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?