Or How Duct Tape got us back to Lisbon (without buying a new tyre)
“How many punctures?”
This is one of the most frequent questions we get on our trip. Until very recently, the answer was: “None”. Almost 10’000 kilometres without a flat tyre. People would stare at us in disbelief.
Thanks, Schwalbe Marathon!*
We only encountered the first real problem when cycling from Madrid to Lisbon. My back tyre had already been loosing a bit of air regularly, but not much, and we attributed the problem to the valve (Presta) which seemed to be slightly broken. So when we discovered a flat tyre one morning, we automatically attributed it to the valve. The tyre looked ok, so there was no real reason for a puncture – we thought (admittedly, we were a bit stupid because we didn’t even inspect the inner tube for holes). We wanted to get on the road, so we just changed the inner tube – we finally got to use our spare tube!
The tyre was fine for a long day of cycling, and the next day it was still fine. We passed a bike shop and went to put more air, at our usual pressure of 4,5 bar. Our bikes then got to rest for 2 days in the garage of a hotel.
When we got back to them, my tyre was flat again. This time we reckoned there must be a puncture somewhere, but again we wanted to get going because we had a long day ahead, so we just pumped it up. We managed to do the 90 kilometres, topping up the air roughly every 2 hours with our hand pump. It was fortunate that we didn’t have to repair the tube by the roadside on that day, as it was cold and rainy.
At our destination we got a guesthouse with a garage where we could repair the tube. Examining the old inner tube, we found a puncture. The new tube also had a puncture which was almost in the same place. We repaired it and examined the inner wall of the tyre, but couldn’t find anything the could have caused the puncture, apart from a bit of sand which we cleaned out.
On the next day we continued, again a long day of riding and the tyre seemed to be fine.
Except that on the next morning, it was flat again.
There was a new puncture a few centimetres next to the first one, and a third one right next to the first one. So this time we examined the tyre in detail and finally found two tiny pieces of what seemed to be the ends of metal wire sticking out. We couldn’t pull them out (we think it is probably some metal wiring that is part of the tyre). The only solution to this was getting a new tyre – but in the middle of the countryside in Portugal it would be difficult to find a Schwalbe tyre, and it was only a few days before we would arrive to Lisbon, where we would take a break and order some spare parts anyway.
So this is where the Duct Tape came in.
We covered the little metal bits with several layers of duct tape – and hoped for the best.
It worked! We cycled several days more without a problem.
The bottom line? Always take your roll of duct tape when bicycle travelling.**
*We have Marathon Plus (Streetmachine back and front, Azub front) and Marathon Mondial (Azub back), and we try to keep them inflated at 4,5 bar.
**We had already used Duct Tape in a previous trip to repair a mudguard that got shredded by a stick that had gotten stuck in the tyre: