Bike tire patches are a quick and easy way to get your bike back after hitting a flat tire, and without having to go buy a whole new tire inner tube or having to switch to a spare tube.
There is no secret trick to applying these patches – it’s super easy with a cheap patching kit.
Unfortunately, it’s common for standard glue patches to fail or lose their adhesion after some time.
This article will discuss how long you can ride a bike with a patched tire, when you should replace a patched bike tire, whether a patched bike tire is as good as new, and whether glue-less tube patches work as well as glue ones.
What We Will Cover
How Long Can You Ride A Bike On A Patched Bike Tire?
You can ride a bike on a patched tire for about 3-7 years, but only if the repair is done correctly. The lifespan of a patched bike tire depends on the patch type.
A glue-less patch works on the principle of mechanical bonding, where a bond forms between the surface of the patch and the surface of the bike tube.
The adhesive works its way into the pores on the surface of the bike tube, where it would dry and stick to the patch.
That’s why we scrape the area around the hole before applying the patch – to increase the number of pores/cracks that the adhesive can penetrate.
While the glue-less patch is the quickest and easiest patch type to use, they’re also the least-efficient method for patching your bike tire if it gets punctured while on a ride.
Experts recommend only using this patch when on the road and cannot do a proper patch.
So on average, glue-less patches should last a few days at best.
The glue patch works on the principle of vulcanization (chemical bonding). Adhesives on the glue patch work at the surfaces of both the patch and the bike tube, just like the mechanical bonding of the glueless patch, but at a molecular level.
When you cover the punctured spot with a vulcanizing fluid such as rubber cement, the solvent will penetrate the upper layer of the inner tube and reach deeper to chemically bond with the inner tube.
Free sulfur groups in the orange circle on the patch form disulfide bonds with the bike tube when the patch is pressed on the punctured spot to create the chemical bond.
This bond is so strong that, if applied correctly, can last years.
But just because a glue patch can last long doesn’t mean your bike tires can’t get damaged.
One thing you can do to extend the life of your bike tire after patching is to regularly check the air pressure before you go for a ride.
If the pressure in your bike tube is too low, you risk damaging your wheel rims and sidewall, increasing tire wear, and potentially causing even more punctures.
Although you can ride on a patched bike tire for over 3 years if patched correctly, that doesn’t mean you can just stop paying attention to the health of your tires.
What can I use to patch my bike tire?
A patch kit is the most common way of patching a bike tire.
A basic patch kit contains rubber-free patches, two metal levers, a wrench, and some rubber cement.
The Traditional Way To Patch a Bike Tire – Glue Tire Patch Kits
- Find the puncture in the tube. You could either inflate the tube and listen for any whistle, or immerse the tube in water so the air escapes in the form of bubbles.
- Identify the punctured hole, and circle it.
- Scrape a larger area around the hole than the patch with the sandpaper that comes in the patch kit.
- Apply a thin coat of vulcanizing fluid (e.g rubber cement)
- Use the back of the foil patch or a clean finger to spread the fluid evenly around the area of the hole.
- Let it dry for about 10 minutes.
- Peel off the foil of the patch but try not to touch the surface.
- Apply the patch on the tube, centered on the punctured hole, and apply pressure to it.
- Leave the clear plastic cover on the patch to reduce the friction and rubbing on the new patch.
- After about 2 minutes, the patch should be adhered to the tube surface, and ready to be installed in the bike tire.
However, the patch kit costs about $20 and may be out-of-reach to some bikers.
Fortunately, I’ve scoured the internet for the cheapest way to patch a bike tire that you can replicate NOW.
Alternative Patching Method – Use paper and glue to patch your bike tube
The paper and glue patch requires just 2 items that are easily accessible: paper and glue.
Why buy a kit when you can use household items to patch a punctured bike tire?
The steps are pretty straightforward.
- Find the puncture on the bike tube.
- Release some air through the valve till you can’t hear the whistle.
- Roughen the area around the hole with sandpaper(or any rough material) to make the patch more abrasive.
- Rub some Gorilla glue on the hole, but not too much so the tube would be able to expand fully, and not cause your tire to wobble while on the road.
