13

Many years ago I bought a 100 pack of REMA round patches from Amazon. And back then you could buy patch kits for $1 that had a few patches, something abrasive to sand with, and a tiny tube of vulcanizing glue.

It wasn't a good idea (in my experience) to buy anything bigger than a tiny tube of vulcanizing glue (unless you patch many tubes at a time) since the whole thing usually dried up after being exposed to air.

So nowadays you can't find those patch kits as cheap as $1 anymore and I'm noticing that places like Wal-Mart can sell inner tubes for as cheap as less than $5.

So unless anyone knows a good source of where to buy those tiny tubes of vulcanizing glue, I'm thinking it's just more cost-effective (and trouble-free) to just go w/ new inner tubes instead of patching.

What do you guys think?

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  • 7
    @ojs the "economy" sort of inflation, I might add.
    – HAEM
    May 23 '21 at 14:01
  • 4
    Don't get distracted by correcting/disagreeing on pricing of tubes or patches. Things cost different amounts around the world, and different currencies are used. If we go with "a single tube costs more than a pack of patches" then everyone is correct and we don't get bogged down in irrelevancies.
    – Criggie
    May 23 '21 at 22:15
  • 4
    Environment concerns would have many people choosing to patch rather than throw away regardless of relative economics. It would be reasonable to argue throwing away a patchable tube perfectly demonstrates the reason the environment is in so much trouble.
    – mattnz
    May 23 '21 at 23:34
  • 3
    I patch, therefore 'people' do. May 24 '21 at 2:46
  • 3
    This is not a useful question: it's a combination of a rant and a shopping question. May 24 '21 at 13:50

11 Answers 11

21

Yes, some people still patch their tubes

I've worked sales at a bike shop for three years, and patch kits are still one of the most common small items for us to sell. It still makes sense from an money perspective--a patch kit is $2 and can fix 10 tubes, while tubes are $10 dollars each (for good ones, at least).

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  • 4
    Right, though many people will certainly reason that in the time it takes them to patch that old tube, they could have gotten some work done instead and earned enough money for 2 new tubes! May 23 '21 at 22:33
  • 1
    @leftaroundabout The counterargument to that is that few people genuinely stay at work for an extra ten minutes instead of patching a tube. Of course, wanting to be home with your family doing things other than fixing tires is a valid motive.
    – MaplePanda
    May 23 '21 at 22:42
  • 2
    @MaplePanda sure. I didn't say it's a good argument, just that people will reason this way! Though TBH I haven't patched a tube in quite a while myself. Back when I was living in Germany I did it often, both because I constantly had small punctures from thorns or little chunks of glass, and had very little money so I did feel the price difference. Now in Norway, I seldom have punctures, and if I do it's a fat snake bite or full-tyre slash, which from my experience would take me a lot more time than 10 min to fix (reliably). Yet I still feel I should patch them, for the environment's sake. May 23 '21 at 23:05
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    @leftaroundabout if, like me, you patch a few tubes in a batch, it doesn't take long per tube. I can also do some related chores while the glue dries (oiling chain, tweaking brakes etc.)
    – Chris H
    May 24 '21 at 7:54
14

Yes - absolutely, though not on the roadside.

Here's a spare tube out of what was my main commuter. I counted and it has 15 patches applied, though some of them are snake bites and get two.

Presuming a patch costs $1, and a new tube costs $5, then this tube represents $50-$70 in savings of not buying new tubes, and there are not 10-14 other tubes lying in landfill.

enter image description here

I never patch on the roadside - instead I swap the tube for a known-good one, and patch the tube at home or at work, depending which way I'm going. Each bike has two tubes, and should I run through all of them then I have sticker-patches too. I've needed both tubes several times, but the stickers have only ever been given away to other stranded people with different sized tubes.

8
  • 1
    Which time period do these 15 patches cover? If this is 10 years then the savings are 7$ a year. If this is a month then yes, it definitely makes sense.
    – WoJ
    May 24 '21 at 9:40
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    Also - what is a "snake bite"? (I just cannot imagine that there is a place where actual snakes would come to bite your tire :))
    – WoJ
    May 24 '21 at 9:41
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    @WoJ a snake bite is a sort of puncture that leaves 2 holes, from compressing the tyre so much the tube gets pinched
    – Chris H
    May 24 '21 at 10:32
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    FWIW, I do patch in the field (with pre-glued patches) and it works fine. Even if they don't seal perfectly, it's always good enough to get me where I'm going and back again (though sometimes with a re-inflation if I park for a long time).
    – Reid
    May 24 '21 at 16:24
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    @Reid The best strategy is to carry one spare tube. Then when you get a puncture, you patch it immediately BUT use the spare tube and the patched tube becomes your new spare tube. Usually you won't get two punctures in the same day so the glue in the spare tube has a chance to dry. If it's a very unlucky day and you get another puncture within 10 minutes, or the same road hazard punctures both your tires, you use the tube with not-yet-dried glue and then afterwards remember to check if riding with not-yet-dried glue caused it to not hold air. Also, sometimes you can't patch, thus spare tube.
    – juhist
    May 24 '21 at 16:46
7

