How To Patch a Tubeless Motorcycle Tire

How To -

By

How To Patch a Tubeless Motorcycle Tire

Flat tire in a car? You’re back on the road in fifteen minutes. Flat tire on a motorcycle? You need to have a plan. I used this generic string-type tubeless tire repair kit after noticing that my rear tire was losing a few psi per week. Here’s how you can too.

The kit consists of a rasp, a needle tool, five sticky strings, and some rubber cement. The only thing it’s missing is a pair of pliers to help remove the foreign object from the tire. It’s always a good idea to carry a good multitool too.

I pulled the 3 millimeter-thick nail out of the tire. Hiss! It took a great deal of force and twisting to get the 6 millimeter-thick rasp into the rapidly deflating tire. In fact, it felt like a very bad idea—if the repair didn’t work, the tire would be ruined and I’d have to call a tow truck.

After cleaning rubber particles from the enlarged hole with a glob of rubber cement and the needle tool, it was time to insert the repair string. The string is a sticky, 4” long rope about as thick as a pencil. It threads through the needle tool, which is forced into the tire until only one third of the string remains visible.

The needle tool is yanked straight out of the tire and the excess string is cut off nearly flush with the tire. The needle tool is split at the tip like a pinched fork, which allows it to be removed from the tire without pulling the string out as well.

After one month and 608 miles of two-up riding and highway speeds, the plug still looks great. The tire has lost about 1 psi. I’d have no issues riding on it until the tire wore out, and a quick look around on forums shows that many riders with plugged tires do just that.

I’ve heard that Germany doesn’t allow plugged tires. I’ve also heard that a repaired tire loses one speed-rating. That means this Z-Rated tire would become a V-Rated tire, with a top speed of 149 mph. That seems absurdly high. Safety also depends on the position of the patch, if the tire has steel belts, who does the work, and the way the tire is constructed. I advise against patching any tire without first contacting the manufacturer. If there is any doubt, replace the tire.

  • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

    *Knocking on wood*

    I’ve carried a string kit and related tools on my bikes for years, and haven’t had to put them to use on my own bike. Thanks for showing how it’s done.

    • http://www.facebook.com/electricbike Troy Rank

      +1 The one time I almost got to use my plug kit I had a half inch of sheet metal through the tire. Know when walk away from the tire too. I’ll still never leave home without it.

  • Rotten Ronnie

    Great pictures and write up. Don’t forget on a longer trip, you an pack a bicycle pump or five CO2 cartridges and a fill valve to reinflate the tire. There’s nothing worse than waking up in the hotel room or campsite with a flat.

  • Stephen

    Here in BC Canada sometimes you can be several hundred KM from a shop that will fix a motorcycle tire, lot’s of car shops won’t touch a bike tire and a deck truck is 350 bux to transport so a patch kit eases the mind and pocket book when your out for a day of riding.. Besides there is usually some other riders that are unprepared so if they get a flat you just fix-it and carry on, it’s concidered poor form to leave a girl stranded, if they make the efort to ride, then I’ll make the effort to ensure they get home safe.

  • joe handy

    I feel like the most important/least intuitive step was left out. I know the rope goes through the needle eye, and that it goes into the newly opened up hole in the tire, but beyond that I don’t know any details, and I feel there has to be some kinda technique to it.

    • nick2ny

      Howdy Joe,

      It is a weird step! I don’t have a great picture of the needle tool, so I’ll do my best do describe what happens in that step.

      1. The thick tar string threads through the needle tool.
      (editing the rest now)

    • worker88

      I was wondering the exact same thing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mattcmason13 Matt Mason

    DIY stories are great, keep em up!

  • Hooligan

    These work well for a temporary get you home fix. Then you can get a proper mushroom plug inserted which will restore the speed rating. Now it seems common for breakdown call out services to have a can of some type of slime to pump in. This is a bad idea because it means the tyre cannot be fixed easily with a mushroom plug. So in effect you are throwing away a good tyre. As a ultra temporary fix I have actually inserted a small wide self tapping screw into a nail hole. It does work. Recently there has been a lot of debate about car spare wheels or rather the lack of them and a aerosol of this gunk substituted.

