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Check Your Spare Tube

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Check Your Spare Tube

Old 05-24-16, 05:29 PM
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Papa Tom
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Check Your Spare Tube

Just when I think I know it all...

A popular bicycling magazine recently published a list of ways you can unwittingly destroy a spare tube. I ignored the article at first, assuming there couldn't be anything new for a lifetime cyclist like myself, but it turns out the article saved me a lot of future frustration.

I don't get a lot of flats at all (crossed fingers), so a spare tube can stay in my bag for years. Two mistakes I've been making are:

1. Using rubber bands to keep my tubes bundled, and
2. Storing my tubes for long periods without inflating, deflating, and varying where I fold them.

It turns out rubber bands can chemically react with rubber tubes and damage them. But even more of a risk is allowing a tube to sit folded on a single crease for months or years at a time, which can cause cracks along the crease. When I checked my tube tonight, this was exactly what had happened. Had I not checked it out, I might have gotten stuck on the side of the road with a replacement tube that looked brand new but would not hold air!

If you're near your bike now, go check your spare tube, especially along the seam where it's been folded. You might be surprised at what you find.

(Sorry if this is old information for some of you. I've been riding almost fifty years and I just discovered this now!)
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Old 05-24-16, 07:18 PM
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Yes, rubber and similar materials tend to crack in a quasi-brittle fashion when subjected to high (relative to their strength) tensile stress over a prolonged period. Folding or bending inevitably produces tensile stress. I am guilty of the neglect mentioned in the OP, and I should check my spare tubes forthwith, if I know what's good for me.
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Old 05-24-16, 07:27 PM
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I literally JUST finished wrapping up a new tube nice and tight, complete with rubber band, and stuffing it in my saddle bag before coming inside. sigh...
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Old 05-24-16, 07:52 PM
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Good to check the glue in the patch kit as well. Once I crack open a tube, I plan on patching a bunch of tubes at home and putting a new, unopened tube on the bike.
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Old 05-24-16, 10:07 PM
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Never went long enough without a flat to have those issues. But I have changed a tube, then months later thought "I should check my kit", only to find I never put a fresh tube in and my patch glue was dry.

Good reasons not to have a minimalist bag.
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Old 05-24-16, 10:26 PM
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' wonder why they pack it folded, with rubber then?
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Old 05-24-16, 10:48 PM
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My spare tube is folded up and stuffed inside a ziplock bag, which is stuffed under my saddle. I suppose the saddle itself could wear the tube. I'll try to remember to check it, do the inflation and refold thing once in awhile.
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Old 05-24-16, 11:30 PM
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If your tube is staying rolled up in your bag for long enough to worry about, you're not riding enough. I don't think I've EVER gone a year without a flat. It's actually more like a flat every few thousand miles ot about 2/year on average.

I suspect that the greater concern about carried tubes is exposure to the weather. I don't have any hard data on this (except relating to latex tube in tubulars), but roll my tubes in stretch food wrap. This protects them from weather and makes it easier to get a tight fold that slips easily into my minimalist bag (tube, 2 tire levers, 2 hex keys and $20.00 and it's full to capacity)
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Old 05-25-16, 04:50 AM
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Originally Posted by DVC45 View Post
' wonder why they pack it folded, with rubber then?
Good point!

Also, many years ago, I used to keep my spare in a ziplock bag inside my saddle pouch. One day, I went to retrieve it and the plastic had melted all over the tube. I then switched to packing it in an old sock, which is what I think I am going to go back to.
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Old 05-25-16, 05:57 AM
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I wish I got flats infrequently enough that there was time for rubber bands or creases to happen.

As for packed with a rubber strap, it's the same butyl rubber that the tube is made from and therefore won't react. I think rubber bands are typically latex or some other kind of rubber. They certainly degrade fast.
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Old 05-25-16, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
... It turns out rubber bands can chemically react with rubber tubes and damage them. ...
I suppose that might happen if you have put the rubber band on yourself, using the wrong kind of rubber. I don't know about that. But the 'rubber' band around a new 'rubber' inner tube is typically made from a defective inner tube from the same factory; slice the tube up, and you can make hundreds of 'rubber' bands with exactly the same chemical composition as the inner tube you want to wrap. I don't see how they would react with one another.

edit... doh! @ItsJustMe beat me to it.
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Old 05-25-16, 06:11 AM
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Old 05-25-16, 07:27 AM
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Cut up your old inner tubes that are beyond patching to make rubber bands to hold the tube together. The lower of an angle you cut at, the longer the band.
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Old 05-25-16, 07:31 AM
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I keep a spare in an old sock in my backpack. Never thought about removing the rubber band that came with it.
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Old 05-25-16, 08:58 AM
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I'm lucky enough to get enough flats to keep my tubes from getting too old but not enough for it to be a huge problem.
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Old 05-25-16, 11:24 AM
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Originally Posted by locolobo13 View Post
I keep a spare in an old sock in my backpack. Never thought about removing the rubber band that came with it.
Sure, but keeping track of that rubber band... by the 5th or 6th patch I've probably lost it by the side of the road somewhere.
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Old 05-25-16, 11:32 AM
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Put it in a Zip Lock bag in Talc and keep it out of the sun and stuff like that.

Rubber band of other than the same Butyl rubber they make the tube of

is separated by the Plastic Bag Then.
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Old 05-25-16, 01:51 PM
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Thanks, Papa Tom, but I think I won't worry about this too much. It sounds like an aberration.

I have a "system" whereby a folded tube without a rubber band means it needs patching, and one with a rubber band means it is ready to use.
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Old 05-25-16, 03:15 PM
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Originally Posted by no motor? View Post
I'm lucky enough to get enough flats to keep my tubes from getting too old but not enough for it to be a huge problem.
I was going to write the same, but putting "lucky" in quotes
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Old 05-25-16, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by DVC45 View Post
' wonder why they pack it folded, with rubber then?
I find that some tubes that I buy (from walmart?) are shrinkwrapped inside the box. I leave it that way to provide some kind of protection from the elements (although it's not airtight), as well as compactness.
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Old 05-25-16, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by RubeRad View Post
I find that some tubes that I buy (from walmart?) are shrinkwrapped inside the box. I leave it that way to provide some kind of protection from the elements (although it's not airtight), as well as compactness.
Why does a rubber inner tube need protection from the elements?
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Old 05-25-16, 05:30 PM
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Well, UV from the sun, and ground level ozone, at least, i.e., if there happens to be any of either potentially getting access to the inner tube.
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Old 05-25-16, 05:36 PM
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Here in SoCal mostly I don't want it to dry out and start to crack from the heat.
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Old 05-26-16, 09:01 AM
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Originally Posted by WinNT View Post
I was going to write the same, but putting "lucky" in quotes
Yeah, it's definitely a relative term.
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Old 05-26-16, 02:15 PM
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I got lucky yesterday when I was looking at the box my spare tube was in. I'd written on there, "Leak 3/16." When I patch it, I'll scratch that out -- the box the previous spare tube was in got re-used for transport. I'd have had some words to say if I'd tried to fix a flat with the leaky tube!
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