You expect expiration dates on grocery items. You don’t want to tear into last year’s milk on a warm day, and the expiration date—and refrigeration—help you avoid unpleasant outcomes.
Well it’s time for expiration dates on patch kits for bicycle inner tubes.
A traditional patch kit has glue that can dry up and patches that can lose their stickiness—not what you want to learn about when you’re four miles from home.
Years ago, the limited lifespan of a patch kit didn’t really matter. People who rode bicycles shod with lightweight Michelin Elan tires, for instance, went through patches like frozen margaritas go through blenders. The patches got used up before they lost their usefulness.
But with today’s vastly improved tires, most riders have far fewer flats, which means more and more patch kits are increasingly at risk of going bad.
Which means on the perfect storm of a ride, after you’ve replaced two inner tubes with new tubes and then have a third flat and pull out the patch kit, you are officially, as professional Tour de France wrench jockeys would say, screwed.
Adding an expiration date—let’s say three years following manufacture—would be a bit more work for patch kit makers, but they might end up selling more kits as riders replaced expired product.
In the meantime, riders must depend on themselves for good outcomes. While you don’t know when a patch kit was manufactured, nor how long it rested on a retailer’s shelf, you do know when to get rid of it if you date the kit when you buy it.
So now I add two years to the purchase date and mark it right on the box.
Beats a long walk home, whether or not the milk in the refrigerator is fresh.