- Place your piece of paper (preferably cardboard) on the glue. You can also add a balloon for extra padding.
- Hold that position for about 2 minutes before letting go.
- Inflate the tube and attach it to the bike tire.
I held a survey for people who followed this method, and the results were quite impressive – the paper and glue method of patching bike tubes can last 100psi tires on a 45km ride and at least 5 months for occasional bikers.
In other words, using the paper and glue method to patch your bike tube can last for years if you maintain your bike and don’t ride often.
Do glueless tube patches work as well as glue ones?
Glue-less tube patches DO NOT work as well as glue ones.
Bikers generally know that a glue-less patch is only suitable for a quick, temporary fix to get you home, before you patch it correctly, either at a good repair shop or at home.
However, there has been an argument going on from as far back as 2010 on whether glue-less patches (patches that don’t need glue to work) work as well as glue patches on bike tires.
And the answer has remained the same – No.
A quick Google search will tell you that some new glue-less patch products have improved over their predecessors, but they still are really for emergency purposes when compared to the traditional glue patches.
Is a patched bike tire as good as new?
If the patched bike tire is less than a year old and doesn’t look worn out already, it is as good as new.
There’s no difference in utility between a well-patched bike tire and a brand new tire, especially if you’re an average user.
Besides, a good patched tire is more cost-effective than replacing it with a new one.
I checked through Amazon for the price of a new bike tube – it ranges from $6-$26.
Why would you buy a new tire or tube for $20 when you could fix a relatively old one for $0 with the paper and glue method?
How Many Times Can A Bike Tube Be Patched Before Replacement?
Although there isn’t an official number, experts recommend replacing bike tubes after 4 patches.
A rule of thumb in the professional cycling world is that each repair you have to make on your bike tire will reduce its speed rating by about 15-25%
If we follow that rule, it means, on average, your bike shouldn’t have more than 4-5 patches.
Risking that many patches means you should avoid going at high speed and on long routes.
How long does it take a bike tire patch to dry?
Although it depends on your adhesive, it should take about 2-10 minutes for a bike tire patch to dry.
Rubber cement, which is widely used for patching bike tires, generally takes about 10 minutes to dry, while it takes Gorilla glue about 2 minutes, and a gel quick-setting epoxy about 4-6 minutes to dry a bike tire patch.
Can you fix a bike tire with duct tape?
You can fix a bike TIRE with duct tape, but you can’t fix a bike TUBE with it.
If you’re on the road and your bike tire gets punctured, but your inner tube is still intact, you can use duct tape as a temporary fix to get home before patching the tire correctly.
However, duct tape isn’t a long-lasting fix for a punctured bike tire because it’s very prone to heat.
Tires heat up as they ride, and when they do, the glue on the duct tape starts to melt and leaves a nasty mess behind.
So, though duct tape is a good alternative to glue-less patches (as both are good for a quick fix for your bike tires if you’re stuck on the road), you shouldn’t ride long distances with a duct tape-patched bike tire.
Can A Patched Bike Tube Affect Your Bike Tire Rolling Resistance?
A tire’s rolling resistance is the energy your bike needs to send to your tires to continue moving at a certain speed consistently over a surface.
It takes increased energy to overcome a high rolling resistance. For bikes, the rider will need to pedal harder to ride smoothly.
When you patch a bike tube, you’re essentially thickening the tube, which will create more internal friction between the tube and the tire and, therefore, cause a higher rolling resistance.
While there’s ways to calculate the impact of increased rolling resistance on professional racers, ultimately, the speed difference won’t be noticeable to the average user.
So, if you prioritize speed while cycling, you should ditch patched bike tires for tubeless ones because a patched tire WILL affect your bike tire rolling resistance.
Recap: Do bike tire patches last long?
If a bike tire is properly repaired – internally patched, plugged, and safely coated – it can last 3-7 years.
But just because patched tires can last a long time doesn’t mean you should keep patching them; any more than 5 patches, and you’ll be a liability on the road.
Whenever your tire becomes punctured, consult a service center so they can determine what is best for the life of your bike tires.
If you don’t want to go through all that hassle, get tubeless tires as they seal up punctures quickly because of the sealant in them.