How I learnt to love punctures

I’ve never been a big fan of getting a puncture. I prefer to blissfully ignore the fact that it is an inevitable part of cycling. However, on a recent rainy ride, after 6 months free of punctures, they caught up with me with a vengeance.

With my legs, feet, hands and pretty much everything else completely soaked I decided that attempting a repair now would be pointless, especially as I found myself only 15 minutes walk away to my meeting with the owner of Lunar Cycles where repairing it would be much simpler.

Normal puncture repair procedure

  1. Get a puncture
  2. Swear profusely
  3. Remove wheel
  4. Remove inner tube using tyre levers
  5. Pump a little air in to the inner tube to find hole
  6. Mark the spot with a ballpoint pen (The chalk is useless for this)
  7. Remove the air
  8. Rough the surface around the puncture
  9. Apply a drop of glue and spread thinly using finger
  10. Allow it to dry
  11. Firmly press patch in to place
  12. Dust the repair using the chalk to prevent it sticking to the tyre
  13. Check the inner tyre to be sure whatever caused puncture isn’t still there
  14. Put the inner tube back in and pump up the tyre
  15. Put wheel back on bike

Unfortunately, this didn’t work for me as the inner tube was still damp. The fastest way to solve it was to buy a new inner tube and then repair the puncture later on.

Introducing the Topeak Fly Paper

In the process I was also recommended the Topeak FlyPaper Gluesless Patches. I’m not sure why I’ve never come across these before but they are a life saver. Much more effective at quickly fixing a puncture and not faffing around with the glue and waiting for it to dry.

These are great for the most efficient puncture repair procedure I can think of when you just want to get home:

  1. Get a puncture
  2. Swear profusely
  3. Pump a little air in and identify the hole with the tyre still on
  4. Mark the spot where you can hear air coming out
  5. Empty all the air out
  6. Don’t remove the wheel and instead pull out the inner tube on the spot that you’ve identified the puncture
  7. Rough the surface near where patch needs to be applied
  8. Patch quickly using glueless patch
  9. Try to check tyre surface
  10. Push the inner tube back in and pump up the tyre

I know that this cheat method of doing a quick repair is perhaps not as thorough, but when you just want to get home or you are late for a meeting then it’s worth it.

My emergency repair kit

Emergency repair kit for punctures

Whenever I’m out cycling and I have a bag with me this is what I’ll carry with me:

  1. Topeak FlyPaper
  2. Topeak Race Rocket Pump
  3. Spanner (I don’t have quick release wheels)
  4. Tyre levers
  5. Spare inner tube

I don’t currently carry with me a multitool which is perhaps an error so I should really start packing in at least an Allen Key.

Next week I’ll cover tubeless wheels and tyre sealant.

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45 Responses to How I learnt to love punctures

  1. Paul 11/04/2012 at 1:46 pm #

    I always carry an extra tube with me and simply put the new tube on and then repair the old tube when I get home – much quicker and easier. I’ve used the glueless patches for years without any problems.

    • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 4:18 pm #

      That was my strategy for ages then I abandoned it in favour of carrying a repair kit – getting a puncture convinced me to going back to carrying inner tubes.

    • Phil Russell 18/04/2012 at 5:19 pm #

      [[[[[[[[[[[ Yep….a no-brainer. Pop the SPARE inner-tube in, and ride on. Do the repair at home. Why bugger around at the road-side Andrew? ]]]]]]]

  2. Andrew 11/04/2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Does anyone else have a low success rate for repairing punctures where the hole in the tube is close to a seam in the rubber? I always seem to end up with a leak between the edge of the patch and the seam as it exits the area covered by the patch. If I’m lucky I can reduce the flow rate sufficiently that I can get home, but it doesn’t seem to be a permanent fix. I would imagine this problem is even worse for glue-less patches, since when you are using glue, there is always a chance the glue might fill the space.

    Puncture-proof tyres aren’t the answer either – I’ve stopped to help people with punctures, to find they have Armadillo tyres. Seems they puncture too!

    • KarlPoe 11/04/2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Andrew, I have the same problem. Actually, just had it last Friday. Ended up discarding the inner tube and gettin a new one. Can’t be bothered playing around with glue.

      Andreas, I’m sorry, but I fail to see the point of this post slightly. Neither glueless patches are something new nor have you expressed anything valuable here. Are you simply trying to make an extra quid on amazon referral links?

      • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 4:17 pm #

        Lol, think I’m just a little late to the game with my realisation about glueless patches! How long have these things been around from and how come I’ve never heard of them?

        • KarlPoe 11/04/2012 at 5:29 pm #

          I don’t know, maybe you have been living under the rock 😉 Seriously, I find it a little hard to believe someone could not know about it.

          Well, sorry if I came off a little whiny – I didn’t mean to sound rude.

        • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 7:33 pm #

          No worries at all – becomes hard to stay ahead of everything – just today I’m learning about chain lube that doubles up as a chain cleaner. Good thing I’ve got some good readers / bike shop owners who like to keep me up to date!

    • Austen 11/04/2012 at 8:37 pm #

      Yep, I’ve had the same problem too – the seam seems to act as a conduit for air to make its way from under the patch.

      And my Armadillos don’t seem to understand that they’re meant to be puncture proof.

      • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 9:49 pm #

        Could be worth experimenting with Schwalbe tyres?

    • Phil Russell 18/04/2012 at 5:45 pm #

      Yes, impossible to patch across the raised seam. The manufacturers have been told a million times, I’m sure…….presumably they want us to throw the punctured tube away—-and buy a new one every time. LOVELY JUBBLY!
      There are probably tubes constructed with the seams along the sides, instead of on top. (Mental note: next inner-tube purchase, try to check B4 parting with hard-earned dosh….)

    • Phil Russell 18/04/2012 at 5:49 pm #

      [[[[[[[[ OOPS! Sorry, Andrew…my “no-brainer” comment was meant for ANDREAS, who doesn’t seem to mind fiddling around at the roadside in the rain….
      P.R. ]]]]]]]]]

    • El Kapitan 05/05/2012 at 2:25 pm #

      Do you guys not realise that you have to smooth the seam around the hole with sandpaper?! They put it in my REMA TIP TOP puncture repair kit (which I independently recommend). The REMA patches are the best, too. They may be traditional, you may have to develop a little skill in putting them on (I have very poor fine motor control in my fingers, so no excuses, it’s easy), but they WORK.
      Glueless, press-on ones were worthless in comparison.

      I’ve got tubes that still inflate and run fine with 5 REMA patches on them, and I don’t expect said patches to cause problems unless I’m lazy or my method is poor in applying them. Other brands are demonstrably inferior.

      I keep a spare tube or two on me, a large pump, the puncture repair kit and a multitool. Also spare batteries for my lamps, and wet weather gear (needed at the moment!) A small bag. Freedom to avoid public transport and cars is worth it in London.
      Nice Schwalbe Marathon Plus ought to see me practising my patch-application method a little less in these glass-strewn streets, but respect to REMA, they make a good product.

  3. Jon 11/04/2012 at 3:21 pm #

    I’ve used those Lidl spray things a couple of times for quick roadside repairs – just connect to valve and press aerosol top to inject some foamy stuff and (partially) inflate tyre (after having removed whatever caused the puncture). Spin wheel to circulate the gunk. Best to top up with a pump to get decent pressure. I think they’re only meant to be temporary, so ideally should repair/replace the tube at home, but being lazy I’ve been riding around on it for many months without problems. Poundland do something similar but I haven’t tried those.

    • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 4:27 pm #

      Good stuff – I’ll cover these sealants next week as it’s not something I’ve looked at on the blog before.

  4. Yuriy 11/04/2012 at 3:30 pm #

    Quick patches are usually considered a temporary solution because they cannot stretch with the tire unlike rubber patches.

    However I’ve been riding with a tube patched with one of those “temporary” things for almost 6 months by now, and the tube is holding pressure even better than a never-punctured one on the other wheel. Just saying.

    • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 4:22 pm #

      Love how common it becomes for a temporary solution to become the permanent thing. I’m all patched up with these glueless patches and all seems well so far. I’ve even heard stories of people riding around with a slashed tyre and using a £5 note to secure it. When we were riding in Germany our DIY solution to a rattly pannier rack was zip ties – worked a charm!

  5. Ben Broomfield 11/04/2012 at 4:39 pm #

    Be weary of these glueless patches. Bit of hot weather and the adhesive melts and you are left with a slow puncture.

    Give me the traditional way – much better.

