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Cycle Maintenance - Puncture repair

an easy task

Probably the most common maintenance that a cyclist will have to do is to mend a puncture. It is an unfortunate fact of life that bicycle tyres are easier to puncture than most other tyres, simply because of the thinness of the rubber. Some tyres do have better puncture resistance than others, but even these still suffer occasionally.

Another unfortunate fact of life is that if you are going to get a puncture it will be at the most inconvenient time. Usually in the dark or when you’re in a rush, and nearly always in the rain (because the water lubricates the nail/glass/whatever that causes the flat).

Remembering that prevention is better than cure I take these steps to try to avoid punctures. I keep my tyres up to near maximum pressure, checking them once a week. I regularly check the tyres to make sure that stones and glass aren’t embedded in the tread where they will work their way through to cause a puncture. If the tyres start wearing out, so have less rubber on them and start getting punctures, I replace the tyres with new ones. When selecting new tyres I try to get ones that are the most puncture resistant, but without giving too great a performance loss. Finally, once I’m riding I try to avoid cycling through any areas covered in broken glass or similar sharp debris. This is especially important if it is raining, as punctures occur so much more easily if the tyres are wet. In the rain I make an extra special effort to ride on the areas of tarmac where car tyres have swept the tarmac clean.

Getting fanatical about preventing punctures you could consider Kevlar belted tyres, inserts that go between the tyre and inner tube, a product that goes inside the inner tube and automatically fixes punctures when they occur, or even solid tyres that need no inflation. All of these are serious considerations if you are desperate to avoid punctures and don’t mind the negative aspects of these products, which is usually poorer rolling resistance and therefore harder work and more effort to ride.

Therefore a cyclist should always be prepared to deal with a puncture (at the very least) and so should have the tools and knowledge always to hand. These notes have been put together over many years of cycling and I use this knowledge to get me back on the road as quickly as possible.

The tools I always carry, and would recommend that you do are;-
One or two spare inner tubes
Plenty of patches (not self adhesive, they don’t last well enough)
Tyre levers
Tyre boot
All of these pack into a small bag in my saddle pack, taking up practically no room at all.

I also carry a full size pump which stays clipped to the frame of the bike. I find that most mini-pumps are too fiddly to use, and cannot create enough pressure. I also dislike CO2 cylinders since they are a “one use” item, so could leave me stranded should I get more than one puncture.

Once the puncture fairy has visited me, these are the steps I take to undo the mischief she has created.
• I find a suitable place to stop and do the work. Sometimes, if I’m near enough to either my destination or a better place to work I will try to just pump the tyre back up and then ride as quickly as possible before it goes down again.
Click for photoI try to find a fence or street name plate that I can hang the bike over, either by the handle bars or saddle, so that I can easily remove a wheel without damaging the rest of the bike by laying it down.
I take the wheel off
I remove the tyre
I locate the cause of the puncture and remove it (otherwise the new tube will puncture immediately). If the cause is not obvious then I inflate the inner tube and try to find the hole, this then gives me a reference point to look at on the tyre (this is why I always align the tyre label with the inner tube valve when I refit the tyre).
• I put the punctured tube in my bag for a later repair.
• If the puncture was very bad and has damaged the tyre I put the tyre boot inside the tyre to prevent the inner tube blowing through the hole.
I refit the inner tube into the tyre and replace it on the wheel.
I put the wheel back on the bike.
• I continue my journey.
• At a later time, either at my destination or at a lunch stop I repair the puncture in the inner tube I removed, ready for the next time I may need this tube on the bike.

If the puncture cause is obvious and you have ample time on your hands then it is possible to repair the inner tube without removing the wheel from the bike. Just pop the tyre off the wheel at that point, pull the inner tube out and patch it. I find the above method quicker though.


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