The Dennis Kirk Blog
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There’s something freeing about being on a motorcycle and heading out into the middle of nowhere. But that free feeling can turn into a trapped one really quick when you’re stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a punctured tire. That feeling is multiplied tenfold if you have no way of fixing that flat tire. It’s at that point that you hope you have cell service and roadside assistance.
Being prepared with a tire plug/patch kit in your luggage will go a long way in giving you peace of mind. It goes a lot further if you actually know how to use it. You don’t want to be the guy who has the right tool yet still needs help to get the problem fixed, especially when it’s something as easy as plugging a tire.
The processes for tubed and non-tubed tires is different, but both tires can be made rideable again (at least enough to get you home). Plugging a non-tube tire is the easier of the two. Patching a tubed tire requires you to remove the wheel, popping the bead and pulling out the tube to fix it.
Plugging a Non-Tube Tire
So you’ve ran over a nail, screw, razor blade or heck even a rock and you’ve punctured the motorcycle tire. If the object is still in the rubber, your first step is to remove it. A pliers is a great tool to keep in your luggage and it will help you get a grip on the object. Try to remove the object the same way that it entered so that you do not make the puncture hole any larger or more jagged.
With the object removed, you now have to clean up the edges of the punctured hole. In your repair kit, you should have a rasp/reaming tool to do just that. You need to remove all of the debris and rough edges to create a good, tight seal against the plug.
Next, you will need to install the plug. Different kits use different styles of plugs, so for this step you should pay close attention to the kit’s directions. There are two main types; the long strips and the mushroom style. Some kits may even come with an adhesive to help bond the plug to the rubber of the tire.
The strip style of plug comes with an insertion tool. You will need to double up the plug by placing it half way in the tool. This will give you a tight fit. Insert the plug until there is about ½” sticking out of the tire. Then you will be able to pull and remove the tool. Take your cutting tool and snip the excess plug material to about ¼” of material.
The mushroom style plug (Stop & Go) requires you to use the special installation tool. The plug is seated by twisting it in the tool with an allen wrench. Again, follow the kit’s specific instructions. Then stretch it with a pliers. With it seated, you can then trim this style of plug flush with tire.
With the plug installed, you can then inflate the tire. For road side fixes, you will need to have either the 12 v compressor that can be hooked up to your bike’s electrical system or a CO2 filler. Carrying a compressor around isn’t always practical. A smaller, more portable option is to use the little CO2 cartridges combined with a nozzle to inflate the tire. This is a quick way to get your tired inflated on the side of the road.
If you can, spray some soapy water on the plug to see if it is holding. You will see tiny air bubbles around the plug if it is leaking.
Patching a Tubed Tire
Tubed tires are going to be a bit more labor intensive to patch roadside. If you are running tubed tires, you will need carry a few more tools. For most bikes, you will need to remove the wheel so that you can pop the bead on the tire to get at the tube. Check out your bike manual to learn how to do just that and to know what tools to pack in your luggage. Also, you don’t absolutely need a bead breaking tool, but it makes the job a lot easier and can help protect your wheel.
Once you have the tube removed, you will then have to deflate the tube until there is no longer any air. Next, you need to prep the tube for the patch. Your kit should’ve come with a “scrubber” to roughen the surface of the tube around the puncture hole. This will give the tube a surface for the patch to adhere to.
With the tube prepped, you can now apply the patch. Follow the directions of your kit. Some patches will come with glue, while others have their own adhesive. Place the patch on the tube and firmly rub from the center to the edge of the patch to create a tight seal with no air bubbles.
Now that the tube is patched, check the tire to make sure that you have removed whatever created the puncture. Then you can reinstall the tube and the tire. Then, inflate it back to riding pressure. Check for leaks if you can.
Riding on a Plugged/Patched Tire
So now that you have your tire all fixed up, the best case scenario would be for you to ride straight to a tire professional. There, they will be able to patch the tire much more efficiently and make it far safer to ride on.
Of course, you don’t always have that luxury, whether you’re cramped for time or for money. In some cases, a well plugged tire can last the rest of its tread life, but if the plug was not done well, it may not last even 100 miles. That is why it’s important to have a professional double-check your work. You don’t want to carry that worry in the back of your mind on every ride thereafter.
For a tubed tire, it’d be a good idea to just replace it. In many rider’s opinion, the peace of mind that you get with a new tube far outweighs its small cost.
Tire repair kits are small and easy to use. Every rider should have one in their luggage to get back on the road faster.
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