Patch or Replace?

I was running late Saturday morning, and rushing a bit to get ready for my ride.  The cool morning had something to do with it.  For some reason, I have to push myself to get out the door when the weather turns cool.  I figured if I waited an hour or two longer than usual, I’d be able to ride in more moderate temperatures.

It was well after noon before I finished all the around-the-house chores I’d set for myself, and I was finally able to climb into some cycling clothes.  I filled my water bottle, grabbed my cycling computer, and went out to the garage to get the bike.

The front tire was flat.  I had ridden the day before, in late afternoon, and had no problems.  But I must have hit something on that ride, because even though I made it home all right, it was clear I was going nowhere this morning until the tire got fixed.

I pulled the tire and got the tools out of my seat bag, then headed for my personal bike repair venue — the kitchen.  I pulled the tube from the tire, but couldn’t find a puncture.  I ran my hands around the inside of the tire, and found nothing with a sharp edge.  So I pumped up the tube, filled the kitchen sink with water, and slowly rotated the tube under water to find the source of the leak.

I found it — a tiny blemish on the tube that was leaking one air bubble at a time.  I took the tube from the sink, ran a towel around it, let out all the air, and found a patch kit.

Ten minutes later, I had a patched tube (it was one of the better quality tubes I own — I have a bunch of low quality cheapies) and in short order, it was in the tire, mounted on the rim, then on the bike.  I took off for my ride about 20 minutes after discovering the flat.

Normally, I would replace the punctured tube with the spare I carry in my seat bag.  I thought about doing that this time too, but since I was at home and working in comfort, rather than outdoors miles from home, the patch seemed to make sense.

I’ve got a lot of patched tubes in the garage — some with three or even more patches.  And I’ll be spending one cold, dark, winter evening sometime soon with a little chore:

All of these tubes need to be patched.  I’ll do it, too.  Riding on patched tubes is not an issue for me.

How about you?  Are there situations where you would patch a tube rather than replace it?  Do you ride on patched tubes at all?  And do you have a favorite brand of tube?  (Seems we talk about favorite tires a lot, but no one ever mentions their tube preference — if any.)


  1. says

    New to cycling so ****fingers crossed**** hasn’t happened yet. I only own a couple $5 tubes so I would probably just replace them but I’m frugal otherwise and understand wanting to get your money’s worth and if I owned more expensive tubes would probably want to patch them and stretch the value.

  2. says

    Like you, I patch my tubes. I also have quite a few spares and will accumulate a few punctured tubes before sitting down w/ a bucket of water and my patch kit to repair them all. It’s a good activity to do while watching football or other sporting event.

    I’ll buy tubes at a bike store that’s close to me when I need some new ones.

  3. Matt says

    I hardly ever get flats. When I do get a flat I usually toss the tube. I don’t use super expensive tubes, so I feel like that’s fine, and I’d rather have more confidence in the tube I’m riding on. Perhaps I’m just bad at it, but historically I haven’t had great luck with patches.

    • says

      I recently picked up several tubes at Performance for $1.99 each (you note all the Forte boxes in the photo). Sorry to report that they puncture easily. Now I go to a small independent bike shop that sells Kenda tubes. However, the tube I talk about in the post was a Kenda, so none are immune from punctures. Guess it’s just something we live with.

  4. says

    I patch. I carry a repair kit, and rarely take a spare when riding around town. When the tube gets more than 2 patches I’ll put it in the bin to cut up for other uses, but it really has to earn that senior status.


  5. says

    I always replace where possible. I found that with my patched tubs they would slowly deflate over time – like develop a slow puncture. I think psychologically it helps to have new tubes, especially when doing a long distance event. (At major sportive events, they often sell tubes rather cheaply, so I buy 4 or 5 at a time).

  6. Tim says

    I just hate it when I have a puncture but can’t find the source. I have even spent a few evenings with my reading glasses and a bright flashlight inspecting my tires. This after identifying the position of the puncture. Very frustrating.

