Coming from a family of eight – all with our own bikes – and being responsible for puncture repair I have mended countless punctures in my time. (I have also mended car punctures too but that’s another story).
Nowadays I carry a spare tube on the bike with the tools to make the change. If I had a puncture I would simply take out the old tube and put in the new. No point faffing around looking for a hole and mending it at the side of the road. When I got home I could place the whole tube in a bowl to spot the hole and mend it at my leisure.
In the early days, in line with our family’s philosophy of make do and mend, the idea was to spend as little money on the repair as possible; so I would use a pair of scissors to cut a patch out of an old tube. I would then sand down the edges ready to use when on the road.
Of course, when out and about, the decision as to whether to mend the puncture, pump up the tyre or walk the bike home depends whether the puncture is slow or fast and how far away from home I am. If it is raining or dark will affect my decision too.
First I have to get the tube out, remembering to work away from the chain. I’d not take the wheel off – just take the tube out of the tyre. Mending a puncture on the road means that I have to find the hole without water. If I was on a quiet lane and I pump up the tube when it was out and stretched it I could hear the air coming out of the hole. With luck, I would be able see the hole itself – otherwise I’d cover the presumed location with spit and watch the bubbles grow.
However, if I was on a busier road, with all that noise, then the chances of hearing where the hole was would be difficult if not impossible – best to find a quiet location but if I couldn’t do so I could feel where the hole was by passing the tube close to my cheek. I have even mended a tube in near darkness in such a way – but I would not recommend it.
Before I bought my moped at sixteen and then my motorbike at seventeen I cycled far and wide. I have managed to get punctures in Surrey, where I now live, and Suffolk, Somerset, Wales, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. If it is a lovely summer’s day and I was in some beautiful spot then I would take my time. Being so young and far away from home, locals would happily supply a bowl of water to help me out. They were as surprised to find a fourteen year old on his tod in those days as people are today. When I say I was by myself I often had my kid brother in tow. If we were lucky we’d get some tea and sandwiches while I was fixing the puncture.
My siblings cycled to school but at a pinch they could walk. So if they got a puncture they would push the bike home and I would mend it. I sometimes felt that they might not be as careful about avoiding glass as I would have been – given that I was the one mending the punctures. Also they did not pump their tyres up enough – soft tyres get more punctures.
I learnt the hard way about the damage one can do to the tube simply by taking it out. Those tyre levers mustn’t pinch the tube. Also after a mending a tyre you don’t want to find you have another puncture in the same place because you have not removed the bit of glass or flint that made the hole in the first place.
I’d come home from school to find that I had a puncture to do. I always went to it straight away – bish bash bosh job done. I mended some tubes so often that I think the entire tube was made up of patches.
I am glad that I can mend a puncture. I haven’t mended a puncture for over sixteen years. I don’t miss it a bit.