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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Emergency Tire Repair

By Pico Triano
Photos: Pico Triano, Simon Shirley

Unexpected tire failure, this is why I carry a partial roll of tape in my bicycle repair kit. It is not there for permanent repairs but it has gotten me to the nearest store where I could replace that tire on many occasions.

On long self-contained tours I make a habit of carrying at least one spare tire and one spare tube. To do otherwise would be travelling unprepared. For shorter trips or commutes you might not want to be carrying a lot of gear. Securing everything every time you lock your bike up somewhere can be a major issue. In some cities anything that can be easily removed from you bike stands a high likelihood of being stolen the minute you're out of sight. I don't leave my repair kit, tire pump or cyclo-computer on the bike. I take them with me. That little roll of tape has earned a spot in the repair kit.

Patching a tube is no big deal unless it's raining and carrying a spare tube isn't that difficult. I know a spare tire isn't that much bigger but the line had to get drawn somewhere. Tire failure usually is more severe than a little hole in the tube and not nearly as common. I've gotten big cuts in the tire from glass, big enough that when the tube was repaired it bulged out of the hole in the tire. I've had an old tire rip along the side wall. Rubber ages and sometimes it doesn't show. Sometimes it's just bad rubber to begin with. I've had the wire in the bead edge of a tire break (probably a manufactures defect). In every case, not only did I need to get home but I had to get to the nearest store to buy a replacement. That was ten miles away.

The quickest way to effect the repair is just wrap tape around tire and rim, make sure it doesn't interfere with your brakes (because it almost always does) and hop back on and finish the ride, thump thump thumping all the way. I've usually got time to do a better job though.

I pull out the tube where the damage is (often you have to patch the tube anyway). Pump the tube up to roughly the size it will be inside the tire and wrap the tube instead of the tire. The objective is to just make sure the tire doesn't bulge out of the hole and give you another flat. One of my online Australian friends has used one of their polymer bills to make a sleeve for that same purpose. I'm sure our new money in Canada will work just as well.

My tape of choice is electrical tape with apologies to duct tape aficionados like Red Green. It packs smaller, has a little bit of stretch to it and doesn't leave much glue residue on the tube when you're all done. Virtually any tape will get the job done though.

The biggest drawback to this kind of repair is the temptation to leave it that way a lot longer than you should. If you've done a quality job, your wheel will ride smoothly and you could potentially travel a very long way before it fails again. That might be great in an emergency but my recommendation is to get that tire replaced as soon as possible.

Incidentally we used to use electrical tape on the inside of the rim to cover the spoke nipples and keep them from wearing holes in the tube. I know there is a proper rubber strip for that purpose but a couple of laps of electrical tape on the rim did the job just as well and would never slip out of place while riding.

Related Articles (Click photo or title for access)

If you do a lot of riding you are going to get flat tires. Punctured tubes are easy enough to deal with on the road. It doesn't have to be a disaster.

Breaking spokes is such a pain in the posterior. This article might shed light on why they are breaking and what you can do about it.

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