Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Puncture-resistant Bike Tires

In the year(ish) that I've been a commuting cyclist I've been lucky enough to have avoided getting any punctures. My daughter has been less lucky. A couple of weeks ago she managed to get a staple in her back tire which caused multiple small punctures.

Trying to repair a puncture on the back tire is about a big a pain in the arse as you can get. You have the choice between trying to find the puncture without removing the wheel (tricky, time consuming and runs the risk of tearing the tube), or having to remove the rear brake, chain, gears and the wheel to get the inner-tube out, and that's before you even start trying to find and repair the puncture.

I'd reached the point where I was ready to call it quits, buy an inner-tube from Halfords and pay them the extra to fit it ('cos I'm a lazy git when it boils down to it).

Although I've not had any punctures I have managed to shatter the right pedal on my bike. I'm not sure how I managed it but rest asured it was totally wrecked, so today I spent my lunchbreak looking for a pair of standard pedals (in other words cheap, 'cos not only am I lazy, but I'm also a tight-wad).

Our local hardware store was selling pedals at £2.99 a pair, which isn't too bad really. They also had tubes of this strange-looking orangey-pink stuff called "Doctor Sludge."

According to the label it repairs punctures and makes the inner-tube puncture-proof for the lifetime of the tube. Did I hear a "yeah right?" I thought so. As it was going for just over four quid I decided to give it a shot.

What does this involve? Well, first you unscrew and remove the valve from the inner-tube (you get a small tool for this with the sludge), next attach the bottle of sludge using the extendable tube and pour about half the 250ml bottle into the tire. After that you replace the valve, pump up the tire and that's it, job done.

It works by the air pressure in the tire forcing the sludge out through any holes, at which point the sludge sets solid. Any (small) punctures after the tire has been treated should heal straight away.

Well, I've just tried this with my daughters bike. Bear in mind that I've had four attempts at repairing the tire the old-fashioned way. I've probably wasted a couple of hours and had a pretty frustrating time into the bargain messing with the bowl of water, rubber glue, repair patches and so forth. To make it worse, after all that effort it still wasn't fixed (it would deflate after about half-an-hour).

The Doctor Sludge method took around ten minutes, and so far (twelve hours later) the tire has stayed fully inflated. Not only that, but I've got enough left to sort out her front tire as well.

Before anyone asks, no, I'm not associated with the Doctor Sludge people. I think I'll be buying some more of this for my own bike (unless anyone from Doctor Sludge is reading this and feels like sending me a couple of free bottles. . .).

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