How to fix an inner tube without patches

Emergency fix to get you home if you have burst your inner tube and don't have any patches to fix it

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Use zip ties to seal the tube

If you are trying to fix a punctured inner tube but have run out of patches, this emergency fix can be used as an absolute last resort to get you home.

We cannot stress this last point enough — this alternative take on the classic ‘stuff your tyres full of grass method’ is an emergency measure that should be used to get you home, or to somewhere you can buy a new tube, and absolutely no more. Proceed with caution (and bring more patches and another spare tube next time).

Before we start, it’s also worth pointing out that this repair requires you to have a pair of zip ties with you. These are a useful thing to keep stowed away in a saddlebag for exactly this sort of repair, so if you don’t have some already, go out to your bike and stash some on it now.

Want to learn more about fixing your bike at the roadside? BikeRadar has teamed up with Haynes to release The Road Bike Manual app for iOS and Android. The app is a comprehensive guide to maintaining your bike and has just been updated with new tutorials, guides and hacks. Get the latest version on the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.

Tools needed to fix inner tube without patches

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Step 1

Remove the tyre with a lever
Haynes

Using tyre levers, remove one side of the tyre as you normally would.

Step 2

Inspect the inner tube and find the hole
Haynes

Carefully remove the inner tube and find the hole.

Step 3

Use zip ties to seal the tube
Haynes

Using some fine/small cable ties, fasten them tightly on either side of the hole in the inner tube.

Pull them as tightly as you can, being careful not to break them. 

Step 4

Stuff the inner tube full of mud or grass
Haynes

Now that you have isolated the hole in the inner tube, open it out and stuff the inner tube with damp, malleable material. Moss, earth, grass, damp tissue  — anything of this nature will do the job.

You will not make the inner tube totally airtight, but we are trying to slow the air’s escape from the tube as much as possible. 

Step 5

Remount the tyre
Haynes

With the hole in the inner tube tied off and packed with damp, malleable material, we can now re-mount the tyre and inner tube.

Step 6

Inflate the tube
Haynes

Gather all your things together so you are ready to move as soon as the tyre is inflated.

Inflate the tyre but, bear in mind, that the more pressure you get into the tube, the faster the air will escape. Therefore, it might be advisable to reach a ‘happy’ medium to get you as far as possible.

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Get as far as you can with this and then inflate the tube again.

As with all these roadside fixes, the idea is to get you to a point of safety where you can either resolve the issue properly or call for help.

It is possible to ride many miles using this method of inflating the tube, riding on the tyre until the tube deflates too much, inflating the tube again and riding on again as far as you can. It’s far from perfect but it might just save your bacon.