Is it worth patching a tube on a mountain bike, or just replace it with a new one?

There are a lot of 1/2" - 3/4" thorns here in Texas, and I use 26 x 1.95 tubes.

Any particular patch type/brand is better? Can you recommend any methods to cut down on punctures?

  • 2
    I'm generally a road cyclist and generally "go light", so don't carry more than one extra tube. With that...I've patched many tubes and had them go miles and miles.... Also, in my mtn biking days, I've patched tubes 10 miles from the nearest road. Anyway, it was either patch or walk back. ;~)
    – user313
    Jun 27, 2011 at 19:30

11 Answers 11


I generally carry 2-3 spare tubes and (back when I used to get flats, before Kevlar tires) I would swap out the tube, then repair the punctured one later, at my leisure. A simple puncture, on the tread side and not too close to the valve (or another patch), is no reason to discard a perfectly good tube.

I prefer to use a kit about like this one: http://www.rei.com/product/747197/novara-patch-kit -- with a tube of glue and rounded, feathered edge patches. The glue is a PITA if you try to put the tube immediately back in the tire (unless you carry talc), but when you do it later and the glue has plenty of time to dry it works fine. (Though place a bit of tissue over the glued area before folding up the tire for re-stowage.)

(But as I indicated, the real solution is Kevlar-belted tires.)

  • I'm old school and do carry talc. Thanks for the tire and patch kit tip.
    – Moab
    Jun 27, 2011 at 3:08
  • 2
    +1 for replacing with spare tube on the ride then patching it later. And once patched, put that tube back in the seat bag as another spare. Jun 27, 2011 at 22:18

I think that it is definitely worthwhile to patch a tube for many reasons:

  1. five patches go for about $5, lower than the price of a single tube (~$7).
  2. a patch kit can be taped under the seat whereas a tube must be carried in a bag or pocket (and if in a pocket, remembered).
  3. Given the ability to avoid flats almost entirely (e.g. using puncture-resistant tires, riding mindfully / carefully), I have never had to wait for a patch to 'dry', even the minute or two for the glue to set passes pretty quickly. Except when in a rush (e.g. a mountain bike race), it takes this much time to change a tube.
  4. Tubes deteriorate more quickly and are more likely not to work when needed than a patch. For example, improperly folded tubes often crack where folded or at the base of the stem.

Despite my own advice, in practice I carry a spare tube in my pocket if one is handy.

On a side note, if you have neither a tube nor a patch kit you can

  1. tie a knot in the tire where the hole is and stretch
  2. ride home on a flat and risk damaging your rim
  3. stuff the tire with grass or something else handy
  4. hitch hike
  5. call a friend/ family member
  • 4
    6. Stuff the tire with road kill, plenty of that here..7. seal the puncture with a 1 watt hand laser, hey that might work!
    – Moab
    Jun 30, 2011 at 1:36
  • +1 for some of the problems/risks with carrying spare tubes. I haven't had the same experience with patches, but it makes sense if you can patch quickly. Jun 30, 2011 at 19:46
  • Actually, an average quality tube, rolled up and out of the sun and air (and ozone), will last a decade or more without serious deterioration. Tires deteriorate over time (especially in the sun), but tubes much less so. Jun 30, 2011 at 22:37
  • @Daniel I did use tire when I meant tube, and I can't argue that an unopened tube might last a decade - or more with proper care. However, tubes in regular use are often no so lucky, particularly if the tube is rolled up improperly, held together with a too-tight rubber band, or exposed to weather and sweaty pockets. A ziplock bag and some baby powder will mitigate most of these abuses. Jul 5, 2011 at 4:49
  • Whatever. My experience has been different. Jul 5, 2011 at 11:21

I carry a patch-kit while riding, but my first choice is always to replace the tube. On a longer ride, running out of spare tube(s) may leave you stranded really far from help. A patch kit can get you out of that situation without a lot of extra storage space or weight.

However, if I get a flat and can fix it when I get home, I always replace the tube. The only reason why I've patched a tube at home is to make sure I know how to use the patch kit.

Personally, I find that my time is worth far more to me than the cost of an extra tube. And it takes me longer to patch a tube than to simply replace it.

To prevent flats, I use Kevlar liners. I've found for mountain biking, they are worth the weight/cost and have reduced my flats to the point where I don't worry about it anymore.