    • oller 11/04/2012 at 5:23 pm #

      I can vouch for this, that baking Wednesday we had a couple of weeks back, bike locked up for a few hours…

      My Park Tool patch decided to part company with the inner tube.

      • oller 11/04/2012 at 5:26 pm #

        That being, it had held good for about 6 months previously and another patch later is still running fine. They definitely serve a purpose!

        • Andreas 11/04/2012 at 7:34 pm #

          Interesting – gonna have to look out for this one. Thanks for heads up Ben.

    • mike_c 13/04/2012 at 12:24 am #

      Yup… one of my quick patches failed the other day

      didn’t realise it was the heat, but that makes sense

      and it wrecks your tube too, so long-term it’s an expensive inefficient fix

      you can’t beat glue and rubber

      • Ben Broomfield 13/04/2012 at 1:45 pm #


        Def a quick fix, and if they fail – six months life sounds about right – you can’t put a proper patch over the hole because of all the gunk the leave behind!

        • Matt Taylor 16/04/2012 at 7:33 pm #

          DEFINITELY a short term fix. First time cycling in the Alps I had a front tube in with a Park Tools glueless patch and at the time considered them proper repairs. Halfway down a rather large descent, doing about 35 mph, the heat in the rims got high enough to melt the glue resulting in a big bang and zero pressure in the front within a second. It was pure luck that I managed to hold it together and didn’t slide down the road face first. Scariest thing that’s ever happened to me, including bring hit by a car in our fine city.

          Fresh tubes or proper repairs for me now.

  6. Jameson Blake 12/04/2012 at 7:12 pm #

    I have never heard of Topeak Flypaper but I will definitely have to look into it. What I personally carry with me is an extra inner tube. That way I just replace the tube and fix the punctured tube when I get home. I still carry patches just in case I have multiple accidents, but with the inner tube it is kind of like one freebie!

    • Andreas 13/04/2012 at 2:09 pm #

      Yep – that’s my system these days too with a backup of the FlyPaper 🙂

  7. Richard Shaw 13/04/2012 at 11:41 am #

    Repairing punctures unfortunately takes me back to the early teens, getting up at 6.15am for the paper round, finding a flat tyre and spending the next 20 mins swearing in the cold, waiting for the glue to set. Sod that. I carry one or more inner tubes, a multi tool with levers and a couple of gas cannisters.

  8. Andrew 13/04/2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Does anyone know of a compact pump which can inflate tyres to the kind of PSIs required for road bike tyres (e.g. 60-100 PSI)? Can gas canisters reach this kind of PSI?

    • Eddie 13/04/2012 at 2:30 pm #

      I use a Topeak pocket rocket master blaster. It says on the blurb it can easily inflate to 160 PSI – I don’t believe that for a second but would say that it can inflate to 80PSI (guess) in 100 or so strokes – i.e. enough to last you a day or two until you can get to a track pump. Maybe you can get to 120 or more with this but I’ve not quite managed it.

      I’ve been considering getting some canisters to get up to 100-120 PSI when out. Interested to see what others say about them.

      • Colin 15/04/2012 at 8:00 pm #

        Compact pumps – I looked at a couple of these in the past and wasn’t impressed, surely I should be able to feel some pressue with my thumb over the hole when it was pumped ?
        This was the case however with a compact pump at Sainsurys that was on offer for about £5 and it had an inbuilt guage too. I pump my mountain bike tyres up to around 50psi and they feel very hard (puncture resistant tyres new in December).

      • Andrew 15/04/2012 at 9:40 pm #

        Today I did a little test with my Topeak compact pump, since I needed to deflate my road bike rear tyre to remove a metal splinter lodged in it. I pumped the tyre up as hard as I could with the compact pump, then attached my track pump to check the pressure – a rather depressing 30PSI. My road bike tyres state 100PSI so I may invest in so gas canisters as a backup.

  9. Eddie 13/04/2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Maybe I’m just lazy but I never bother repairing punctured tubes. I just carry spare tubes, replace and bin the old one. I do seem to get a lot of punctures but I guess that’s what daily cycling in London can do. I also don’t bother inspecting the tyres at home which I probably should do (someone once said if you’re commuting daily you should do this once a week as little shards work their way into the rubber and eventually find the tube but you can stop this by picking them out with a little knife – anyone else do this?)

