60 miles and more). She seemed quite fit. She was a few years younger than me, I think, perhaps 40 or 42, somewhere around there. She was obviously an experienced cyclist...
    Is it possible that a serious or semi-serious cyclist has not only never patched a tube, but never even seen it done?
    Given what is in the OP I suspect the "experienced cyclist" in question has never fixed a flat at all; she just pulls the damsel in distress routine and the tire gets fixed without her ever lifting a finger; or at least that is what her experience has taught her.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Nermal's Avatar
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    We've got goat heads and russian olive (major thorns). Since there is a limit to how many tubes I can carry, and how many disposable dollars are hanging around, I patch. So far, I've always been able to replace a tube, and save the patching for home. Keeping fingers crossed.
    Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.

  10. #10
    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Yes, I'd say it makes no sense to patch today. The reason is the
    super cheap Chinese made tires & tubes that we have today.

    When I could still get good American made "Carlisle" brand tires & tubes
    I rarely changed the tube because I knew the tube would hold a patch and
    still be a good tube. However, Carlisle is now out of business. (Fricking
    Chinese )

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    Given what is in the OP I suspect the "experienced cyclist" in question has never fixed a flat at all; she just pulls the damsel in distress routine and the tire gets fixed without her ever lifting a finger; or at least that is what her experience has taught her.
    That's pretty much what I thought. I was wondering if anyone else would come to the same conclusion. It was pretty annoying.

  12. #12
    Huachuca Rider webist's Avatar
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    I have 2 nails in the wall in my shop which are reserved for tubes. One is marked "good tubes" and the other "Bad tubes"

    I always carry a spare tube on a ride as well as a patch kit. First flat - I switch for the good tube. Second and subsequent flats - I patch.

    Normally though, I make all my repairs to tubes in the shop and try to keep a tube or so on the "Good Tube" nail.

    I somehow doubt that she gave a tube to anyone that day. She has just learned to say that since being denied help earlier when she actually told a cyclist that she never carries one.
    Just Peddlin' Around

  13. #13
    more ape than man timmhaan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tightwad
    Yes, I'd say it makes no sense to patch today. The reason is the
    super cheap Chinese made tires & tubes that we have today.

    When I could still get good American made "Carlisle" brand tires & tubes
    I rarely changed the tube because I knew the tube would hold a patch and
    still be a good tube. However, Carlisle is now out of business. (Fricking
    Chinese )

    shouldn't blame the chinese. you should blame all the americans that line up outside wall mart and k-mart and buy chinese good in mass. all those americans looking to save a few cents have effectively undermined most amercian manufacturing. the chinese are just there to take advantage of it. american manufacturing is a dinosaur for the most part.

  14. #14
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmhaan
    tubes are cheap. so, i can definitely see why someone with disposable income would just replace them.

    not me though, it's wasteful to toss a tube with a pin sized hole in it. i usually replace a tube on the road and patch the old one when i get home.
    Thats my procedure. Although there is always other uses for old tubes. Chainstay protector works well.

    I NEVER patch on the trail. Takes to much time compared to replacement.

    Given what is in the OP I suspect the "experienced cyclist" in question has never fixed a flat at all; she just pulls the damsel in distress routine and the tire gets fixed without her ever lifting a finger; or at least that is what her experience has taught her
    I didn't read that at all. She had given away her spare. That happens a lot here. Not just with girls. Why assume the worst in people.

  15. #15
    Wood Licker Maelstrom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by timmhaan
    shouldn't blame the chinese. you should blame all the americans that line up outside wall mart and k-mart and buy chinese good in mass. all those americans looking to save a few cents have effectively undermined most amercian manufacturing. the chinese are just there to take advantage of it. american manufacturing is a dinosaur for the most part.
    So many ways to look at it. If americans (and canadians) manufacturers really tried to make it a competetive market people wouldn't try to find the best price.

    If tube (a) gets a hole in the same amount of time as tube (b) but tube (a) is 10$ more...why on gods green earth would I buy tube (a) This applies to everything in every industry. NA's perspective is just skewed because we want to maintain exorbant pricing for products in order to offset what is generally ridiculous wages for staff. Just look at the auto industry.

    Boutique has a place. If a company can't afford to loose customers because they want to keep their boutique image than they should be prepared to adapt manufacturing based on a lower number of customers.

    So women and chinese manufacturers suck? How much more can this thread go in the sewer. Or better yet what other "ism" can we bring into the mix.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Drunken Chicken's Avatar
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    Well, I've had horrible experiences with patches (auto-adhesive ones, mind you) in the past therefore I always replace my tubes even though it ain't cheap (3 euros per tube). Still, I usually end up using up the old ones for something or other, whether it be for rubber bands or for a chainstay protector. I might give the proper ones (i.e. non auto-adhesive) a shot sometime in the future but I'll always carry a spare tube around anyway.
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  17. #17
    Dances With Cars TRaffic Jammer's Avatar
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    I prefer patching, I can do it without removing the tyre, just pop the bead on one side. Just let the glue dry, apply enough to get to the edge of the patch and you're good to go.

  18. #18
    Urban Biker jimmuter's Avatar
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    I always replace tubes. I've just never had luck with patches. I'm all thumbs. I probably only get about 1 flat per year anyhow.

  19. #19
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom
    I didn't read that at all. She had given away her spare. That happens a lot here. Not just with girls. Why assume the worst in people.
    She must have given away her pump and tools too, NOT! An experienced cyclist on a long ride is not likely to be caught without such essentials, UNLESS "depending on the kindness of strangers" is her normal modus operandi for on the road bike repairs.

  20. #20
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maelstrom
    So women and chinese manufacturers suck? How much more can this thread go in the sewer. Or better yet what other "ism" can we bring into the mix.
    Dunno. Depends how naÔve some posters can be.

  21. #21
    Senior Member kf5nd's Avatar
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    Yes. Patching tubes is only for losers. Therefore, in order to avoid the taint of being a 'patcher, please send me all of your punctured 700x25 tubes, and I will dispose of them properly...

    (I will patch them and use them!)

  22. #22
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    I always patch, and always carry a spare tube. I never use the spare unless I have a tube that can;t be patched. I carry a pump, and CO2. i don't know why.

  23. #23
    Dances With Cars TRaffic Jammer's Avatar
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    boy scout?

  24. #24
    Elitist Troglodyte DMF's Avatar
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    I've always patched, but with these 700x21C tires there's not a lot of area to hold a patch so I bought some cheapo tubes. Haven't had to use them, fortunately. A couple questions:

    1) These tubes claim to fit widths from 19 to 27. Isn't that a pretty big range?

    2) I've always put newly-patched tubes in the tire and reinflated, reasoning that the air pressure would compress the patch and mould it to the proper shape as it cured. Those of you that patch a tube without putting it back in a tire - do you find that your patches last as long?

    3) What's a good (and light) on-road patch kit? I have a heavy one for my off-road bike but I'm trying to keep the road bike light as possible.

  25. #25
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by desmo13
    I always patch, and always carry a spare tube. I never use the spare unless I have a tube that can;t be patched. I carry a pump, and CO2. i don't know why.
    You never know where patching some distressed damsel's tire might lead.

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