When riding a bike, repair in the field is fairly simple. Of course as long as we have a spare tube or repair kit, air pump and a set of necessary tools. But with a unicycle it’s not that easy. Trying to repair or replace inner tube in field may be good for masochists only.
Electric unicycle tires are of rather small diameter. This makes them harder to replace and, in addition, factory tires are quite thick and stiff. While it makes them more resistant to puncture and overload, when they fail it’s very difficult to remove them off the wheel rim. Anyway, this is not the biggest problem. The main problem lies in the construction of the unicycle itself. Its motor is integrated into the wheel rim, which means that changing a tire or inner tube requires more effort than with a bicycle wheel. There is no quick release axle locks. To replace the tube you have to remove shields first, then disconnect motor wires, unscrew the motor assembly etc. It is not difficult as long as it is done in the home workshop for example.
There are probably two most common causes of air pressure loss. Puncturing of the inner tube through the tire is one of them. Broken glass debris, a piece of metal, a nail or screw. These are just examples of what can hurt our tubes. The second cause is so called “snakebite”. This happens when the tire bottoms out on the rim, completely compressing the tube causing it to fail. Pinched tube breaks or cuts, resulting in loss of air. This usually occurs when the tire is underinflated. Of course low pressure results in much nicer ride. Road unevenness is better cushioned and the wheel itself feels more reliable and stable. Unfortunately, it makes a wheel vulnerable to “snakebite”.
Fortunately, there is a pretty cool solution that has recently saved my ass. A special preparation for repairing inner tubes in the form of a small metal bottle under pressure. The bottle is equipped with a flexible hose, terminated with a connection to the Schrader valve. There is also additional “Schraeder-to-Presta” adapter so you can use this with your bicycle if equipped with Presta valves. After screwing the hose onto the valve, all you need is to press the button on top of the container and wait for the entire contents of the bottle to be pushed into the inner tube. The inner tube is simultaneously pumped and sealed. When the container is empty, unscrew the hose from the valve and spread the fluid in the tube. It’s enough to turn the wheel on and lift it, letting it spin a little “in the air”. Usually a dozen seconds is enough.
If you exhausted the limit of bad luck for that day, the inner tube will be sealed after a while and will keep the pressure enough to continue your ride. Of course you should inflate your wheel to the right pressure. At home or the nearest gas station. As the practice shows, you can drive on the so-repaired inner tube for months without further issues.
Of course, this preparation has its limitations and will not always work. This is especially true where the hole is large. You won’t seal a big cut or tear of the tire. However, with smaller holes, the preparation works very well, so in my opinion it is worth investing in it. It costs very little, about € 4. It is also small and light, so you can always carry it with you. You never know when you might need it. It’s available at the Decathlon store. Of course there are many similar products that should also work well.
In many forums for unicyclists a special Slime sealant is recommended. In contrast to the preparation described above, Slime is not used to repair a damaged inner tube. It’s used to protect it from the effects of puncture. This means that Slime is poured into empty inner tube, which is then inflated to its normal pressure. The liquid flows freely inside the tube and when it will get punctured, Slime is released through the hole sealing it.
The problem is that there are quite divided opinions. Some people are delighted and pour Slime into inner tubes of all their unicycles, bikes etc. Others notice that this has an adverse effect on the behavior of the wheel and, as a result, give up this solution. I do not have the opinion yet, but I want to test Slime in the spring. As I check it out on my own wheel, I will share my experience. Stay tuned!