    • Lawrences

      I just went and rummaged my Stop n Go plug kit out of the bottom of the side bag – it is a mushroom plug kit. I wouldn’t be afraid of plugging a clean puncture like a nail and finishing a road trip on my tubeless tire bike.

      • Hooligan

        So on the side of the road how do you remove the wheel, break the bead, scuff up the inside of the tyre at the puncture. Glue in the mushroom plug. put back the tyre on the rim, reinflate it and put it back on the bike? You must have a whole workshop in your toolkit.

        • Lawrences

          My mistake – I should have said the plugs in my kit are shaped like a mushroom. When your bike has tools and a center stand or a place to lay it down, yes it is possible to remove and repair a tire on the road. Equipment designed to be carried for this purpose is available.

          • Hooligan

            How many bikes have centre stands these days? Or a socket large enough to fit the rear spindle bolt. In the old days you would carry a set of tyre levers. But with tubeless tyres the bead is too strong to get off manually. And of course then the bikes were much less reliable so it was necesssary to carry a range of tools to fix any job on the side of the road. For me now, my toolkit is just a small adjustable spanner, a set of Allen keys, a Multitool and a good selection of various cable ties. I don’t bother with a plugging set because my insurance includes breakdown/recovery.

            • http://www.facebook.com/davidabl.blankenhorn Davidabl Blankenhorn

              I’d add some fuses to that kit a minimum. And some of that silicon tape that looks like electrical tape but which bonds to itself..

              • Hooligan

                Agree totally about the fuses. Or carry a bit of wire and some aliminium foil. In the old days you could scavange some of the foil thrown away from packets of cigaretes. Can’t find those these days.

        • http://www.facebook.com/brett.lewis3 Brett Lewis

          That kit supposedly does not require tire removal. Video: http://www.stopngo.com/template/videos/PocketPlugger-SmartPhone-corrected.3gp

          • BS

            I bought the stopngo kit and a Tomcat mini air compressor a few months ago to carry in my tail bag. I needed to use the kit and compressor today after removing a large steel staple from my rear tyre. No tyre removal required. The system is designed to insert a mushroom plug into the tyre without removing the tyre or wheel. As a way of getting you moving again in an emergency, I cannot recommend this setup enough. It is pretty easy and seems to work well.

        • RyYYZ

          Stop n Go plugs do not require tire removal, but they also aren’t the same thing as an internal plug-patch. The manufacturer states that they are only meant to be a temporary fix, though, and reports from people on forums I frequent who have used them bears this out – they have a tendency to shear off inside the tire or otherwise fall out after a while.

          The sticky strings plugs are really good and quite reliable, especially for fairly small clean holes like the one in the article. I never entirely trust them as a permanent repair, though I do have one in one of my car tires at the moment, with no particular plan to get it patched internally. I’ve used them a couple times on my bike’s rear tire, although the first tire I plugged got replaced shortly after, and the second tire I had plug-patched from the inside when I had the bike in to get a new front installed. The tire was almost new and I wanted the peace of mind of knowing that it had been repaired properly.

  • http://twitter.com/asorenson470 Austin Sorenson

    Thank you I will now keep a kit and a pump in my hard bags.

  • KevinB

    Carrying a tire repair kit is a great idea, especially if it has some CO2 canisters to re-inflate the tire, but I don’t know that I would trust it long term, especially if you ride with enthusiasm.

    Most of the tire manufacturers are going to tell you it’s not safe to patch a motorcycle tire.

    Unofficial response by a Dunlop rep: “When the tire is punctured, the carcus get exposed to air and contamination. That hole, even if plugged, now generates more heat, more flex and the layers now are trying to separate from each other. As the layers start to slightly separate they get more contamination between the layer and thus more heat and more separation. This gets worse and worse the faster you go and the more you use it. You will see separation and/or bubble and/or overheating from the hole outward. If you go slow (75 or less) this process does not happen.

    Big rider, on a big bike, that rides fast in the hot dessert, you would expect the same issues as with the track.

    Street tire (regular riding), go ahead and plug and ride.

    Racetrack, good tires without holes, no plugs. ”

    I’d plug it, ride to the shop, and spend $130 for a new tire so I don’t have to worry about it.

