Tubeless tyres have made big inroads into the world of cycling. They are virtually the norm in mountain biking, improving in leaps and bounds for road cycling, and for gravel cyclist types, a lot of us are forgoing the tubes and riding with spooge (aka sealant) in our tyres. Orange Seal, undoubtedly our favorite sealant.
Nothing in life is infallible, and that includes tubeless tyres and the chance of scoring an unlucky puncture. This year’s Dirty Kanza 200, like every other before it, was a hot bed of flat tyres, even if you were riding tubeless tyres. After a while, I stopped counting the number of riders I spotted by the roadside, fixing a flat. Meanwhile, I prayed to the flat gods for 206 miles, hoping I wouldn’t succumb to the same fate… no jinxing me please.
Should you puncture a tubeless tyre in the field, during a ride or race, standard practice is to remove the tubeless valve, install a tube and get riding again. Seemingly, if the tyre was punctured, it can no longer function as a true tubeless tyre and thus, spends a life relegated to getting up close and personal with a tube rubbing against its belly.
But alas, all is not lost! Hutchinson, a well known tyre manufacturer, produces the “Rep’air” kit. Simply put, the Rep’air kit resembles a patch kit, like the kind you would patch a regular tube with. You may be scratching your head and thinking – but, can’t you use a regular patch kit? Possibly, but it’s not something I’ve tried, and the glue in those patch kits typically isn’t pliable enough to deal with a tubeless tyre.
There are two versions of the kit available, Road and Mountain. I chose the Road kit, because I have a mix of road tubeless and gravel tubeless tyres in my collection. In hindsight, I should have chosen the Mountain kit, because the patches are a little bigger, and therefore, could patch a potentially bigger hole.
Included with the kit is a five gram tube of glue, four patches and a small piece of sandpaper (or emery paper, if you prefer). Priced anywhere from $US 9.00 to $US 12.00, that seems expensive for what appears to be an ordinary, garden variety patch kit. However, Hutchinson claims their branded glue is a special type of super glue, which remains flexible, but without drying out the rubber it is adhering to. For anyone who has tried using superglue as a patch adhesive, it makes the rubber beneath the patch very brittle.
Hutchinson recommends you remove the punctured tyre from the wheel before beginning the work of patching. Definitely makes life a lot easier. With the tyre removed, clean the inside of the tyre in the compromised area, using the provided sandpaper.
On my punctured sample tyre, some dry sealant was present, but the area around the cut cleaned up quite well.
The following steps are just like any other patch kit.
Apply the glue and wait until it is perfectly dry to the touch. This will take anywhere from five to 10 minutes, depending on environmental temperature.
Pictured above, the offending tyre casing hole with dried glue, ready for the patch. It looks diminutive from this viewpoint, but when the tyre is inflated to optimal pressure, the tyre spreads out and the hole expands. Lovely. The sealant would seal the hole for a short while but ultimately, kept ejecting the floaty coagulant particles (mostly spurting over my seat tube) and the seal was lost. Bollocks.
Prepare the patch for adhesion by rolling back the foil.
Position the patch, and firmly push down with your fingers / thumb once it is situated correctly. Be sure to work out any air bubbles from the center towards the outside.
Done! Admire your handiwork!
Next, mount the tyre sans sealant and inflate. The repaired tyre, a Hutchinson 650b x 2.0″ Black Mamba, was inflated to 40psi (far too firm for riding), but I wanted to ascertain if the tyre would hold air for at least 24 hours.
The good news – the patch worked and almost no pressure was lost. I say almost, because not every tubeless tyre mounted sans sealant will hold air overnight. The good news continued. Filled the tyre with sealant and rode for two to three hours – the tyre held pressure. Superb, tyre patched!
The Hutchinson Rep’Air tubeless patch kits seem to work best in mountain and gravel bike applications, where the tyre pressures are lower. I’ve had moderate success with patching road tubeless tyres, but that is mostly dependent on the size or position of the offending hole. With that said, I’ve patched two tubeless road tyres. The first tyre repair was prefect. However, the second example was a fail. Inflated to 80psi, the patch forced a tyre bubble to appear on the tread above the patch. Clearly the hole was in a bad place, and the patch wasn’t stiff / resilient enough to resist changing its shape. Thus, the tyre in the second example was destined for the recycle bin 🙁
The asking price of $US 9.00 to $US 12.00 for Hutchinson Rep’Air is cheap when you compare the cost of replacing a tubeless tyre, especially one that has plenty of life remaining.
Every Gravel Cyclist – or any cyclist for that matter – who uses tubeless technology, should consider adding a Hutchinson Rep’Air kit to their home workshop. And, the repair kit works on other tyre brands too, not just Hutchinson.
|Hutchinson Rep’Air Kit|
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