I patch my tubes - usually at home in the warm and dry. The patch kit I carry on the road has a sealed (or recently opened) tube of patch glue; older glue ends up in my garage toolbox. I save up tubes and do a batch in one go.

With the lid screwed down nicely and the air squeezed out (just before final tightening) the glue keeps for months at least. You can easily buy a pack of 3-5 small tubes of glue online, to keep the kit topped up, and I also bought a big pack of cheap patches Sticker patches also have their uses though I don't trust them permanently; they can be fitted without removing the wheel or all of the tyre.

I also carry 2 tubes when riding, but have been known to get more than 2 punctures (3 in one day, and another slow one either that day or the next on a 2-day 400km trip).

6
  • I'm the opposite - I patch the dead tube once I get to my destination be it work or home (post shower). That way the tube can stay inflated for testing a couple hours at least, before being bundled up and back to the toolbag. Only if it fails to patch do I trash it and stow a brand new tube instead.
    – Criggie
    May 23 '21 at 22:20
  • 1
    @Criggie my approach needs a bigger library of tubes, and I reckon I'm lazier than you. Patching in nice conditions seems to be a theme though, probably because patch glue and rain don't mix well
    – Chris H
    May 24 '21 at 7:33
  • 1
    Too close to a shopping recommendation to go in the answer, and I doubt I'm in the same country as the OP, but I've just checked my ebay history and I got 5x5g tubes of glue for a similar price to a cheap tube.
    – Chris H
    May 24 '21 at 10:35
  • @Criggie I think leaving a tube inflated outside a tyre after patching is not a good idea, I feel it can cause the patch to fail where it wouldn't otherwise. If I do this, I stick it in a spare wheel so it's pressed against an actual tyre. I think I read this somewhere years ago but my patching success definitely went up when I stopped test inflating outside a tyre, I only do it in an actual tyre now.
    – Ivan McA
    May 24 '21 at 16:57
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    @IvanMcA I tend to put just enough air in to take up the slack in the tube during patching small holes, then clamp the patch while it dries. This is easily done as I'm patching at home, and the clamp allows me to hang the tube out of the way, until I can be bothered to roll it back up again. Failures patched that way are almost unknown.
    – Chris H
    May 24 '21 at 19:25
6

Is this question a poll? I thought they were off-topic.

Yes, I do patch my tubes. When I return home on my spare, I patch the flat one and have a new spare. It is easier at home and I do not loose valuable time on the ride. I would only patch during the ride when out of spares (which I normally carry only one, unless doing something multi-day).

All the friends I tend to ride with do patch their tubes.

4

It wasn't a good idea (in my experience) to buy anything bigger than a tiny tube of vulcanizing glue (unless you patch many tubes at a time) since the whole thing usually dried up after being exposed to air.

There are several ways to ensure that the glue tube won't dry.

The tube has the open ends. One is crimped but usually not perfectly. The other has a cap with screw thread.

The crimped end should always be "under water" so that the glue doesn't evaporate and diffuse as a gas through the crimp. So glue tubes should be stored cap upwards, crimped end downwards.

The cap end should always be closed so that you push the glue to fill the cap end before closing the cap. This ensures that there is no air inside the glue tube. If there is air, the glue evaporates and then diffuses through the cap screw threads. The cap obviously needs to be tight. A loose cap will mean the glue dries.

Of course in your toolkit you always carry with you, it may not be feasible to force a certain orientation for the glue tube. So that tube always remains vulnerable. But in your home you can store the glue tubes cap upwards.

So nowadays you can't find those patch kits as cheap as $1 anymore and I'm noticing that places like Wal-Mart can sell inner tubes for as cheap as less than $5.

It's a bad idea to buy cheapest path kits.

