Can Road Bike Tubes Be Patched?

A road bike tire comprises an inner tube with a connected valve that allows for inflation. Properly inflated tires keep you happily rolling. But any type of hazard on the road can puncture the tube, causing the tire – and your trip – to go flat. So, if you find yourself with a flat tire, your bike disabled on the side of the road, is your tire a goner?

Can road bike tubes be patched? Road bike tubes can be patched. They are boasted as being able to withstand an additional three months of abuse after patching. The kits are a great way to prolong the lifespan of your tube. But a bike tube will ultimately need to be replaced despite the addition of a good patch as they’re not meant to last forever.

Being alert when on your road bike is essential to avoid a tire blowout. If you sense that a tire is becoming soft, you may be able to prevent the tire from bottoming out. This will save the tube and the rim from what could be deemed irreplaceable damage. Be prepared with a plan in the event you find yourself in this situation. We’ll help you know what to do.

Is It Worth Patching a Road Bike Tire?

For convenience and simplicity, it is faster and easier to replace the inner tube when you get a flat tire on your road bike. For those who are eco-conscious and use the adage ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,” patching is definitely worth the effort when your bike becomes disabled.

This process is a well known, traditional approach but it is also a reliable one if you’re using adequate materials and the technique is done in the right way. 

How Do You Patch a Road Bike Tire?

Special rubber cement used for the inner tube patch is among the most dependable materials. There are other ‘remedies’ that people use including duct tape and glue-less options. These are typically considered to be a quick fix when you find yourself in a bind alongside the road. A repair of this nature is not meant to last for any substantial length of time. 

Patch Kits

There are a variety of patch kits. According to experts, some should be avoided such as those with the thick patches that come with a grater.

The ideal patch kit will consist of a thin patch that offers round contours and a tapered margin. These kits come complete with the recommended rubber cement and sandpaper which will assist you in repairing your inner tube the proper way.

Types of Flat Tires on Your Road Bike

Avoiding flat tires is easier said than done, particularly if you tend to ride along the curb where dangerous debris and shards of glass tend to collect. At the first sign of a damaged tire, you should immediately stop to avoid further issues.

Oftentimes, the problem is going to be with the inner tube as opposed to there being something wrong with the tire itself. There are noted to be four variations of flat tire categories and how likely it is you can patch them.

  • Blowout. The worse situation to have is a blowout. This is a very sudden and unexpected loss of air that typically produces a loud sound. An inner tube can be compared to a balloon, meaning once it has been pumped to its capacity, it will pop. An inner tube is not capable on its own of handling a great deal of pressure outside the tire or it will rupture in the form of a blowout. A blowout isn’t going to be fixed with a patch.
  • Pinch Cut. Those who ride along the curb line are susceptible to more hazardous debris, including sharp rocks, hitting the curb, holes in the surface. This creates a possibility for a ‘pinch cut’ where the inner tube gets pinched in between an obstacle and the rim resulting in two holes. These have the potential of damaging the rim as well. Depending on how large the cut is, you may be able to patch it.
  • Puncture. If you don’t see sharp objects in your path, such as glass, nails or wire, you could end up with a puncture. This results in a hole going through the tire into the tube. With a puncture, you want to get the object out of the tire and patch the tube. Fixing the tire is not important.
  • Slow Leak. When you’re an avid rider, you should check your tire pressure regularly, weekly. It’s not unusual for tires to lose pressure over the course of weeks. A slow leak in the tube is an issue that is nearly impossible to repair and would be a cause for the tube to be replaced. Finding a hole in this scenario would be virtually impossible.

Inspecting the Flat Tire for the Hole

The first thing that needs to be done when you take the wheel off of your bike is to look for any obvious signs of damage to the tire. This would include any sharp objects that you may have run into, such as nails. If you find anything like this, you need to remove it and finish deflating the tire.

Inner tubes can generally be pumped up to double their thickness with no risk of rupture. As you pump it up, there should be a hissing sound, and the hole will grow in size as well allowing you to locate the damage.

How to Repair an Inner Tube That Has Gone Flat

Typically, when you go out on the road with your bike, you want to go prepared for any type of emergency including tires going flat. In this instance, you should have material to make a ‘boot’ with you.

Making a Boot: A Temporary Tire Fix

This is a short-term repair done on the inside of the tire if the inner tube is exposed. It’s important to travel with a patch kit, especially on longer rides.

Any type of flexible material can be used for this temporary repair but nothing elastic or that stretches. The suggestion is an approximate 3” cutting from an old tire as it offers the correct shape. This ‘Band-Aid’ will stay in place without the need for glue, but it is very temporary.

How to Apply the Boot

  • Begin by sanding the surface of the tube until it is no longer shiny.
  • The sanded area should be larger than what will be patched.
  • Patches should be cut in such a way that they overlap the hole by ½” or even more on each side.
  • The rubber cement should be applied conservatively and spread thinly so it dries fast.
  • Once the cement has lost its shine, the patch can be applied firmly rubbing each edge to get rid of all the trapped air.

Pro-tip: You need to take your time and perform each step thoroughly or the patch won’t hold either due to insufficient buffing or not allowing the cement adequate time to dry

When You Can’t Patch: Replacing an Inner Tube on the Road

There is also the option of carrying a few new tubes with you when you travel. This would certainly be much faster and more reliable to get you home safer. A lot of serious riders carry spare tubes along with their repair kits for these types of instances. 

In this situation, you still need to check the tire for what caused the issue and remove any hazards.

  • The punctured tube will need to be taken out, and the new one will need to be pushed in after being slightly inflated.
  • Tire levers will aid in getting the tire back over the rim. Repair the damaged tire once safely home.

Patch When You Can

Replacing inner tubes can get expensive and is wasteful if repairs are possible. In what is an eco-friendly age, we should do our part to use the items that we have at our disposal for as long as we can extend their lifespan. If the objects are safe and it’s feasible, repair them.

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