    I did get some puncture resistant tyres but honestly I don’t really think they help that much and I find them really stiff and hard to change (well, hard to get the tyre back on the rim once tube is replaced). So once these wear out I’m probably going back to normal tyres – at least they’re easier to change. There was one cold rainy evening where I almost threw my bike over a wall as I just couldn’t for the life of me get the damn tyre back onto the rim.


    • Andrew 15/04/2012 at 10:01 pm #

      Tempting as it might be to bin an inner tube with a puncture, I feel it’s more environmentally responsible to repair where possible. It also saves some money. But having tried a few roadside repairs before (with a low success rate), carrying a spare to swap in and patch the puncture later makes a lot of sense.

  10. Mike 13/04/2012 at 4:54 pm #

    Today’s puncture started last week…
    Once a week, I’ll let down my tyres, pinch them between my fingers and stick a small flat bladed jewellers screwdriver into each cut. If there is a flint or glass in the cut, you will hear it.
    Then I flick the flint/glass out.
    If I do puncture, I always replace the inner tube but not before I run my finger both ways around the inside of the tyre to make sure whatever caused the puncture isn’t still there. I tie a knot in the tube to remind me it’s got a hole in it.

    • Andrew 15/04/2012 at 9:50 pm #

      Thanks for the tip – I checked my tyres as you suggested today and removed a large metal splinter which I’m sure would have eventually caused a puncture. Will add this to my regular maintenance checklist.

  11. Colin 15/04/2012 at 7:45 pm #

    I tried the Wilkinson red oval glueless patches. I still had some air escaping afterwards, but that may have been more down to the patch not being placed that centally over the hole. I had a couple of patches of this type on the tube and formed the opinion that they were perhaps not that good due to pressure loss over time, but now with two new tubes I was surprised to see the pressures at about 35psi when about four months ago they were about 50psi. Is this decrease normal or are Wilkinson inner tubes made of leaky rubber ?

    • Andrew 15/04/2012 at 9:57 pm #

      I’d say that was pretty good going for maintaining pressure. My road bike runs at 100PSI and I have to top this up by about 10PSI every week. My folding bike runs at 60 PSI and I routinely put about 5PSI back in every week. My mountain bike is used less frequently (I don’t use it for commuting) so I top that up to around 50PSi before every ride.

  12. Andrew 15/04/2012 at 9:48 pm #

    One other tip I thought I would pass on, based on some experience learned this afternoon.

    If you have never repaired a puncture on your current bike before, it is well worth doing a “dry run” at home first – today I was surprised to discover just how hard it was to get the tyre off my road bike and back on again afterwards! I was intending to try a “no tyre levers” approach which i had seen demo-ed on a cycle maintenance DVD. However the tyres are such a tight fit on my rims, that technique just didnt work. In fact it took about 15 mins to get the tyre off WITH levers! I’m glad I found this out at home, where I had my smartphone and a good Internet connection to hand so I could look up tips and tricks on YouTube.

    I now feel a little more prepared for when the enevitable eventually happens!

  13. Andrew 15/04/2012 at 9:52 pm #

    Oh and one other tip from YouTube – switch into the smallest gear on your back wheel before quick-releasing it – makes it much easier to get the wheel in and out.

  14. Tom 16/04/2012 at 7:51 am #

    Punctures have never really been an issue for me, I use Nimbus Armadillos and haven’t had a puncture in the last year (roughly 5000miles) of commuting through glass strewn streets. The rear one is getting quite worn now, but still ok. I do carry a new tube, pump, etc just in case.

    I have probably just cursed myself to get a puncture on my way in this morning 😉

    • TootingPete 17/04/2012 at 12:26 pm #

      I’ve used Schwalbe Marathon Plus for several years, commuting regularly in London, and never had a puncture either. They may be a bit heavier than standard tyres – but I’m carrying a “spare tyre” or two myself and would be better off losing that weight first! They might also be a bit harder to get off the wheel – but as I’ve never had to change them, I wouldn’t know.

  15. Dimitris 26/04/2012 at 10:59 am #

    if the spanner in the photo has a 1/4th inch hexagonal hole, you can use any number of scredriver bits – including allen ones instead of carrying a complete key and use the spanner as a wrench. Not as comfortable or versatile, but it depends on how much ofr a weight weenie you are!

    Safe Journeys

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