  • There seems to be a wide range of kevlar liners, any particular preference?, Thanks.
    – Moab
    Jun 27, 2011 at 3:40
  • 2
    @Moab Mr Tuffy have been around for a while and are perhaps among the original liners. They have worked great for me. Jun 29, 2011 at 2:52
  • I have liners and they do work, but the thorn went in right next to where the liner stopped coverage on the side, I think the tube gods hate me. The pneumatic tire is ancient technology, there is a fortune to be made reinventing it. I am amazed at how some technology screams into the future, and others, well, don't. Look how long it took to get rid of the carburetor, the Kitty Hawk had gravity fed fuel injection in 1903.
    – Moab
    Jun 30, 2011 at 1:45
  • I use Mr. Tuffy as well. Yup--I've had the same thing happen to me as well. I found it to be a bigger problem on fat tires than skinny for some reason. Jun 30, 2011 at 19:43
  • I also use Mr. Tuffy. Haven't had a flat in years when combined with my Gatorskin tires.
    – Kibbee
    Jul 6, 2011 at 0:32

I would say that yes, patching a simple tube puncture is a good idea. It takes at most 15 minutes, costs 15 cents, and saves you from buying a brand new tube.

I currently have the Park Tool patch kit. However, basically, the patch kits are the same. You get a small tube of rubber cement, an assortment of patches, and a tiny bit of sandpaper; all of which fits in less than the palm of your hand.

The extra tube or tubes is a good idea, but still, you can't go wrong with the patch kit.


If I flat during a ride I replace the tube but try to take it with me. No sense in littering, and I can patch it at home later. Only patch a tube during a ride as last resort (no fresh tube left). Except for racing or long event rides I have no prob riding a patched tube. Well-done glue type patch is usu stronger than the tube area surrounding it. Why bother patching simple punctured tubes? It's cheap, quick (perhaps 2 min), and environmentally friendly (recycling). And +1 on the Park 'glueless' patch. In many years of riding it's still the only stick-on patch I trust.

  • Gidday and welcome to SE Bicycles. That's a good first answer, thank you for your contribution.
    – Criggie
    Dec 19, 2015 at 9:03
  • Never ever do anything that would make you grumpy, if you saw another rider doing it. Leaving tubes behind is a terrible thing to do! Glueless patches (aka glorified stickers) seem to work fine on MTB tubes, but road bikes just aren't worth bothering. Road bike tubes are smaller and lighter though so you can carry two. Finally, proper patching requires 5-10 minutes for the vulcanising fluid to do its job. Rushing this step leaves you with a bad patch.
    – Criggie
    Dec 19, 2015 at 9:11

Although some may disagree, it's generally not worth patching a tube unless you don't have a spare tube handy. However, patch kits are so small and light that there's no reason not to carry one unless you're counting grams. It'll come in handy the day you carry a spare tube and have two flats.

I can't recommend any brands of patch kits, since I've never even used mine. However, I suggest avoiding the very cheapest tubes, such as Forte (Performance house brand), for example. Most flats I've had have been with cheap tubes.

In my experience, keeping your tires properly inflated won't help much with these kinds of punctures. (See the comments for another take on that, though.) I suggest you look into puncture-resistant tires. These are heavier and may slow you down a touch, but not as much as changing a flat will! (These tires still get punctures, but not nearly as often.) I'd also like to mention that I've almost never gotten a flat with tires that have full-knobby tread.

Are you riding on- or off-road?

  • Mostly paved, I ride through the woods about 50 yards, then down an abandoned gravel road and over railroad tracks to a paved road. Thorns are brutal here in Texas and long enough to easily overcome knobby tires. I am contemplating pumping the tires full of urethane. ;-)
    – Moab
    Jun 27, 2011 at 3:02
  • 1
    I'd suggest looking into 26" touring tires. The Schwalbe Marathons are well thought of and close to the gold standard for tourists, but they're not cheap or light. Jun 27, 2011 at 3:09
  • Thanks, they look like nice tires, bookmarked. Don't have my size in the MTB : -(
    – Moab
    Jun 27, 2011 at 3:20
  • ...*Keeping your tires properly inflated won't help much with punctures* - don't think that is the consensus opinion. The internal pressure is important to stopping sharp objects coming through. There is also the MTB context of snake-bites. God has not spoken on the subject - but there are plenty of claims on the internets that you have to properly inflate tyres to stop them getting flats. I also have my own anecdotal experience, getting a flat recently all of ten minutes after my first in eons. The glass was different colour, I had pumped the tyre with mini-pump so it was more susceptible. Jun 27, 2011 at 13:09
  • @Mathew - Although I meant punctures of this type, you make a good point. Have edited my answer. Jun 27, 2011 at 15:15

Tired of patching/replacing tubes I finally decided to convert my wheels to tubeless using this kit: http://www.sincamaras.com/INGLES/indexenglish.HTM. I know there are several other on the market (e.g.: DT-Swiss has a tubeless kit as well) but my local bike shop recommended me this one. I decided to install it because in my area, this winter, a lot of vegetation has been cut around the trails and everyone is having lots of flats due to the spikes on the ground. I haven't had a flat since I installed the tubeless kit. I had almost one (sometimes 2) per ride before! Another advantage of removing the tubes is making the wheels lighter.

