Recycling bike tubes

I carry a brand new bike tube in my saddle bag (along with a glueless patch kit) when I go for a ride. I put a second spare in my jersey pocket for trips over 50 miles long. When I get home, I always patch my flat tubes. Several people on club rides have given me shit for this. “Life’s too short– get a new tube.”

Well, first of all, if a patch is done right, it is permanent. Just make sure you use the ones with vulcanizing fluid- not the glueless ones. I have several tubes with 4+ patches on them. Why waste money and resources on a new tube when you can just patch it? (Soapbox time. Cycling is about getting fresh air and outdoor exercise, enjoying nature, efficiency, sustainability, and environmentally-friendly transportation. If we enjoy filling our lungs with clean air every time we ride, then maybe we should adopt lifestyles that make it possible for us and future generations to do so. Reuse, reduce, and recycle- in that order! Ride your bike to work (but don’t be a dick about it). Ride your bike to group rides. And follow traffic laws. If we want to be respected by motorists, shouldn’t we apply the same laws and standards to ourselves?)

Second of all, if you are getting a lot of punctures in a short period of time, there is probably something wrong with your tires.

There will come a time when your tube invariably fails and cannot be patched. Broken valves, leaks near the valve stem, and leaks from bad patches means your tube is useless. But don’t worry! There are plenty of things you can do to recycle your unpatchables!

1. Rubber bands can be fashioned by cutting the tube into rings. This works better with wider mountain bike tubes.

2. Bike lock. Cut off the section that contains the stem, and slip a chain (or an old bicycle chain) through the resulting hose. Get a padlock and you have yourself a bike lock!

3. Balloon pump. This one is a little silly, but was instrumental in filling my PI’s desk with balloons on her birthday. Cut off the stem of the tube and trim as much material from the area as possible. You will be left with a rubber donut at the base of the stem. Stick the rubber end in a pen cap, stick the valve end in a bike pump, and you have yourself a balloon pump!

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4. Rubber spacers/protectors for bike accessories. Wrap a section of rubber around your bike as spacers or to protect the paint when you stick panniers, fenders, lights, etc. to your frame.

5. Bungees, when used with caution.

6. Stretching bands.

7. I’ve heard that some people have fashioned wallets, clothing, and jewelry out of their old tubes.

Ok, this is getting silly now.

Note: I have tried making patches out of old tubes and rubber cement– I had no luck, unfortunately.