7 Ways To Fix A Puncture You Never Thought Of

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By Sanny

Punctures are sneaky little bastards. They like to wait until those truly grim days when the rain is lashing down, your bike is caked in mud (or worse) and the wind is blowing such a hoolie that a glove placed on the ground will assume a life of its own as it disappears off into the murk. Fixing a puncture on a bluebird day is hardly a chore but on those horrible days, it can be an exercise in frustration and despair that would test the patience of a saint. Recognising this, we’ve put together a list of tips, some obvious, some less so, that will hopefully minimise those days when you feel like Basil Fawlty on Gourmet Night as you set about your bike with a branch in frustration.

1 Always carry a puncture repair kit and pump.

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Just remember these every ride.

Ok, so this is blindingly obvious but you would be surprised at the number of folk who go out on a ride without these essentials. You’ll see them at Enduro races, usually riding without a pack in order to give that true race feel to each descent. All well and good until they find themselves walking their bike down the trail, head bowed just a little as they sheepishly ask to borrow a pump and puncture kit. Heck, we’ve all done it and experienced that moment of clarity as we realise we left them at home in the toolbox or in the car. Doh!

2 Why carry one spare tube when you can carry two?

In my wholly unscientific experience, the further afield I ride and the more remote the setting, the more likely I am to suffer a puncture. If your tastes extend to long day rides out in the boonies, having more than one spare tube is not a bad idea. The additional weight is negligible but you are effectively buying a little bit of insurance as you decide to negotiate that jaggy rock garden or that steep, root laden descent just waiting to catch you unawares and give you a double puncture. Having that second tube in your pack can mean the difference between fun and a long trudge home. Even if you run tubeless, it’s worth carrying a couple of spare tubes as not all holes can be dealt with by sealant and what is an easy job to reseat a tyre at home with a compressor can be a major headache out on the trail.

3 Make your own tyre boot from a toothpaste tube

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Toothpaste tube tyre boot

While you can buy pre-glued tyre boots off the shelf, it’s arguably more satisfying to make one yourself. All you require is a toothpaste tube and to follow this simple how to guide.

  1. Place toothpaste tube in one hand and cut a 2 inch by 3 inch rectangle in the tube.
  2. Realise that you should have used an empty tube.
  3. Look gormlessly at both your hand and carpet below which are now covered in toothpaste.
  4. Attempt to remove toothpaste from carpet, coming to the dawning realisation that while it is great for cleaning teeth, it is an absolute sod to remove it from carpet.
  5. Explain to your mum / partner / flatmate what the weird, sticky stain on the floor is.
  6. Crack open a beer and drown your sorrows.

Alternatively, just use an empty tube, wipe the toothpaste remnants from the inside and place it in your pack ready for use. Should you find yourself having torn a hole in the sidewall of your tyre, a toothpaste tyre boot makes for a flexible but strong repair that should see you home.

4 Pack your tyre with leaves if you puncture ………is complete and utter bollox. Nah, what you need is Gorilla Tape!

puncture repair gorilla tape singletrack
Gorrilla tape. It’s like Gaffa tape on steroids

I remember reading this in “Mountain Bike Action” back in the late nineties and even as a callow youth, I thought that this was a truly terrible idea. Has anyone (our impressionable American cousins excluded)  ever tried this? The harsh reality is that aside from needing to carry a chainsaw to chop down a tree to get at the leaves in anything other than autumn, by the time you have accomplished your task, you could have walked the three miles back home and be relaxing with a coffee and a Chocolate Digestive (milk, never plain).

A far better solution is to carry a small roll of Gorilla Tape (not the 32 metre roll unless you are planning some kind of heist). The electrical tape size roll can easily be torn into patch size pieces and applied directly to a punctured tube in the same manner as a patch. It can take a little trial and error to get the right size as unlike a patch, the tape doesn’t stretch  but in an emergency, you’ll be glad of it. If you want to REALLY feel like McGuyver, wrap some Gorilla Tape around your pump so you always have it to hand (assuming you remember to bring your pump!)