  • Looks like tire sealant, is it any better than the rest on the market? I wonder I should just put the sealant in, saves on tubeless tires.
    – Moab
    Jun 30, 2011 at 1:32
  • I don't know. I used that because it was recommended by my local shop. I have no complain about it. I know DT-Swiss has one, another one Zero Flats: zeroflats.com. Jun 30, 2011 at 20:55
  • Downside, if you do have a flat you're kinda screwed. What's your plan if it happens - do you carry a spare tube anyway?
    – Criggie
    Dec 19, 2015 at 9:08
  • 1
    @Criggie yes, I do. I also carry a foam based tire sealant, something like this, and something similar to the Sahmurai Sword. I only use the tube when those alternatives also fail. I only needed to use the spare tube once in about five years though! Dec 19, 2015 at 9:26

As everyone knows, Schwalbe Marathon series are the bullet-proof-most tyres known to cyclistkind, seems they do have some variants in the 2.00 uber-width:


enter image description here

These should look good on your bike, once fitted your question should be academic - no punctures for ages (well, until the tyres wear out.)

As for tubes and patches, the correct answer is to swap with a tube but carry the patches too, the stick on ones because they are so much easier in cold, dark and wet conditions.

...and the small detail of tyre inflation. Yes, high tyre pressure prevents punctures. Some people here will be needing sources beyond anecdote for that, maybe the question has to be posed...

  • I have been having problems with stick ons, I have one that is holding well for months now, but a second one that keeps failing within a day, not sure what I am doing wrong. I guess I will fall back to the glue type on that puncture spot.
    – Moab
    Jun 27, 2011 at 16:30
  • Well, the hole is always on the seam and I think you still need to abrade the surface for the stick-ons too. PArk ones have not let me down yet though... Jun 27, 2011 at 16:39
  • @matthew -1 because your comment 'once fitted your question should be academic' is overly optimistic. This assumes that both the tire and rim strip are fitted and installed properly and that there are no pinch flats. Jun 29, 2011 at 2:51

Is it worth patching a tube on a mountain bike, or just replace it with a new one?

If you get a flat on the trail, and you have a spare tube, replace the tube and keep riding. But fix the tube when you get home, and use it to replace the spare you just used.

There are a lot of 1/2" - 3/4" thorns here in Texas, and I use 26 x 1.95 tubes. Any particular patch type/brand is better? Can you recommend any methods to cut down on punctures?

I think there are some tubes that are more "heavy duty" than others. But most of the protection is in the tires as others have noted.

Talk to your local bike shop about the tire options they recommend for your thorny trails.


The Schwinn dry type of patch is a total waste of time and money. About $4 at Meijer, and the patches have so little adhesive that they have trouble staying on the tube (much less sealing a leak). So if a big box store with only Schwinn products is your only alternative, just buy the cheap tube.

  • Quite right - they're glorified stickers and hardly worth bothering with. Carry a tube or two, and use a proper patch kit when you get back home.
    – Criggie
    Dec 19, 2015 at 9:14

Well it probably depends on how much you value your time and how fast you can do it.

You can patch a tube but you can buy them new for like $3-4.

It'll probably take me 10 minutes more extra to patch it then to just use a new tube. So you're effectively working at about $18 to $24 an hour... given I think most ppl will get paid more than that per hour and given that you'll be doing this in your leisure time where your rate of pay is worth much more than your work time, I would say you're better off just buying the inner tubes in bulk to save on costs.

  • You're totally right that a shop will not bother patching a tube, because their time does cost money. My time is my own to spend how I choose. Round here a cheap tube is $12 so its worth my time even if it takes half an hour to patch.
    – Criggie
    Dec 19, 2015 at 9:13
  • 1
    In addition to @Criggie's point: When you've used your spare(s) and fall back on the patch kit on the road, you want to be familiar, especially with things like how much to abrade the tube, how long to let the glue dry (I've never had good experiences with glueless patches so avoid them, and always carry a brand new tube of glue). Also throwing tubes away is wasteful. I save them up and batch patch in the warm and dry, which probably takes <5 minutes/tube and saves the glue going off.
    – Chris H
    Dec 21, 2015 at 10:11

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