Ever Had to Tie a Tube? Bike Tube, That Is.
I went for a solo ride today with a new rear tire that I haven't been 100% sure about. Sure enough about half way into the ride, I hit a rock a little too hard on the Holy Cross trail, and seconds later, the dreadful hissing sound. As I pulled over and began unbuckling my Camelback, it dawned on me I had forgotten to replenish my spare tube! Brilliant, eh? But no worries, I of course had a patch kit. Right? I dug down a little deeper into the pack and to my relief, there it was. I opened it, to find exactly 2 patches. I was already assuming I would need them both, if it was going to be the classic snake bite pinch flat that I would probably find. I grabbed my tire lever and went to work removing the tire. Definitely a tight fitting tire! The fact that it was almost brand new probably didn't help. I made sure all the air was out, and went around the rim and moved the tire beads to the center as one of my riding buddies has faithfully reminded me over the years. But I still couldn't manage to get the bead over the edge of the rim. A little more pressure on the tire lever, then pop! Now I have a flat and a broken tire lever in my hand. After a couple more minutes of struggle, I finally managed to remove the tire using what I had left of the lever. I grabbed my pump and started pumping away diligently, only to find the tire wasn't inflating, at all. This was going to be a big hole. I examined the tube to find a double cut snake bite, and each cut was about a half inch long! Wow, I didn't hit the rock that hard. After lightly sanding the surface and dusting away the particulate, I applied one patch to each of the cuts, going corner to corner, diagonally across the square patch to maximize the length available. To my delight, each cut covered nicely, with at least a quarter inch of patch extending beyond the ends of the cut. I pressed the patches down for all they were worth, and rubbed away any air bubbles. I was able to muscle the tire back on, and began re-inflating the tube. 20 psi, 25 psi, 30 psssssssssss... I guess 1/4 inch isn't enough coverage for a glueless patch after all. After several iterations involving trying to re-apply the patches and even some duct tape, the results had not changed. As I was about to resign to walk the 4 miles to the TH, hoping I would run into someone, I remembered a story and old friend had told about a Canyonland's White Rim trip. The group had somehow run out of tubes and patches on the last day, and sure enough someone got a flat. They repaired it by cutting the tube at the point where the damage was, and tying it up, just like the balloon artist at your local fair would. Seems it worked for them, why not give it a go. I managed to further perforate the tube using my multi-tool screwdriver, and then tore it the rest of the way (a knife would have come in handy). I'm not sure if it was the best choice, but I decided to go with a square knot (remembering left over right, right goes through, right over left, left goes through, taught to me years ago by a friend that I think was in boy scouts). I pulled it tight, and began to inflate. At maybe 15 psi, I noticed the hissing. Hmm... maybe I was walking out after all. In a last ditch effort, I removed the stubborn tire yet one more time. I pulled the knot as tight as I could without risking tearing the tube. Then again, and again on the inside and outside of the knot. I got it back on the rim and, covered in sweat (because by this time it was 1:00 pm and getting pretty hot here in Grand Junction) began pumping. 25, 30, 35 psi, still holding! I quickly packed up the gear and popped the wheel back on the bike, and plotted my shortest route home. It turned out that there was still a slow leak, but slow enough that I could ride for about 10 minutes before having to pump up. I never did run into anyone on the trail. After about 4 miles, I reached the parking lot. I probably could have scored a tube there, but by that point I was feeling pretty proud of my fix and figured I might as well just head for home. I could barely feel a small flat spot as the tire rotated, not a bad ride at all. Moral of the story: always pack a tube! and a patch kit. But in a jam, consider tying your tube.