    • RyYYZ

      Even better than CO2 cartridges, which I’ve heard you can use quite a few of to reinflate a rear tire, is a small 12V compressor, if you have room to carry it. I have one which I replaced the cigarette lighter adapter it came with with an SAE trailer plug like my heated vest uses. Not very heavy or big, it rides in the tail section of my V-Strom. Not everyone has so much luggage room, though, I know. If you strip the plastic casing off of the average 12V compressor it is much smaller.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000059044724 Rick Smith

    That a good way for temp fix. Had that type of repair come out and if it was 30 seconds before I would have end up as road meat. I just exited the hwy and gone from 70 down to 30 MPH so I could ride it out. It s best tire repair till you can take the tire off and use a real patch inside tire to fix it. You can save an hour by not doing the car type patch on the inside and hope for the best or Risk what happened to me. A second quick look around on forum will also turn up the fact that what happened to me is also common issue. You re bike , your life and your risk.
    About the only thing I would add to the using the tools is real use the rasp tool real will in the hole . That way there something for the glue to bond with .

    • http://profiles.google.com/mugget mugget man

      A plug is completely fine as a permanent fix for road use. Problems arise when it is not installed correctly. Also you need to know what kind of puncture cannot be fixed by a plug.

      My local tyre shop repaired my rear tyre with a plug, no problems.

      If you’re not confident doing the repair yourself, best to let a professional take care of it.

      • Hooligan

        There is a difference between those little plugs in that kit and the
        ones that a tyre place will do a proper permanent repair to your tyre
        with. At least there is here in England dunno about America. I assume
        it’s the same.

      • Hooligan

        Sometimes it is best left to the proffessionals. Visting the puncture repair shops out in the countryside in Cuba is a eye opener I certainly would find it hard work operating a lever operated beadbraker. The vulcanising of the patch, (not a mushroom plug) is done by heated element wound down like a G clamp. Beyond my technical abilties.

        • Sergei Petrov

          I have a No-Mar machine and it’s pretty easy to use the lever beadbraker on it…

          • Hooligan

            Those Cuban beadbreakers were home made contraptions, a upright little T beam cemented into the floor. There was a large lever at the top – another piece of T beam. Connected to a rod with some bent sheet metal to push down the bead.

      • http://twitter.com/TheVeeTwin Damo Von Vinland

        Keep telling yourself that. A plug (rope type or otherwise) is anything but a permanent fix.

        The manufacturers themselves even state so and it is not just to avoid liability. I wont trust a tire plug at 100+mph and neither should anyone else.

        Punctures are wildly different and how far you ride a flat can put massive stress on the tire that the carcass wouldn’t normally see.

        Plug the tire to get home, then buy a new tire.

        • Mugget

          What road has a 100+mph speed limit?

          Of course you shouldn’t use a plugged tyre on a track, that’s just common sense…

          So, like I said – a plugged tyre is 100% fine as a permanent fix for road use. (And just to confirm, yes I’m talking about the “proper” plug repairs that a tyre shop would do.)

          • AHA

            Just had a plug put in at the roadside and subsequently bought the same kit (RIMA Sealstic – German). Both the recovery guy and the kit instructions mandate a 50mph max speed and a 400 mile limit for the plug life.

            • http://www.postpixel.com.au/ mugget man

              Read above. Now let me spell it out for you – string plugs and mushroom plugs are completely different! Correct, your string plug is a temporary fix, designed to get you to a tyre shop where you can get it plugged correctly (using a mushroom plug).

              A mushroom plug is a completely permanent fix for road use.

              • AHA

                I’m sure your probably right about the pro- shop version. Thinking about it, I’m just looking for an excuse to try out a new tyre model.

    • http://profiles.google.com/mugget mugget man

      Annnd I just realised that string plugs and mushroom plugs are completely different. Obviously I’m only talking about mushroom plugs as a permanent fix, but no one is going to do that on the side of the road…

      • http://www.facebook.com/brett.lewis3 Brett Lewis

        Apparently you can do mushroom plugs on the side of the road. I have one of these, but haven’t used it yet… http://www.stopngo.com/products/Pocket-Tire-Plugger-%252d-For-All-Tubeless-Tires.html

        • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

          I bought that kit after it was recommended by a friend. Had good luck with it until last year’s Laguna trip, when the mushroom just wouldn’t stay in the RSV4′s tire. Ended up fixing it with rope plugs, which held all the way back to LA. I think it’s as much about doing it right as what equipment you use.

