Patched Tubes

When I was a kid, we rode bikes all the time. When we got flats, my father taught us how to patch and repatch the tubes. Dad was a depression child, so he showed us how to use cuttings from old tubes as patches, too. Our tubes had the same Schrader valves as auto tires back then, and we only inflated them to about 40 psi. Now the tubes have presta valves, and I inflate to 100 psi.

When I first rode around in Federal Hill, Baltimore, I got flats on even short trips, so I swapped out the original Kenda Kwest tires. According to Xootr, Schwalbe’s very tough Big Apples might require an extra chain link to fit, so I got two of the Schwalbe Marathon HS 368, which were also supposed to be puncture-resistant. I had only one flat in the next three years — from a nail that was still in the tire — until now, when I’ve had two flats in the past two weeks.

Of course now I’m riding nine miles at a time on some fairly beat up roads. I’m also riding the paths near Camden Yards and M&T Bank stadium, which are strewn with broken glass as fans celebrate the Orioles trying to make the playoffs, and the Ravens new season.

Two weeks ago I had money, so I just bought a new tube and put it in. Last week was a bit tighter, so I thought, “Wait, I have four punctured tubes on the shelf – why don’t I just patch them instead of buying more Taiwanese rubber?” My patch kits had about a dozen patches, sandpaper, but no cement. The cement had hardened, so I threw it away three years ago. I stopped at Joe’s bike shop, which is close to home. They don’t sell just cement — I had to buy yet another patch kit. So I’m lousy with patches.

The instructions in the patch kit aren’t very clear, so just to be sure I looked up some advice online. Livestrong advises that patches are just to get you home, and that you should buy a new tube to be safe. Screw that. I patched two tubes on Sunday, and rode one of them in today. I’m a recession adult.

TTAC has a great article, Confessions Of A Renegade Car Guy: Why I Take The Bicycle. Great because he’s come to much the same arrangement as I have — a mix of biking and transit:

Sure, I could do like most of my colleagues do, and drive the car to work. It’s a 12km (7 miles) commute, some 20 minutes without traffic, 30 minutes on bad days, including the short walk to the parking garage.  Half city driving, half highway.

But even though I am more of a car nut than most any of my colleagues, I’m cheaper as well. Since commutes mean a cold engine and higher fuel and oil consumption, and the car has a real world average of 6.3l/100km (37.34MPG) I estimate the fuel consumption at about 2 liters a day. 1.4€ per liter, 21 commutes a month equal 60€ a month in fuel costs. I am not counting tire use, oil, car depreciation, or repairs induced. With that comes the convenience of a variety of radio stations, MP3 player connectivity, he at, and AC.

What’s the alternative?  I currently live in Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg is 3km from the German border, and the city shares its love of bicycles with its Northern European neighbors. As much as biking 11km to work is fun, I get quite sweaty doing so, and smelly people are rarely appreciated by their coworkers.

The solution? Combined commuting: 5 minute walk to the tramway, 25 minute tramway ride, followed by 5 minute biking to work. The bike is securely locked in a semi-public shed, and the overall commute time is barely higher than with the car.


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