Thursday, 19 February 2015

Punctures around the valve stem? Here's a quick fix

Punctures - the cyclist's worst enemy

Or the wind. Depends on which one you are dealing with at the time!
On Sunday (15/2/15) I was due to have a ride out on my road bike with Spennymoor Cycling Club. So on Saturday, I got my bike out, checked it over to make sure all was well like every diligent cyclist should. The tyres needed a little bit of air in, so I inflated them, anticipating the hum of the tarmac beneath my wheels come the morning.

Sunday morning arrived. Dog walked, breakfast eaten, teeth brushed, gear on. As I was wheeling the bike out down the hall, I noticed the front tyre was pan flat.

It's disheartening finding a flat on the morning of the ride

Preparation is key

I thought that by checking my bike out the day before the ride I would be prepared enough. But no! I didn't have a spare tube. I have tubes for my hybrid and mountain bikes, but not the road bike. If I was to get a puncture out riding, I always have a set of tyre levers and a puncture patch kit at the very least. If I have a spare tube, I'll also take that.

With no replacement, I quickly whipped off the front wheel, removed the tyre and the inner tube with the aim of patching it up and quickly get riding. I inflated it slightly and it was immediately obvious that the hole was at the base of the valve. I don't have any pictures because I threw the tube away in disgust/anger.

I thought "I'll pop down to Halfords, it opens at 9 and it's just down the road", literally 2 minutes away. I got there and it didn't open till 10. Just my luck. In the end I gave up and went to Hamsterley Forest on my mountain bike. I had a great time!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing

On Monday afternoon I was thinking about the whole debacle. I was going to get some tubes: one to go in the tyre, one to take out on rides as a spare and at least one more in the shed for back up. Then it struck me - I'd had a puncture like this on that bike before. "Was it the front wheel? No it was the back. Are you sure?". I wasn't sure. After plenty of reminiscing about fixing punctures, it turned out it was the front and I thought I'd been lumbered with a dodgy tube at that time.

So with new tubes and a new found sense of determination, I got to work.

The problem

Simply, the rim tape around the wheel is slightly oval around the valve hole through the rim. This means that the sharp metal edge cuts the tube as it is inflated and pushed deeper into the rim, or perhaps over-tightening the valve washer had pulled the tube too far down, causing the chafing/rubbing.

The rim tape doesn't cover the edges of the hole

The rim tape is perfectly OK, it's doing it's job of stopping the spokes from piercing the tube. The problem faced is easy to fix and I'll show you how I did it.

The solution

No need to go and buy some new rim tape, I already had the bits necessary. Well, I almost did but the old, useless inner tube was in the bin and taken away by now. That is all you need. Just take some scissors and cut a section out of the old tube, large enough to comfortably fit over the hole in the rim. I'd suggest making it two layers thick. I used an old self adhesive patch. These are quite thick and suit the job well. Then take a screwdriver or other pointed instrument and pierce a hole through the middle of your patch material. Be careful, watch those fingers! Then simply push the patch down over the valve and fit the tube as normal.

Piercing the patch material
Push valve through the stem

Just ride on!

That's it. So simple and it only takes a couple of minutes. The rest is just a normal tube replacement job.

Have you used this fix before? Had this issue but didn't know what caused it? Leave a comment below!

Thanks for reading - if you find this tip useful, please consider sharing this post.


  1. Just fitted a new (2nd hand) wheel and had this in mind. Slipped a bit of old inner tube around the valve for peace of mind. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Glad to hear it came in useful. Happy cycling!

  2. Thank you so much for this article! I am new to the biking community, and this post has given me much more consolidated insight than any other resource I've found.

    1. You are welcome, I'm glad you found it useful.


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