A cheap patch kit typically has a "cheese grater" to remove the surface mold release from the tube. They work poorly. Better patch kits have a piece of sandpaper. Of course you can buy a suitable sandpaper in bulk and replace the "cheese grater" with your own sandpaper.

A cheap path kit usually has patches that don't have an initiated crack in the protecting film. This means that the only ways to remove the protecting film are:

  • Remove it from the side. This invariably lifts the patch because the glue isn't dry yet.
  • Use a razor blade (you need to carry this separately) to initiate a crack in the protecting film middle and then stretch the film and patch. The patch stretches, the protecting film doesn't and the film splits in half. Then you can remove the film from the middle of the patch without lifting the patch sides.

With better patch kits, there is usually an initiated crack in the protecting film so you can only stretch it without first treating it with a razor blade.

So unless anyone knows a good source of where to buy those tiny tubes of vulcanizing glue, I'm thinking it's just more cost-effective (and trouble-free) to just go w/ new inner tubes instead of patching.

Rema Tip Top patch kits are usually the best value for money. They have not only glue tubes but also patches. About $0.50 per patch. Far less expensive than buying new tubes, and besides, it's feasible to carry 7 patches with you (the amount in a single patch kit). It's not feasible to carry 7 inner tubes with you.

5
  • I do not remember ever finding by opened glue dry. Even after several, if not many, years. I never care about the orientation of the tube.
    – Vladimir F
    May 23 '21 at 19:32
  • @VladimirF There are different sorts of glue too - from rubber cement to vulcanising fluid to craft glue. Some work better than others.
    – Criggie
    May 23 '21 at 22:22
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    Pro tip: you don't have to remove the clear film from the patch. Just patch it and leave the film on. Park say leave it on: youtu.be/T0F_hibWHlU?t=343 This was such a bingo moment for me, I have left it on now the last ten years and it makes the whole thing so much easier. No risk of peeling.
    – Ivan McA
    May 24 '21 at 16:49
  • @Ivan McA the film inhibits the patch from stretching as freely as the tube does. When it does break after inflating to enough pressure, it splits into many tiny pieces of plastic, which are very hard to manage.
    – MaplePanda
    May 24 '21 at 20:32
  • Thanks for the tip to keep the glue from drying out.
    – ichabod
    May 25 '21 at 22:51
3

Yes, advantages of patches are: smaller and lighter to carry, cheaper, don't have to take of the axle (i.e. for ebikes), more environmentally friendly, one matchbox can repair 5 flats, compared to 5 entire new tubes.

For serious riders, expensive puncture proof tyres for world touring get flats only every 5000 miles, so either way, flats shouln't be a worry these days.

1
  • 1
    Expensive puncture-proof tyres can also be too slow for serious riders.
    – Vladimir F
    May 24 '21 at 6:40
2

I do not think many people are patching their tubes anymore. The last time I patched a tube, the primary reason I did was because I wanted to practice the skill so that I could if I needed to. (I had a spare tube in my bag, I did not need to patch it.) Skills like that are use it or lose it.

If money was the only consideration then considering most of my bike trips these days are for exercise and recreation and not transportation then I would probably jog and not bike.

9
  • 2
    Most of the work of patching a tube involves finding the leak. You need to do this even if you discard the tube, since failure to do so will likely lead to another puncture due to the same cause. May 23 '21 at 17:02
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    There is nothing to lose in this "skill". Just read the damned instructions and follow them.
    – Vladimir F
    May 23 '21 at 19:31
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    This shouldn't have been downvoted-- it's a legitimate answer to the question. Just because other contributors have differing opinions doesn't make this answer less correct. Surprisingly few people riding bikes know how to fix a puncture properly.
    – JoeK
    May 23 '21 at 19:51
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    -1: Really this is no more than a "Me too" answer with an unrelated paragraph making more noise.
    – mattnz
    May 24 '21 at 3:00
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    Some people are more mechanically inclined than others. I am less inclined than others and need to practice some basic skills that others seem to just know.
    – emory
    May 24 '21 at 15:31
2

I just had a discussion about this with a couple of friends, one of whom was a bike shop mechanic. The bike mechanic said that none of the several shops he's worked in patch tubes for customers. It makes no financial sense for a shop to patch a tube. They stand to make more money by selling a new tube for $10, plus the time it takes to locate the hole, sand the tube, and wait for the rubber cement to dry adds more of a labor expense than the cost of a new tube. (A local shop here in Northern Virginia quotes a labor rate that's as high as a plumber or an auto dealership.) Why add $10-15 to the customer's bill when the patch may not hold? For you and me, though, it's probably worth the time and trouble. If I can get a couple of repairs out of a patch kit instead of paying $20 for tubes, it's worth the money.

