Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
I was just on a big off-road ride, and one of the guys in our group got a flat. Most of the guys are running foam inserts, so they don’t have to worry about flats, but this guy had a spare tube, tire irons and a pump with him. After removing the wheel and yanking the tube, he saw that he had pinch flatted right at the rim lock. And he was using a beefy tube! He unpacked his spare front tube, mounted on a tube caddy on the front fender. When he pulled it out, it was totally rotted out at every crease point and was useless. We lucked out when some other riders came by and they had a spare tube, so the day wasn’t ruined. My question is, what should he have done differently?
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Well, Mr. Dobrott, take this as a lesson learned. Rubber, be it natural or synthetic, is a polymer, and its chains of molecules are vulnerable to the identical factors that distress all polymers: temperature excesses, ultraviolet radiation, the ozone and, of course, oxidation.
In an unused tube, the rubber is more vulnerable to damage from ozone and oxidation, and time itself is a factor, too. Rubber is one polymer that just doesn’t last forever; it begins to decay the moment it’s manufactured.
My advice comes straight from experience, as I, too, have been bitten by the rotting flesh of a tube left for years in a fender pouch. I put mine in sealable baggies, and then in a sealable tub or plastic crate. Although I equip all my off-road machines with either a mousse tube or Tubliss setup now, I did not in the past. One other bit of advice: carry a patch kit. It takes up little space and can easily save the day! Your buddy should really have known!