With spring on the way here in our neck of the woods, the potential for punctures will soon increase exponentially. It’s at this time of year that I take my annual look at the saddle pouches on each of our bikes to be sure we have everything we need to repair a flat or take care of minor repairs on the side of the road. This is the basic kit we carry on each of our bikes:
- Tire irons
- Patch kit
- Mini pump
- Spare tube specific to the bike
On a bike with nutted axles I add a 15mm wrench to the above.
If a puncture is from a sticker, I’ll usually first try to repair the leak with the wheel on the bike. I’ve found it fast and easy to pop the tire free from the rim adjacent to the puncture, pull out the portion of tube that’s punctured, install the patch, re-insert the tube, and pop the tire back onto the rim. It saves a couple of steps and works fine when you know the cause and location of the puncture. If I don’t know the location of the puncture, I’ll take the wheel all the way off and completely remove the tire and tube from the rim so I can locate the leak and make sure whatever caused the puncture is removed from the tire.
If you’ve tried mini pumps, you know it’s a chore to pump a tire from fully deflated up to riding pressure with such a tiny barrel. But since we ride only robust, puncture-resistant tires (at least 32mm with a kevlar strip), we don’t expect to get more than a few flats per season among all of our bikes. Since the odds are with us, it’s a fair trade-off for eliminating the need for larger pumps or cartridges. If we rode lightweight tires, we’d carry more substantial, full-sized frame pumps.
As an aside, Portland Design Works sent us the little Poco mini-pump shown in the photo above. It’s a sweet little pump, and the bamboo handle looks great inside Michael’s fancy saddle bag (OK, not a high priority, but what the heck). Most mini pumps work about the same, and this one functions quite well while also looking better than the generic black plastic versions. With its CNC-machined head, it may end up lasting longer as well (with our current low rate of flats, it may take a while to figure out… LOL).
I’ve yet to decide if the newer self-adhesive, glue-free patches work as well as the old school glue-on type. I grew up on the latter, so I’m a little skeptical about the new self-adhesive patches; I’d be interested to hear your feedback on these.
I can’t prove this, but I’d swear higher quality tubes resist punctures better than generics. For sure, Schwalbe tubes hold air better, and require less frequent top-offs, than cheapie generics. If you’re running puncture-resistant tires, I’d say it’s well worth the extra few dollars for premium tubes. Just watch out for premium “lightweight” racing tubes; they’re not nearly as puncture-resistant as even generic standard weight tubes.
Some people don’t carry an extra tube in their saddle pouch. I think it’s a good idea to always carry a spare tube because they sometimes fail at the valve stem, and if they do, a patch kit won’t get you home. Just be sure the tube in the repair kit fits the bike it’s intended for.
We’ve been fortunate to have very few flats over the past few years. As we’ve moved to more and more robust tires, the punctures from stickers and glass have dwindled to nearly zero. Flat protection technology has also improved over time, with the latest flat-resistant tires being surprisingly light, supple, and lively. One of my favorite tires is the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. It’s a sweet riding tire that wears well and has proven to be quite flat-resistant.
Even after riding for over 40 years and repairing countless flats, I’m still surprised and disappointed when I feel that tell-tale squirm that indicates a puncture. At least if our saddle pouches are stocked with the necessary parts and tools to make the repair, we know we’ll be back on the road in no time.