I got that flat feeling today. On the way back to the office from a meeting I turn the penultimate corner prior to my destination, and it feels all weird. Like the back wheel skidded out a little.I continue to roll along, and the weird feeling continues. It just all feels wrong, like some alien force is trying to take over the bike.


I pull up outside the office, and feel the tyres. Sure enough, the rear one is nearly flat. I have a puncture. Bugger. 'This can't be!', I think. 'I never get punctures!'.


It's kind of true. I haven't had a puncture for about four years - ever since I started riding on Conti Sports Contact tyres. I'm not really one for brand endorsements, but I love those tyres. I guess they travel about 5000 km per year, so that's 20,000 km without a puncture. And they are grippy and fast too.


I get up to the office to survey the damage. I also have a quick check of the equipment I have with me; I am now so complacent about punctures that I quite often neglect to take any of the basics with me. Tonight I am in luck, though. I have a repair kit, tyre levers, a new tube, and the all important spanner to get the wheel off - it's the rear wheel on the fixie, so it doesn't have a quick release.


The first challenge is getting the wheel off. I hardly ever do it, and the last time the nuts were tightened were at the LBS. For a few minutes I wonder if my little spanner is going to give me enough leverage, but with some brute force they turn. I examine the exterior of the tyre, and immediately see the culprit. A tack is embedded in the rubber. I'm surprised that the tyre didn't go down much faster; I must have ridden several hundred metres with it pushed into the wheel.


The good news about it being so obvious is that I can repair the tube easily, as I know where the hole is. I lever the tyre off the rim at that point, and pull out enough of the inner tube to carry out a repair. I have a sudden thought that the  puncture repair kit might contain a four-year old tube of dried-up rubber cement, but luckily it's unused and the seal is not broken.


Thee is one thing about puncture repair kits that bugs me, though. Why on earth do they make the patches so huge? This particular kit comes with two different sizes; the small one is about three centimetres by two centimetres, and the large one is about double that. Do people actually mend holes that are two centimetres across? Good luck to them if they do, but my punctures are invariably little pin holes that only need a small patch about the size of a thumbnail. Huge patches are really hard to apply; you have to roll them around a crease in the tube and it's hard to get them flat and bonded all the way to the edge. I take some scissors to one of the patches and trim it to about a third of its original size to make it usable. (I've never found that not having a tapered edge to the patch matters. I remember at one time you could buy sheets of patch stuff and just cut it off in squares as you need it.)


Rough up the tube with sandpaper (repair kits seem to come with little cheesegrater things these days, but I prefer old-school and evidently remembered to put a small square of sandpaper in the repair kit) and apply a coating of rubber cement. Then wait. And wait some more. And then just a bit longer for luck.


I peel the backing off the trimmed patch, and place it over the hole before squeezing it between two 20c pieces to hold it in place. After a minute or so, it's ready to go. (Except there's no French chalk. Honestly, standards are slipping. in my day, young man, let me tell you that you always dusted your repair with powdered French chalk.)


Put a little air into the tube and relocate it, then pop the tyre back onto the rim. Check the tube isn't being pinched by the tyre bead, and then inflate the thing properly. This is where things get a little difficult. I do have a mini-pump, but I've never used it. I purchased it ages ago when my previous one fell off my bike and was squashed under a car before I could retrieve it. My old one had two holes, one for Presta and one for Schrader. This one has only one hole, apparently for Schrader. And there's an adapter thingo clipped under the lever.


I have no idea how this works. I know such adapters exist, but I've never used one.What do you do? Put it into the pump, and then onto the valve? Screw it onto the valve and then put the pump over? Do I use the lever on the pump before or after inserting the adapter thingo?


I actually still don't know the right way, but I do know one thing. The answer to 'how do these adapter thingos work' is 'badly'. I tried it every which way, but each time I got a moderate amount of air into the tyre any subsequent thrusts of the pump wobbled it enough to cause more air to leak out than I was pumping in. At this rate I was going to be riding home on a tyre barely inflated enough to keep me off the rims!


I eventually worked out how to get some air in, by jamming the wheel upright under my desk with the valve at the top, and then pulling upwards very hard on the valve as I pumped. A manoeuvre that could be tricky at the side of the road. Perhaps I need to invest in a better pump.


