Have you ever had a flat tire in the middle of a long bike ride and wondered if you could fix it with Fix-a-Apartment instead of having to take it off and repair it with a patch kit?
I don’t know about you lot, but I know I have! And I can tell you that when I looked into it, the answer surprised me. (As it will come as a surprise to you, too.)
Fix-a-Flat works wonders on car tires, and can help you temporarily repair a tire for up to 3 days (or 100 miles) without a jack. However, for a flat tire on a bicycle, it’s best to leave it out and use something else.
In the rest of this post, we’ll talk about why Fix-a-Flat shouldn’t be used on bike tires—and what you can do instead if you get a flat tire in the middle of your ride.
How Does Fix-a-Flat Work?
Fix-a-Flat is an aerosol that partially reinflates a flat car tire, just enough to lift the rim off the ground. Once the rim is off the ground, you can drive away. The aerosol inflates the tire and plugs the holes in it (as long as they’re up to ¼ inch in size).
It’s a handy emergency-repair product when you’re short on time, and it’s saved me from having to use the jack more than once. You can buy it at every automotive supply and home improvement store.
Can You Use Fix-a-Flat to Repair a Bike Tire?
Fix-a-Flat is really only designed for automobile tires, and so it shouldn’t be used for bike tires. The directions for use unambiguously state: “DO NOT use on motorcycle or bicycle tires; failure could cause loss of control.”
At one time, Fix-a-Flat used to have an aerosol for bicycle tires called Fix-a-Flat Bikes Only. However, that product is no longer manufactured. The good news is that there are alternatives—and arguably the best of them is made by the same company that makes Fix-a-Flat.
What’s the Best Way to Repair a Flat Bike Tire on the Road?
Aside from walking to your garage or the nearest bike shop, what’s the best way to fix a flat bike tire on the road?
Hands-on cyclists with clincher or tubular tires will probably want to equip themselves with an on-the-road repair kit. Hands-off cyclists and those with tubeless tires should consider using sealant.
Patch Up or Replace the Tube
If your bike has tires with inner tubes, you can carry an on-the-go repair kit in your backpack, framepack or saddlepack. At a minimum, you will need a patch kit, a mini pump, a couple of tire levers, a multi-tool with a wrench (and other what-nots), and one or two spare tubes.
With such an on-the-go repair kit, you can patch small holes in your tube or replace it if it blows out. However, to repair the tube, you need to turn the bike upside down and remove the tire. Also, you have to wait 10-15 minutes for the glue to dry out.
Remember that it isn’t a good idea to flip over a bike with hydraulic bakes. If your bicycle’s equipped with a hydraulic braking system (or is fitted with tubeless tires), continue with the other option below.
Seal the Tube (or Tire) With Slime
If you want to fix a flat bike tire without removing it, use Slime sealant. Simply connect the bottle to the valve, squeeze the slime into the tire, then top up the tire with air and ride off.
Sealant, unlike tire patches, doesn’t need any time to dry. Instead, it gets carried by the air escaping through the punctured tire, then accumulates in the hole and plugs it—quite effectively—for up to 2 years.
This sealant comes in two varieties: one for tubeless tires and another for tires with inner tubes. (Select carefully; you shouldn’t try to substitute one with the other as it may not get the job done.)
When the Tube or Tire Gets Damaged Beyond Repair
Sometimes, your inner tube or tire is so old or worn out—or gets damaged so badly—that you can’t really fix it.
Tire patches and sealants do a good job of repairing small punctures, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. However, they won’t help with the major hole of a blown out inner tube. If your tube bursts, the only solution is to replace it.
If your tubeless tire blows out at high speed, there’s a good chance it will drag on the road by the time you stop and get damaged beyond repair because either the beads will break or the carcass will rip.
The beads can fail for other reasons. And when they do, they can’t be repaired, especially on the road. Other types of damage that make your tire irreparable are dry rot, a torn sidewall, and ripped threads that cause deformities.
Fix-a-Flat is a great product, but it should really only be used on cars. There are similar sealant products that are specifically designed for use with bike tires, but they can only repair very small holes and may only last a year or two.
The best way to be prepared to fix a flat bike tire is to understand what to look for and what you can do on the road to make your bike road-worthy enough to at least get you home.
Once you’ve done that, you can decide whether a full-scale tire or tube repair is in order or if you should just replace the tire itself.