    If I’m on the road, I’ll replace a tube with a new one out of the seat bag. I keep the old and patch it. If I’m doing routine bike maintenance at home I’ll patch the offending tube and put it back to work.

    Tubes are tubes in my experience. If there’s a brand out there that’s the best I haven’t found it.

  7. says

    I use to always take the time and patch the tubes and re-use, LOL, I guess I’m getting lazy in my old age and now usually just use the spare tube I always carry.

  8. Scott K says

    For me, it depends on the type of patch. The patch kits that require a vulcanizer are pretty dependable. I usually keep using a tire until I’ve patched it about three times. The self-adhesive patches always seem to turn into slow leaks. I’ll use them for an emergency, but they just end up killing the tire.

    My favorite tires are Specialized, but just because the local dealer carries the widest selection of sizes and valve lengths. Some tires run thicker than others, which helps prevent punctures. Once there’s more road debris around here, I’m thinking about running tubes for the next tire diameter up just for the extra thickness.

  9. says

    I patch. If the weather is nice and I’m not in any hurry, I’ll do it on the spot. If I don’t feel like dealing with it at the moment, I’ll just put a spare tube in instead, and patch the old one when I get home. I have a slight preference for doing it on the spot, though. I think that the pressure from being used helps the patch seal a little better.

    I haven’t really found much/any difference between the different brands of tubes I’ve tried. Cheap ones seem fine. If you need puncture protection, you need a better tire, not tube.

    I always carry a patch kit and at least one spare tube.

    TIP: don’t rip the valve stem off when using your mini-pump! I learned this one the hard way. You can’t patch that.

  10. says

    This gives me an idea… If someone offered a patching service, where you brought in your tubes and in a day or two they were patched and ready for pick up would that be of interest? And if so wonder what the price point would be, $1-2 per tube?

    Just thinking out load here as I have 3 junior racers that need to work on race entry fees and bike parts and it would make a great job for them.


    • says

      I think it’s a great idea. I always run into cyclists on the road who are shocked when I tell them you can patch a tube after I help them change out tubes. I think your idea has merit for two reasons:

      1. It’s environmentally sound because you’re recycling
      2. $1-2 is less than the price of a new tube ($5-10), I’d start with $2. I’d also try and arrange an event where your junior racers would be on hand to do it as you wait. That way they can patch a bunch of tubes at once and I could just stop by and bring several with me.

      Any idea where you can recycle CO2 cartridges, old tubes and bike tires?

  11. Barbara says

    I’ve never had a flat on my roadie…or as my friends call it…”the sexy bike”. My commuter, a cyclocross….now that’s another story of late. Have only had two flat-less rides since last spring on that thing. I’ve tried Summit, Kenda tubes….tonight I just tried a Bontrager(can’t spell) we’ll see how that works. Replaced tires, rims and tape are clean…spokes tight…don’t know what else I can do, except replace the wheel but the location of the leaks don’t suggest that’s needed yet.

  12. says

    I patch on the spot. I use “old skool” glue-on kind, but carry self-stick ones just in case the tube of glue is dried up. I usually a tube of unopened glue as well. Patching really isn’t all that difficult (at least not on mountain bike tubes) and I can almost always patch a tube in just about the same amount of time as it takes me to unfold, uncap, and slightly inflate a brand new tube. Not quite as quickly, but close enough.

  13. Andrew says

    Avoiding punctures is a combination of luck and experience. The right tyre pressure for the conditions, terrain and not riding in the gutter/next to the thorny bushes all play a part.

    There’s no real good reason not to patch a tube. There’s enough waste without throwing tubes away because you’re too lazy or can’t be bothered to learn how to patch. I don’t know about these skinny road tubes as I’ve yet to have a puncture on one of those but a ride on my MTB without a puncture is more the exception than the rule, especially in Autumn.

    I tend to carry one patched tube, one new and a repair kit.

    I agree with an earlier post that tubes are tubes. Where you do see a difference is cheaper tubes seem to be more likely for the valve to come detached. Do cheaper tubes have those more annoying ribs as well maybe?

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