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Gorilla tape patch
puncture repair tips singletrack magazine singletrackworld
Don’t take the whole roll with you. Wrap a length around your pump

5 Let Paracord be your friend

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Paracord

If you are a child of the eighties who did a First Aid course when they taught you to pretty much tourniquet everything (Top tip kids… Don’t! Leave it to the professionals. Direct pressure is arguably the first course of action), this next tip will seem like second nature. If you have a puncture but no repair kit, use a couple of small lengths of paracord to isolate the hole from the rest of the tube. The slightly stretchy nature of Paracord coupled with the inner tube means you should be able to achieve an airtight seal fairly easily. Test it before inserting the tube back into the tyre. If it holds, refit the tube, pump and go.

puncture repair tips singletrack magazine singletrackworld
Isolate that hole with cord. Lumpy ride but it will get you home

Forgotten the Paracord? Nil desperandum, for all is not lost. Look down and see those laces on your shoes? Do they really need to be that long? Just cut a length off and use that instead.

6 Embrace tubeless

puncture repair tips singletrack magazine singletrackworld
Squeeze some snot into your tubes to auto fix those tiny punctures

No, not go the whole hog for a tubeless set up but steal a leaf out of their book. With all manner of tyre sealants on the market, pre-filling your inner tubes with a sealant such as Fenwicks can help ward off punctures before they arise. If you ride in an area that has thorn bushes, this simple  trick can make a massive difference. While you will have to invest in inner tubes with removable cores and you do add a little rotational mass to your wheelset, the beauty of this set up is that if your tyres start to go down, a quick blast from a pump and a fast spin of the wheel often does the trick. To enhance the effectiveness of this approach, you can add glitter which can help seal larger holes.

7 Put a knot in it

If all else fails, the last case resort is to cut your tube at the point of puncture. Not just a slice but right through. Done that? OK now you need to tie a knot in each end. This is best done with a lighter weight tube. Try it with a fat bike tube and you’ll need to build up arm strength by tearing phone books in half. The ride home will be on the bumpier side of bumpy but as a last resort, it might just get you home that little bit sooner.

Can’t see the video? Click here and visit Youtube directly

So there you have it. Seven top tips to keep you rolling. Just don’t even contemplate using leaves and grass!

David Gould

Singletrack Contributor

By day, Sanny plies his trade as a Chartered Accountant and Non-Executive Director. By night, however, give him a map and the merest whisper of a trail "that might go" and he'll be off faster than a rat up a drainpipe on some damn fool mission to discover new places to ride. Rarely without his trusty Nikon D5600, he likes nothing better than being in the big mountains, an inappropriately heavy bike on his back, taking pics and soaking up the scenery. He also likes to ride his bike there too although rumours that he is currently working on his next book, "Walks with my bike", are untrue (mostly).

Fat biking, gravel riding, bikepacking, road biking, e biking, big mountain adventures - as long as two wheels are involved, you'll find him with a grin on his face as he dives off the side of a mountain, down a narrow lane or into deep undergrowth in search of hidden trails and new adventures.

His favourite food is ham and mushroom pizza and he is on a mission to ride all of the Munros, mostly as it allows him to indulge in eating more pizza.

He has no five year plan, is a big fan of the writing of Charlie Connelly and reckons that Kermode and Mayo's Film Review Podcast is quite possibly the finest bit of broadcasting around.

Comments (30)

    I’m shocked you went all buzzfeed with the headline!

    Well, no.4 was a bit odd, but heck! We wanted to see if it worked 🙂

    I feel dirty and used.

    No 7 saved us in the alps once. My mate was met with much derision when he suggested it.

    I successfully fixed a road bike puncture by folding a section and pinching it tight with a zip tie. Pumped up to about 40psi and was still inflated a week later. It wasn’t even that bumpy. Always carry several zip ties now!

