Puncture Repair Then and Now: A Personal HistoryI remember my father showing me how to mend a punctured inner tube, one sunny afternoon at our old house. He got out the dessert spoons (which had a little lip on the handle, perfect for levering tyre off wheel rim) and a stubby yellow crayon to mark the puncture once found. A washing-up bowl half-filled with water stood ready to reveal the hole, spewing bubbles into the cool water. At hand: the patches, their funny rubbery texture; a scrap of sandpaper to roughen the tube so that the patch would stick; the patch glue in its wrinkly little tube; the little block of French chalk with its own tiny grater.
There was something arcane and mysterious about the process. The pleasure of seeing the little trail of bubbles marking the problem. The question of why did the patch adhesive, unlike another glue I'd ever used, need to be allowed to dry before it would stick? And the wonder of grating the French chalk onto the excess adhesive to stop it sticking to the tyre wall. I loved it.
At that time I liked changing an inner tube; enjoyed knowing how to fix a puncture. Years later, out on day rides, when hesitant friends had punctures, I took great delight in swooping in and plucking the thorn from their tyres, patching or changing their inner tube.
Until, of course, I had my first puncture one cold, wet, dark evening on the way home. Under these conditions puncture repair is neither glamorous, nor fun. It's a case of get on with it, get it sorted, and get home.
My Puncture Repair Kit for CommutingOn any ride, my puncture repair kit always comes with me; it lives in a little Topeak saddle pack that I can swap between bikes. I want everything to be there so I don't have to think about it in the morning. I've got tyre levers, a spare tube, and some self-adhesive patches (currently the Park Tools Super Patch [at Wiggle or Evans Cycles]). My shock pump (the excellent Crank Brothers Power Pump Alloy [at Wiggle or Chain Reaction Cycles]) lives on the frame or under the saddle bag.
If I have a puncture, I'll just swap out the inner tube; I rip out the offending tube, check the tyre for the spike, and fit the new tube. It's the work of a few minutes. Job done.
If I have another puncture, it's time for the self-adhesive patches. Whilst I might miss the French chalk, these are great little things; just peel off the backing paper and apply. These don't need sanding or gluing and chalk (which is nice and all, but nice on a sunny day in the garden, not nice on a dark, wet evening by the roadside); they just stick. Again, the work of a few moments, plus whatever time I allow myself to swear at my misfortune.
Oh, I know there are kinds of treatments available to go inside the tubes; goo that self-seals any puncture; tiny little carbon dioxide inflators that will get a tyre up to pressure in a flash. But my rides aren't races. I can spare a few minutes.
Punctures Happen. But Not OftenThe fear of punctures is, I suspect, a big reason why people don't ride. The inconvenience, the hassle of getting caught out in bad weather, the dirty fuss of fixing a puncture. Yes, punctures are a part of cycling; they do and will happen.
But I don't let fear of punctures stop me from riding. I'm prepared; my puncture repair kit is always at hand. I've had one puncture in thousands of miles of cycling. That's a pretty small price to pay.