Last week I found that I had a torn sidewall on my rear tire just moments before it was time for the lunch ride. I didn’t have time to fix my tire, so I made sure I had the right materials to fix the problem on the trail should the tube had failed. I made it through the ride without a flat, so I decided to go through the process of repairing the sidewall at home. I’ve heard people discuss this process, often called “booting the tire”, but have never tried it myself. I decided to practice in the controlled environment of my garage.
In the picture above, you’ll notice that the tire’s sidewall is torn, and the tube is poking out. This will almost certainly cause a flat if left unchecked. There is a quick and easy process to boot your tire, and it will allow you to get home without a flat tire (or another flat tire as the case may be). A boot is a temporary fix, and should only be used until you can swap the tire for an undamaged one.
Most cyclists carry a spare tube with them, but few carry the material needed to boot a tire. The materials I’ve heard of people using are duct tape, a dollar bill, or a patch made from a Tyvek envelope. All three of these materials are tear resistant, and will keep the tube on the inside of the tire. One advantage of having a dollar bill is that you can buy something with it. Not much mind you, but it certainly has more bargaining power than some tape or a swatch of plastic fiber. I brought a dollar bill with me on the ride last week, but decided to make a Tyvek patch for my toolkit this weekend. I’ve been keeping a mailer envelope in the garage for just this purpose. Not knowing how big I needed it, I just used a dollar bill for a template.
With one side of the tire off the rim, I folded the patch in thirds, and slid it between the tire and the tube. This seemed to cover the tear nicely, and gave it room to slide a bit. And by folding it into thirds, I felt confident it would be a strong barrier. I carefully put the tire back on the rim, making sure I didn’t let the patch slip from the area. I think a good tip at this point would be to make sure the tube you’re putting in has a little air in it, so it helps hold the patch in place as you’re doing this.
I finished by inflating the tire to see how it looked. I even overinflated it to put the patch to the test. It seemed to work perfect! Fortunately, this tire had many miles of good service on it, and was due to be replaced anyway. This sidewall tear is pretty nasty, and I won’t feel bad throwing it away. My Tyvek patch is now in my toolkit, ready for the next emergency repair!
One interesting afterthought on this subject is that this sidewall tear was on the rear drive side. Another rider that viewed the 1st picture on this post said that he’s torn a few on the rear drive side as well. Is this a coincidence, or is there some destructive force at work here?