As for roadside repairs -- I generally did not carry a spare inner tube, just a patch kit, for many years. That worked well until one evening when I had a puncture in the rain, and I could not find a dry place to work so the patch would stick. Now I carry a spare tube, but I also carry a patch kit because it's possible to have a two-puncture ride, especially since it seems like I don't get punctures until the tread has gotten thin.

1
  • The other reason I carry a tube rather than JUST a patch kit, is I have had issues where it has either been direct valve failure, or the puncture has been so close to the valve that it's not patchable. Plus, absolutely, it's just faster. I carry both, with the patches in case I get another one.
    – Ivan McA
    May 24 '21 at 16:40
2

I still patch my tubes, and I have a few reasons for doing so:

(1) On my road bikes I use significantly more expensive tubes, specifically Continental Supersonic which are much lighter than standard butyl tubes. I mainly use these not for the (relatively small) weight saving, but for the reduction in rolling resistance which is significant, and IMO actually noticeable. If you are going to go and have a nice bike, it's worth it IMO to use the nicer tubes, tubes and tyres actually make a big difference for the cost difference, they are one of the biggest bang for buck differences you can make to a bike. So I patch these, because they cost $15-20 a piece and as such it's worth it. If I patch one of these 5 times (and I have), that's $75-100 worth of tube. I go with the ultra-lightweight butyl rather than latex (which probably would have an even nicer ride quality) because the light butyl has most of the ride quality improvement but also holds air better, latex you need to pump up daily.

(2) I carry a patch kit with me out on day rides but even more so touring because a patch is much more compact than a tube and you can fix as many punctures as you have patches. I carry one spare tube, and I'll use that first because it's quicker and I prefer not to faff with the patch on the side of the road if I can avoid it. But it happens that you'll end up having a second, or even a third puncture, and what do you then. If you have a patch kit, no problem, you patch it. Conversely, I don't want to bring a whole load of spare tubes because that's extra bulk. But six patches and a small tube of vulcanising fluid is nothing and I have that in my saddlebag always.

(3) You can get the little tubes and patches in bulk independently of patch kits and they do cost next to nothing, I get them from AliExpress, or Lazada/Shopee which are the local SE Asia equivalents. 50 patches, $1.50. 5 tubes of vulcanising fluid (each of which will do a large number of tubes if they don't dry out), another $1.50. I literally spent $3 on this YEARS ago now and I still have plenty left. Because it's so cheap, and because once the tube is actually out I can patch the thing in only a few minutes, why not, I patch them at home and roll them back up and back into circulation they go as spares. If you learn how to do this properly, it's quite quick and you'll get good results, a properly patched tube will be just as strong if not stronger as the tube was originally.

2

Yes, people do.

If you're doing a lot of patches at home, buy patches on their own, some good sandpaper, and a jar of rubber cement with the brush built into the lid.

Scuff the tube thoroughly, and in an area wider than you think you need. Apply rubber cement, let it dry, then put the patch on; some glues seem to work if you put the patch on while the glue is wet, rubber cement will not in my experience.

It is obviously not super convenient to bring a jar of rubber cement on the road, but one lasts a long time on the shelf compared to the small glue tubes.

1

Why should you spend 10$/€/gbp for a pencil sharpener, when a pencil costs 2-3$/€/gbp ?

Anyhow, two extremes regarding your question:

  • A good quality tire costs 20/30 $/€/gbp and can let you run puncture-free for 2 years or more. Even more, you can buy a full-rubber tyre, then why bother buying tubes?

  • To patch a tube you may not need to take off the wheel, and this may have to be taken into account (time-wise, or even toolwise).

Assuming you start with a mediocre tyre, puncturing one time every 4/5 months, you can go on buying a new tube every time you have a puncture. After 2 years, you spent ~30 $/€/gbp.

If you patched the tyre, you would have saves ~25$/€/gbp, affording a new tire lasting easily 2 years, if not longer, with no punctures (I mentioned a good quality tire).

On one hand, if you think a puncture is a one-off thing, then it does not make sense to patch the tire.

On the other hand, you may only have limited tubes with you, so if your tube punctured one time, statistically it is likely that it will puncture again and you may end up in trouble.

1
  • Thanks for the tip EarlGrey on buying small tubes on AliExpress.
    – Ablang
    May 25 '21 at 16:19

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