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.
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
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.
- Place toothpaste tube in one hand and cut a 2 inch by 3 inch rectangle in the tube.
- Realise that you should have used an empty tube.
- Look gormlessly at both your hand and carpet below which are now covered in toothpaste.
- 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.
- Explain to your mum / partner / flatmate what the weird, sticky stain on the floor is.
- 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!
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!)
5 Let Paracord be your friend
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.
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
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.
So there you have it. Seven top tips to keep you rolling. Just don’t even contemplate using leaves and grass!