Anyway, I do actually quite enjoy mending punctures, provided it's not at the side of the road in the rain when you are late. I like the satisfaction of actually mending something that is damaged - a feeling that is rather rare in today's disposable society. I know several friends who think I am bonkers, and just buy a new tube each time; I've been known to rescue their punctured tubes from the bin, repair then, and present them back to them to use next time.


Not that I'm looking to get another puncture any time soon, thanks. But in another 20,000 km or so's time I might be ready!

Views: 193

Comment by PeterT on March 24, 2011 at 9:33pm

Moving on from my latex fetish, my last couple of spare tubes (I have lost about 3 inner tubes when I had them in my bottle cage) are supposedly "self healing"

At $13 (or $22 for the lite versions). over the price of a normal  inner tube and the chance it might save just one puncture, I'll pay that premium. - besides these stuff are great filler to justify free freight.




Comment by Jay on March 25, 2011 at 9:28am
I'm still amazed you've had such a different experience with Continental Sport Contacts. I had so many punctures with them, at least one every couple of weeks. I've been using Schwalbe Marathon Pluses for months now without any punctures. They are not as nice for riding on, however.
Comment by timothy.clifford on March 25, 2011 at 9:48am

Must be the season - I too had my first flat in a long time. Out came the spare, and after a quick replacement I set to it with my mini-pump. Almost done when the valve rips out of the tube. Bugger. It been a bad day already and this is not helping. Looked at the first tube to repair it and find the valve ripped out of that one too. Ended up getting rescued (again) by my lovely wife.


But I have to agree with that feeling of being able to repair things. Its secretly one of my favourite things about cycling.

Comment by naomi on March 25, 2011 at 10:02am

Me too - huge nail got caught up in my mudguards and then right into the tyre last week.

First time on the Schwalbe Marathons - was beginning to think it wasn't possible!

And yes patching isnt as hard as some think

Comment by Neil Alexander on March 25, 2011 at 10:13am

I, too, am happy(ish) to repair tubes myself. I'd rather not get the puncture in the first place, of course.

I found a tube, yesterday, lying unloved beside the GHF cycleway.  Assuming it had been discarded by a rider after a puncture and in the interest of keeping Australia beautiful but also because it had a nice long valve stem which is rare in my collection of old much repaired tubes, I took it home.

I bit the bullet and started to fix it immediately, first applying the floor pump and adding air, expecting to hear the hiss of it escaping through a hole. Not a sound. Pumped some more. Still no hiss. Hung tube up on a ceiling hook and wandered away. Remembered tube this morning and checked it. Still inflated!

WTF, did some weight weenie just toss it? Or is it one of PeterT's which had fallen from his bottle cage?

Comment by baa baa on March 25, 2011 at 12:36pm

The old cast off tube is a real teeth grinder. Why do that?

Saw one just west of Drummoyne rowers last week. Mental note to pick it up and bin it on the way home but someone beat me to it.

Comment by PeterT on March 25, 2011 at 12:55pm

The ones that that committed suicide from my bottle cage would be nice and brand new and probably still have had a rubber band  - I think I lost them around the Kurnell route and west head route.

Anyway I've learned since to stuff the bits and pieces into a tool bottle.

I'll grudgingly attempt a patch or a replacement, but I can't see why it would be fun to do it under duress, in the rain / blazing sun or worse when you have to get somewhere and time is ticking away.

If there was a roadside assist for cyclists, there's a pretty good chance I'll sign up.

Comment by Michael S. (Boxhead) on March 25, 2011 at 12:57pm
Mini pump fun. A few weeks ago I came across a cyclist with a flat and no pump. I offered my pump which works fine on my Presta valves. Like many pumps this one can, apparently, be used for Presta or Schrader valves. I tried to adapt it to this guy's Schrader valves but failed. Spent about 10 minutes mucking around before quitting. Started off as a good samaritan but ended up looking like a dill who didn't know how to use a pump. Ah, well. He walked away. I rode away.
Comment by timothy.clifford on March 25, 2011 at 1:12pm
Boxhead, like you I also once stopped to help a lady with a flat. But my attempts were foiled - she didn't have quick release or a presta valve. I didn't have a spanner or a dual valve pump. Ended up borrowing tools and using the air from a nearby Thrifty garage. They were very helpful.
Comment by Daniel S on March 25, 2011 at 1:24pm
the patches are large so they have some contact area to glue on to!


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