Are you gearing up for a road trip down some of the best motorcycle roads in the United States? If so, then how prepared are you in the event that you experience some difficulties?
And by difficulties, we don’t mean traffic congestion. We mean breakdowns. Like how you’d have to stop in the middle of nowhere to fix a flat motorcycle tire.
Here’s something to put things in perspective:
In 2015, 32 million drivers had to call the American Automobile Association (AAA) for help because they found themselves with a broken-down vehicle. And with millions of registered motorcycles in the country, it’s easy to see that many of these rescued drivers are motorcyclists.
All these said, it’s best you know how to fix a flat motorcycle tire before heading out on your next adventure. And to make things easier for you, we’ve come up with these must-know tips.
Prevent a Flat Tire Before It Actually Happens
The proverb “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” definitely applies to motorcycles. After all, you don’t want to find yourself stranded in the first place, right?
As such, before going out on that road trip or attending a massive motorcycle event, you want to ensure you prep your bike for the many miles ahead of you. Even if your ride sports the best tires, if you don’t look after your tires or you haven’t prepared it for the long ride, you’ll have much higher risks of getting a flat. Or worse, a blown-out tire.
The first thing to check on your tires is air pressure. The right pressure level depends on many factors, but a great place to start is the recommendation provide by the manufacturer. You’ll find this information on the tire or bike itself, as well as the user’s manual.
Since you’re taking your bike out for a long ride, you may want to increase the PSI a few notches above the recommended limit. This will give you a harder-riding tire more suitable for long distances. It’s also a good idea if someone’s riding with you.
A few other tire prep tips to keep in mind:
- Check the tread and make sure they meet both state and federal regulations (ranging from 1/32 to 2/32 tread depth)
- Replace tires that have too much damage, such as dry rot or cracked sidewalls
Also, make sure you factor in the age of your tires. Again, this depends on how you ride your bike, but as a good rule of thumb, replace the front tire after 3,700 miles or so. For the rear, a good formula to follow is to replace it after 1,800 miles.
Must-Dos When You Get a Flat While on the Road
Flat motorcycle tires happen to the best of us. Even to riders who take extreme care of their bikes. This doesn’t make prepping your ride before long distances any less important, but it does highlight the importance of knowing how to resolve that flat tire on a motorcycle.
One thing to keep in mind: It’s dangerous to keep riding on a flat or a blowout, especially when it comes to motorcycles. This almost always leads to accidents.
Ease Off the Throttle
This doesn’t mean that you should just suddenly slam on the brakes either. You need to slow down first. As soon as you realize you’ve gotten a flat, steadily but gradually slow down.
Keep it Straight
As much as possible, keep your bike straight. Don’t attempt to resolve the wobbling. Instead, maintain a tight grip on your handlebars as you ease off the throttle.
Once you’ve maneuvered your bike closer to the side of the road, bring the engine to a complete stop. And don’t go any further without having your tire patched up and ready to go again.
How to Fix a Flat Motorcycle Tire: Plug It Up
Once you’ve made your way to the side of the road where it’s safe, your first option on repairing a flat is to plug up the puncture. But which plug should you have? You have two primary options when it comes to external tire plugs.
First, you have the mushroom kind. In theory, this plug works by making the air pressure inside the tire work against the plug’s head. The “stalk” then goes into the hole as the plug. This creates a form of interior seal for the puncture.
Then you have the wick plug. At its core, it’s a piece of rope twisted and soaked in resinous glue. You just stuff this into the puncture, plugging the hole. The adhesive then secures it in place and seals remaining leaks.
Both work great for motorcycle tire punctures. Keep in mind though, that the latter needs fewer tools. On the other hand, mushroom-type plugs are better for most beginners, since you’ll find them easier to install.
Now that you’ve got the basics of plugs down, here’s a step by step guide on how to install them:
1. Look For the Puncture Location
For the most part, this is easy, since you’ll most likely find a foreign object – like a nail – poking through the tire. If not, then use any water-soluble liquid material and douse the tire with it. Bubbles will appear on the punctured area.
2. X Marks the Spot
It’s best you mark the puncture area so that you won’t have to repeat step 1. If you’ve a chalk or crayon, either works well.
Clean the hole and open it up. Take your time in doing this, because you don’t want the tire’s steel cords to saw the plug through and through.
3. Put the Plug In
Take out and prep the plug you’ve brought with you. Make sure you follow the instructions of the manufacturer, since the two plug types have varying installation directions.
To start this step, first put the probe into the puncture, wedging it open. Continue doing this until you’ve made sure the insertion nozzle reaches the tread. Once it does, you can then proceed to threading the installation tool onto the insertion nozzle.
From here, follow the installation directions of the plug. Once done, remove the installation tool and give the plug a thorough examination. Lightly tug on the plug to ensure it’s seated securely and all the way inside the tire.
4. Check the Tire Pressure
To make sure you’ve installed the plug properly, check the air pressure right after. Then, check it again after a few minutes. If the pressure level remains the same, it means you’ve done things right.
5. Head to the Nearest Repair Shop
Just because you’ve fixed your flat tire doesn’t mean are ready to push through with your long-distance riding. You don’t want any other accidents, so it’s best you bring your motorcycle to the nearest shop down the road.
This way, professionals can give it a more thorough inspection. From here, they can determine whether a more permanent repair is necessary or if you already need to have the tire replaced altogether.
DIY Fix with a Repair Kit
Always remember that a repair kit is essential when it comes to motorcycling. You never know when a nail or any other sharp object can puncture your tires, so it’s best to come prepared. And, seeing that you’ll ride across many miles – many of which on lonely roads – it’s dangerous to think that someone will immediately come to your rescue when you get a flat.
So, it pays to know how to fix a flat motorcycle tire on your own. And this means having a repair kit with you at all times.
The good thing about these supplies is that most of them are quite easy to use. And they’re not that heavy, which means you can simply stow them under the seat or pack them with your other gear.
The same goes true for a bottle of compressed air. You’ll find these available in small containers. They may be small, but they can help you get through a few more miles (perhaps to the nearest repair shop) when you have a slow leak on one of your tires.
Again, you can’t repair all tire damages, especially if the tires themselves were already in a compromised state when you started the ride. But, it’s always a good idea to try and plug up punctured tires when you have limited options. Especially when you get the flat hundreds of miles from the nearest service station.
Ever Gotten a Flat While Riding?
Have you ever been out on a ride and gotten a flat tire? Maybe you were in a rural area or the middle of nowhere. Let us know in the comments what happened, what you did to handle the situation, and how you got your bike fixed and back on the road.