So there’s a lot of sentiment out there that might tell you that glue less patch kits are merely for temporary flat repair–good for a few miles, but ready to go flat again at any moment. Well I’m here to try and dispel those nasty feelings. In reality, glue less patch kits can be a permanent patch to your next flat tire, provided that you follow a few simple installation secrets (oh, and avoid some of the crummier kits available).
Why are these flat repair kits so amazing? First, they’re super lightweight and thin. My favorite one, the Lezyne Smart Patch Kit, sells for just $3.99 and is as thin as a credit card. It fits fantastically in a small jersey pocket pouch, wallet, or saddlebag. Lezyne even offers the kit inside some cool aluminum cases (some even with snap-on tire levers) that are still fairly compact, but will likely have a few weight weenies clucking their tongues at the extra grams.
So what’s the trick? Easy! Just follow a few simple steps:
Step 1: Make sure you’ve bought a good brand of glue less patch kits. Steer clear of anything you can find in a box store like Target or Wal-Mart. In my experience, certain brands like Bell or off-brand products just don’t work no matter your method. Two of the best that I’ve used are the aforementioned Lezyne Smart Patch Kit and the Park Tools Super Patch Kit. Generally, you also want to avoid the “puffy” style patch that can catch on the inside of the tire or rim and peel off as you’re rolling the tire back on. The ultra-thin patches are definitely the way to go here.
Step 2: Make certain that you buff the tube well with the scuffer pad before you attempt to stick on the patch. You’ll want a clean but rough surface to affix to. It’s essential that you keep both the tube and the patch free of dirt or debris from the road. Give your hands a good wipe before you start, and you might even want to add a few of those alcohol wipes to your kit in order to get a really good clean on the tube (I haven’t actually done this, but I have a friend who swears by it). You can get these wipes at your local drug store or some place similar for pretty cheap–just make sure to give the alcohol time to dry before you stick on the patch.
Step 3: Put a little air in the tube to give it shape, but not enough to be too stretched out. If your puncture is large, hold your finger over the hole (another reason why your hands should be clean) to prevent too much air from escaping. What’s my reasoning here? You’ve got to allow the patch to assume the shape it will reach when you’ve inflated the tube to 100psi (give or take ten psi). If you don’t, the patch will stretch too much and likely sputter and spit all your precious air back out in a matter of miles–or minutes.
Step 4: Press the patch on firmly for at least 30 seconds. I like to start from the center and then roll my thumbs away from each other to press on the sides. Do this a couple of times to ensure you’ve got a really strong stick. And when I say firmly, I mean really squeeze it tight between your thumb and fingers. This step is crucial! You want to get a nice tight seal, so be sure to give it enough time to set up.
Now you can let out a bit of air and reinstall your tube and tire. Like that, your tube should have a very permanent patch. I’ve used these glue less patches almost exclusively for two years, and they hold air like beauties–not to mention I don’t have to inhale glue fumes, deal with stuck fingers or, more likely, encounter an empty tube when I’m desperate for a patch.
As with anything, being prepared is key! Make sure you ride with at least one extra tube in your kit–if you want tips for folding tubes that will fit in a small jersey pocket, click here.