        • Hooligan

          I wouldn’t trust those little plugs. No glue to hold it in place either. A bit complicated as well. Not as good as the string system as a get you home fix. And certainly not a permanent job – Well maybe fine for golf carts but on a bike? Nah.

        • http://twitter.com/racerglovesusa RacerGlovesUSA

          Stop n Go is the best emergency repair kit out there. Simple, quick and secure.

    • http://twitter.com/rockinjimmy24 Josh Voss

      What do you think made it come out? Were you riding faster than the tire speed rating? Or was it unavoidable?

  • Lawrences

    I carry a Stop n Go plug kit and so far it has prevented punctures…

  • http://www.facebook.com/darranrwilson Darran Wilson

    After being stranded at a truck stop with a bad valve core (replaced but no working air pump) I high recommend keeping a parasitic air pump. ie, a 2 foot length of airhose with with a locking chuck on each end. That way you can pull 5 psi from each of a car’s tires and both of you can make it to a real pump.

    • http://metabomber.com/ Jesse

      That’s brilliant.

  • Lemmy

    Not sure where you got the ‘drops one speed rating’. Some manufacturers allow a tire to retain its speed rating after a repair, but most realize since they cannot assess the damage or repair, the safe play is for the tire to lose its speed rating – and that’s a problem, because many modern bikes require speed-rated tires. I have yet to see a ‘drop one’ rating; but I am open to learning!

  • Davidabl2

    it is my understanding that on a tubeless tire the only “permanent’ patch is applied from the inside -so that tire pressure keeps it in place, and that patches placed on the outside try to exit by the way they came in;-) Tire repair or replacement (at either end of the bike!) and chain adjustments of course are made simpler by a stand instead of a side stand. I wonder if anyone has experience with these devices that Aerostitch markets to substitute for a center stand:

    http://www.aerostich.com/tools/maintenance-repairs/bikestands/lift-and-lube.html

    http://www.aerostich.com/tools/maintenance-repairs/bikestands/bike-krutch.html

    ..Of course Rideapart could contact ‘stitch for some free samples ;-)

    I have put together packable tire repair/reinflation kits for each of my bikes, and lack only a portable way to elevate one of the bikes that, unfortunately, runs tubed tires. Unfortunate because you pretty much have to dismount the tire to get at the tube :-(

  • Justin McClintock

    I’ve unfortunately had plenty of first hand experience with plug kits. They’re temporary and designed as a “get you home” measure. Nothing more. Most will state as much. I’ve tried to run one indefinitely on a tire, but as the tire wears it WILL upset the plug and will start leaking. Again, I know that from first hand experience. Just because I was young and stupid once doesn’t mean everybody else has to be young and stupid. Hopefully some can learn from others mistakes (mine) and be young and somewhat educated.

  • Carl Fenn

    The cost of tyres now has become so high a repair has to be first considerations, tyre fitters hate the goo type repair systems, probabaly the best way is to use a plug
    from the outside to get home than have the tyre removed and plugged from inside with a proper patch plug, many of my older bikes used to have tubes so these were
    easy to repair, but over the decades I have become used to tubeless punctures, where a repair is possible I always go for the plug patch from inside, I have never
    had one let me down, some tyre shops will not repair tyres now or fit part worn, probabaly bcause they want you to but new, but with some tyres costing 400 a pair
    this is not a cheap or always viable option, the pro plugs do work and cost about 20 pounds if you can find someone to do it, so it’s a big saving, and remember you
    can get a brand new tyre fiited and on the way home find you have another puncture this has been known on the odd freak occasion.

  • octodad

    only in emergency case. heard too many bad stories about plugged holes in tires. I have a job and can pay for a new one. better information would be how to accomplish on the road re-inflate until you get home to dismount bad guy.