You’re enjoying a smooth ride down the street when suddenly your wheel jars. Your stomach drops into your boots as your tire starts going soft. Cars come with spare tires, but there’s no such luck on a bike. You have a choice: you can lean over your OEM motorcycle fairings and call for help or attempt to plug the hole. While even the best motorcycle tire repair kits are just a temporary repair, they do let you limp home. Here’s how to patch up your leak:
Double Check Your Tires
Make sure you’ve got tubeless tires, the only kind that plugs can patch. You’re essentially corking the outer shell of the rubber to prevent more air from leaking out. If your tire has a tube, you need to either replace or repair the tube itself.
Locate the Leak
If you ran over something such as a nail, it’s usually easy to find the hole. If not, then you may need to walk your bike back and forth to see the leak. Putting soapy water on the tread can also help you find the hole. The leaking air produces bubbles that should help you zero in on the problem.
Plugs work best on the hard, solid rubber and should only be used on the tire tread. If the hole is in the sidewall or the transition between the wall and the tread, it’s time to search for “motorcycle tires near me.”
Prepare Yourself for the Patch
This isn’t about preparing yourself mentally, although visualizing the steps could be helpful. Plugging the leak effectively is a function of moving quickly and efficiently. The less air escapes the tire, the less you have to replace. This is especially critical if you don’t have a portable air machine with you.
Arrange your tools in the order you need them: the pliers followed by the reamer followed by the insertion tool. You don’t want to be fumbling for the reamer while air hisses from your tire. Prep the insertion tool by pulling the plug about halfway through the eyelet and covering the plug’s surface with adhesive.
Plug the Hole
Use your pliers to remove the object then quickly push the reamer in and out. A few strokes from the reamer makes the hole the right size, cleans dirt off, and roughs up the material to better accept the plug.
The reamer also helps you judge the size of the leak. If it’s larger than about a quarter of an inch, the plug can’t effectively stop the leak. Push the insertion tool into the hole until half an inch of each end is sticking out. Jerk the tool out quickly to release the plug. Cut the protruding ends off until the plug is flush with the tread. Inflate the tire if necessary.
Buy a New Tire
Ok, this isn’t technically a step, but you need to do it. A plug is a temporary patch and shouldn’t be relied upon. Buy a repair kit and keep it on your motorcycle. But understand you should replace the tire soon after.