If your tire is damaged, then you will need to patch the hole in your tire. Since accidents can happen at any time, you may not have a patch kit on hand or may have to travel some distance to find one. This guide will teach you how to patch a bike without a patch kit, at least temporarily.
There are three common methods to use when you want to know how to patch a bike without a patch kit. Each method may become more or less viable depending on what tools you have on hand. The length of time each fix will last will also be different, so you should consider how long you must use your bicycle with the patches listed in place.
Option 1: The Tourniquet
This will teach you how to patch a bike without a patch kit if you have spare shoelaces or sunglass straps on hand. The method involves locating the hole, and cutting off the airflow so that you can temporarily stop the tire from deflating.
This method does not require a tire pump or other biking equipment. This is the most effective method if you have nothing on hand, and must repair your bike quickly. It can damage your shoes or patch material though. If you have an air pump or other tools, this method will be more effective.
First, you need to flip your bike over and pull the damaged tire from the rim. Once you remove the tire from the rim, you should be able to see the air tubes on the interior of the tire. Spin the tire until you locate the exact point where it is leaking.
Now, tie the shoelace or string around the tire. You should create a knot as you tie the string. Place the knot over the hole, so that when you place the tire back on the rim, it presses into the hole due to the pressure of the bike and creates a firmer seal.
For additional sealing, consider placing leaves or other thin materials between the string and the air tube. Even a substance as thin as leaves can create an extra layer of material the air will have to squeeze through, slowing down the rate of deflation.
Some pros have advised filling the entire area of the inside of the tire around the air tube with leaves. This may slow down the rate of deflation even further, but depending on how quickly your tire is deflating, this may take too long to be effective.
When you’re done, place the wheel back on the rim. This may be slightly more difficult due to the added size of the string, but most tires have enough interior space that this shouldn’t be a problem.
It is rarely possible to completely seal the hole using this method. This method can slow down the rate at which the tire deflates significantly. For this reason, you should get off the bike and check the tire’s status occasionally after the fix, to determine how quickly it is still deflating.
Some bikers have managed to ride a bike with a tourniquet for multiple days. If the tourniquet is especially tight, they may even be able to use a pump to inflate it again. Doing so runs the risk of adjusting the leaves or string and causing more harm than good.
Option 2: The Bowtie
If your tire has suffered an especially large amount of damage, it may be impossible to tourniquet it. This method will teach you how to patch a bike without a patch kit, but this fix can only be used once and is extremely temporary.
This method is less effective if you don't have a tire pump with you. During one step, the opportunity presents itself for your tire to release a massive amount of air. If you don't quickly seal the tire again, you may lose too much air and will require a pump to inflate it again.
To use the Bowtie Method, you should remove the tire from the rim of your bicycle. Begin spinning the tire until you locate the hole in the tube. If you have an air pump, inflating the tire can make it easier to spot the hole.
Cut the tire along the hole using a knife or the teeth of your bike chain. You should cleanly sever the bike tube in half at this point. Hold the two open ends of the bike tube shut to slow air loss.
Now, begin tying the ends of the bike tube into a knot. You want the knot to be tight to stem the airflow, but you shouldn't use too much of the tube when tying the knot either. If you do, the tire may become difficult to place back on the rim since it is now too small.
Place the tire back on the rim. If you have a tire pump, you should now put some air back into the tire. Don’t try to pump it up to its former size, or the tire may pop or force the knot to come undone. At this point, you only need to ride the bike home or to the nearest safe location while the fix holds.
The tire will be slightly lopsided due to the knot, so avoid riding on rough terrain. You should use pavement or smooth surfaces, and avoid gravel or bumps that may jerk the tire and loosen the knot. The rubber is pulled tight, so the chance of another tear or hole is increased. This method won't work twice if an additional hole appears.
Option 3: Patching With DIY Materials
This third option comes from several bike riders who didn’t have a patch kit in their home. This method will teach you how to patch a bike without a patch kit, but only works if you’re at home and have a garage full of tools.
Patching At Home Without A Kit
To create a patch, you need a thin piece of rubber similar to your bike tire. If you have old bike tires or car tires, you can cut off a small piece of that tire to use.
You also need to contact cement. When applied, the cement will hold your rubber patch material in place and eventually harden into a permanent patch. Contact cement quickly begins to harden when exposed to air, so only slather your patch material in it when it is ready to be applied.
Finally, use sandpaper or a gritty substance to rub on the hole in your tire and create a rough, imperfect area. Contact cement bonds more tightly to an area when it has divots and areas to fill in, so even a few light scratches will make your DIY patch stay firmly in place.
DIY Materials In The Wilderness
Since this method requires scissors, old rubber, a coarse material, and contact cement, it's not possible to use in the wilderness. You can create similar fixes that are far more temporary if you are creative and find the right substances in your environment, though.
Sand or dirt with high sand content will work as a substitute to sandpaper. The material only needs to be able to create scratches in the rubber for the sticky material to fill.
You can use a knife, or your bike chain's teeth to cut rubber or other materials you think would function as a patch. Bike teeth are very sharp, so if you are careful, you can create a clean cut along the material.
Although rubber is the best patch material since it is the same material used in your tire, if you are creating a temporary fix, many materials will work. If you can cover the hole with leaves, leather, or other materials that don't allow oxygen through easily, it will function well in the short term. Cloth is not a good substitute since air easily passes through it.
Contact cement is a great binding agent, but not something you will find sitting around in the wilderness. If you are near trees that produce resin, this can dry on to the tube and form a sticky sealant.
You may also use mud or other unconventional sticky substances. By adding gravel or other binding agents, the mud will have greater grip strength when it dries and may hold a patch material in place on your tire. The stickiness of the dirt or mud in your area is highly dependent on the mineral content of your local environment, though.
The length of time the patch stays in place is determined by the binding agent. If you have to use mud or another material that doesn't last as long, you should attempt to return home or to a rest stop immediately. You should not try to add air with a pump under any circumstances if you created a natural patch out of any of these materials.
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