Last weekend, I flatted on my Saturday morning ride. I was only two miles from home, and was too worn out to change the flat then and there, so I called my wife and had her perform sag duties.
That evening, in the cool of my kitchen, I pulled out the tube and replaced it. The replacement tube had two patches, but they looked pretty sturdy. I generally will patch my flatted tubes and reuse them, so doing this again wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me.
Sunday morning, I went out to the garage 20 minutes before the club ride was due to begin, and to my horror, found that the tire had gone flat overnight. Yikes! I pulled the wheel from the bike and hauled my tire levers and floor pump into the kitchen again. Then, I grabbed a new tube that was still in its box, fresh from the bike shop.
I scrambled to get the tube replaced and the tire remounted on the wheel. Everything seemed okay, so I quickly filled my water bottles and dashed to the coffee shop to meet the club ride. I got there within five minutes of the start — a record time for me at replacing a flat tire.
Then I proceeded to worry throughout the ride that I had been too hasty, and that the new tube might not be seated correctly, or any of a dozen other things that could cause me to flat again. But the tire performed well, and caused me no problems.
Obviously, I had missed a leak in the repaired tube — the one with two patches. There should have been a third one in there. The question is, when do you patch tubes and when do you replace them?
I’ve got four older tubes hanging from the wall in my garage right now. Each has one patch. Each would be called upon as a replacement tube if I get a flat (although since I’m running a new tube in the tire now, I would probably just go ahead and patch it, and remount it).
But is that a wise policy? Are patched tubes less durable somehow than new tubes? How many patches can you put on a tube and still have it give good service? How do you deal with the question?