    Gorilla tape didn’t work for me. Its holds for about 30seconds before the air gets under the tape/glue and leaks?

    You don’t have to chop the tube to tie knots. You can carefully tie the knot to include the puncture

    Gorilla tape works best on either narrow road tubes which have limited room to expand or by pumping a bit of air in first if you can. The closer the tube size is to that of the tyre, the easier a fix it is likely to be. Like I wrote in the article, it can take a bit of trial and error.

    I really like monkeyp’s zip tie tip. Nice one!

    Sanny

    So Apparently there’s this thing called tubeless….

    And filling the torn open sidewall tyre with grass and holding it onto the rim with zip ties does work…..I’ve done it on a tubeless tyre that was so badly split around the bead a tube/patch was never going to work. Saved a long walk….

    Always plain. Never milk. Tsk.

    “Direct pressure is arguably the first course of action”

    No it isn’t

    Went for a local ride with my son. Didn’t take any tools or repair kit which is unusual for me. Inevitable puncture from a thorn fixed with bubble wrap from a jiffy bag & all purpose glue from a garage that didn’t sell repair kits. It held until the next puncture he had about 6 months later!

    dave360, do you mean that there’s no argument to direct pressure being the first course of action or that it isn’t necessarily the first course of action (for treating a bleed, that is)?

    He’s arguably just looking for an argument 🙂

    I was taught that depending on the bleed (external) direct pressure is taught to first aiders as unless you have proper medical experience, you can end up making things worse with a tourniquet or for it to be ineffective. Personally, if someone is bleeding out, I’m making the three digit call.

    I like the bubble wrap idea. I did think of trying superglue but reckoned if you didn’t carry a kit, you probably wouldn’t have that to hand either!

    A bit of builders Damp Proof Course is a clean and easy alternative to chopping toothpast tubes.

    JamesD

    I could have just written go tubeless but it wouldn’t make for a very long or interesting piece! Ha! Ha!

    Right, I’m off to do some more experimenting with sugru to see if that works too.

    Believe it or not, I do actually try these things before writing about them. It’s part of the fun!

    Does gorilla tape work to sort a rip in a tub less tyre? As in “get you home” sort.

    I haven’t read the article, I just came here to express my displeasure at the headline.

    It’s ok Bez.. we scored the page impression regardless.. Thanks 😉

    The headline is okay, but I was disappointed there wasn’t a “NEXT” button to open another page for each solution. Please try harder!

    We tried the filling-with-grass/leaves method many years ago on a ride in the Lake District.
    It failed miserably so we resorted to tying a knot in the tube which worked. Took forever to clear the tyre of all the leaf debris though.

    If you’re using old style glue and patches, top tip is to set fire to the glue for a few seconds, then blow it out and you get a properly good seal every time with no waiting about.

    Re. No. 4, yes leaves are crap, you want to use fir cones instead!

    A few of us tried this once in 2002, after a few to many crafty Vimto’s, and it kind of worked for a short distance.

    Honest.

    Not sure about gorilla tape working for a tubeless rip unless you take the tyre off and apply it to the sidewall from the inside.

    The setting fire to the glue is a brilliant suggestion. I am off to try that one. Wish I had thought of that!

    Oooooh! I totally forgot. Car tyre sealant is great too in an emergency.

    Glitter in your sealant. Why did no-one tell me this idea before? Now if I get a puncture, at least I will have the joy of spraying a little zest of sparklyness down the trail!

    You can thank Coastkid for the glitter idea. It really works!

    Once took a tandem up Helvellyn (as you do) and had 3 flats on the way down. With only 2 spare tubes and no repair kit I resorted to stuffing the tyre with nettles – it got us home! I think the stalks gave it some strength…

    I fixed a puncture with some electrical tape as a quick fix in my youth so I could go and play football. Completely forgot about it for about 4 months when I went to change the tyre and found the tape still on with the tyre still inflated!

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