Friday, July 1, 2011

Thrifty Thrashing Tip #1: Patch Your Tubes

I have heard many different people claim that patching a tube is only useful just to get yourself out of the woods when you have a flat. Afterwards, these same people claim you should just replace the tube because it has been "compromised."

Now, there are really only two uses where I can see a patched tube being somewhat problematic:

  1. Road biking, because road tires run such high pressure. But this isn't a road biking blog.
  2. Downhill mountain biking, due to the force of jumps and drops. 
But for most standard tube uses, I have found that patches work remarkably well. Think about it: the average mountain biker just rides trails for fun and runs relatively low tire pressures to increase traction. During normal riding, a patch is more than capable of surviving for many months. In my experience, another part of the tube tends to fail (poked by a thorn, pinched due to low air pressure) well before the patch.

Money Savings
"Wait, how does this save me money exactly?"

I don't know if you've noticed, but inner tubes can be expensive. 26er tubes at my LBS are $6 and 29ers are $7. I've purchased tubes at REI before and they generally run a solid $9! Even off of the internet a tube costs $3 or more. 

In contrast, a patch kit with 6 patches costs either 3 or 4 bucks, depending on the shop. 

To illustrate the amount of money you can save by patching just 6 tubes, I input some data into a spreadsheet and crunched some numbers. Check out the screenshot below:

Basically, depending on where you were already buying your tubes, by patching just 6 tubes you could save up to $51.00! That is a ton of money!  Not to mention, repairing a tube is much more eco-friendly than throwing it away.

So the next time you got to throw away an old tube after a pinch flat, patch it instead and save some serious $$.

Your Turn:
Do you patch your tubes?


JB,  July 1, 2011 at 7:49 AM  

never had luck with patches, they always fail after a few miles in my experience.

Greg Heil July 1, 2011 at 8:12 AM  

What kind have you been using? I've tried those ones that are already sticky before (like a piece of tape) and they never work for me. The ones that I've had success with have been where you have to go through the whole process of cleaning the tube, using sandpaper, using vulcanizing rubber/glue, and then using the dry patch.

JB,  July 1, 2011 at 11:46 AM  

yeah, thats how I did it too. Mine came in a kit sold by giant I believe. Scuffed it with sandpapper, set the glue, push and hold. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but after 3 failures I tossed the kit and pulled out my spare. Haha.

Gaylen,  July 1, 2011 at 12:20 PM  

I always patch the tubes. I also always patch my road tubes. I think I have one road tube that has ten patches on it. Why get a new tube when if it is patched properly, it will work great.

Joe July 1, 2011 at 12:30 PM  

I was a non-believer until not long ago a buddy of mine bailed me out using one of his patches. It worked great and he had the self-stick type. Since I only carry one tube in my pack, I figured if I happen to get two flats on one trip I'd rather have a back-up. Patched are weightless really.

Phil July 1, 2011 at 4:30 PM  

I'm a downhill guide and we have tons of thorns here. Some of my tubes have upwards of ten patches and still rollin strong. I rarely have a patch fail and when one does, its generally cause I didn't wait for the glue to dry enough before putting the patch on. If you slap the patch on right away when the glue is still super wet, the patch can fall off.

Phil July 1, 2011 at 4:33 PM  

Worse is when people use CO2 canisters for normal trail riding. If you're popping one of those for every flat, then you definitely have too much money on your hands.

Greg Heil July 1, 2011 at 4:44 PM  

@Gaylen, well the road idea is disproved then! Thanks for chiming in!

@Joe, good point on the weight

@Phil, interesting... downhill is disproved too. Now there's no reason that ANYONE shouldn't patch tubes!

I definitely agree with you on the CO2 as well... I think that's going to be another "tip" in the near future ;)

Anonymous,  July 1, 2011 at 7:02 PM  

I was just wondering about this myself. It seems like such a waste to throw out a tube with a small hole in it. I am going to patch both my mountain and road bike next time. What kind of patch kit do you use?


Greg Heil July 1, 2011 at 9:55 PM  

@Scott, I've used several different patch kits, usually just whatever I can find. All the ones that have the vulcanizing glue separate from the patch have worked well for me.

longboarderj July 2, 2011 at 2:08 AM  

I've never had a patch fail, even when jumping

JB,  July 2, 2011 at 10:10 AM  

just noticed the comment about CO2's. maybe that was the problem. 2 of my flats were on group rides and they offered the co2 catridges. Rapid inflation may have caused it to fail. :shrug:

Greg Heil July 2, 2011 at 5:35 PM  

@longboarderj, Good to know!

There's no reason NOT to patch tubes then!

@JB, that could do it.

matthew,  July 3, 2011 at 9:01 PM  

i decided to patch my tube when I had a small leak on my mountain bike. I rode over 14 miles saturday over a rocky fast hard riding trail. So far they are still inflated.

dgaddis July 5, 2011 at 4:03 PM  

What are these "tubes" you speak of? ;)

Anonymous,  July 6, 2011 at 3:45 PM  

Is there a good way to get the air completly out of a tube? Thinking if i changed the tube on the trail and when I got home patched it and place it back into my pack. just thinking....

Greg Heil July 8, 2011 at 7:28 AM  

@matthew, good to hear!

@dgaddis, I need to go tubeless!

@brianw, I personally don't know of one to get it COMPLETELY deflated. If you find out, be sure to let us know!

KenInCa July 19, 2011 at 2:12 AM  

I really like the Slime brand patches, really works for me. I think I have about 5 patches on my front tire, but I don't jump or do serious DH either.

@brianW, fold the tire in have with the stem at one end. Then roll the tire as tightly as you can, while every now and then press the valve to release the air. Not perfect, but decent.

Marc Simmons,  February 21, 2012 at 7:03 PM  

I think the keys to consistent success are to: 1) Buy good quality patches. I like the ones with a red ring and thin plastic cover. They usually come in a little teal green box if you buy the whole kit. Sorry, I don't recall the brand name.
2) Put a thin coat of glue on both surfaces--the partly inflated, cleaned and roughed tire, and the contact side of the patch.
3) Allow plenty of time for the solvents in the glue to evaporate. The glue should feel almost completely dry to the touch before joining the surfaces. Slightly tacky is okay, but not wet at all.
4) Leave the plastic cover on the patch, push and rub strongly to rid the patch of air bubbles and to ensure good adhesion. The cover will keep the glued tube from sticking to the inside of the tire.
I've followed this procedure hundreds of times and never had a single failure. In fact, I have a couple of tubes that have multiple patches on them and are still going strong.

Greg Heil March 7, 2012 at 12:23 PM  

Great tips, thanks for adding those, Marc!

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