Eventually, if you ride long enough, you will encounter tire damage that is too extensive to continue using with a tube or too much for sealant to plug. Is it possible to repair a bicycle tire with a cut by sewing it back together? I had this question when I cut a sidewall on a tire immediately before a trip with no spare tire on hand. I’ve heard of it being done and a search online provided some anecdotes but never tried it myself. For safety reasons, I can’t suggest you try this as tire damage and repairability will vary, but I will tell you about my experience and my thoughts about repairing my own tire.
What kind of tire is it?
The type of tire will play a determinant in success. Larger tires that are ridden at lower pressures would be more favorable for this type of repair. A same size repair on a larger tire compared to a smaller tire is also less likely to introduce balance issues from the repair. Whether the tire is setup tubeless or with a tube may also contribute as the repair will need to be air tight in a tubeless setup (sealant will help with this). In this particular case I was riding a Schwalbe G-One Allround 27.5×2.8, a large tire setup tubeless.
Where is the cut and how big is it?
The size of the cut will play a determinant in success. I personally wouldn’t attempt to repair a tire with a large cut across the tread or down to the bead. A more common area for cuts is in the sidewall which is usually not constructed as sturdily as the tread area. That was the case with this tire.
What complimentary repairs are made?
Simply stitching the tire back may have got me out of an emergency situation, but I wanted something a bit more permanent and structurally reinforced. Internal radial tire patches are popular for repairing automotive and other tires, but have not gained popularity for bicycle applications yet. Several companies are now marketing internal patches for tubeless and they do work well with a stubborn leak but require removing the tire. After sewing the cut shut with dental floss, I glued a radial tire patch to the inside behind the stitching. I then remounted the tire, added sealant, and inflated. Everything appeared to hold so I applied an additional tube style patch glued onto the outside to protect the stiches from abrasion.
How long are you going to continue riding it?
This really should have been a temporary patch, but then after awhile I wanted to see how long it would last, so I kept riding. Eventually, I scraped the sidewall on a rock and partially tore off the covering which exposed the stitching and led to abrasive damage. At this point the tire was wearing close to its useful life on the center tread so I just cleaned it up and applied some seam grip sealant to tame the ragged threads. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the seam grip sealant adhered to the outside of the tire.
What’s the point?
Yes, I was able to sew a tire back together, and with complimentary repairs, I was able to continue riding the tire through its useful lifespan. Is this something someone might want to do? I think there are situations where it could be useful and others where it wouldn’t be appropriate. Emergency situations to get back to civilization could definitely warrant this approach. In my case, the tire was almost brand new so it saved both money and environmental impact of completely wasting a tire.
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