Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
When trying to enjoy our favorite pastime, Murphy’s Law comes into play …and there are many problems that can rear their ugly head, and none are more unwelcome than the dreaded flat tire. Not only can tire problems end your day of riding quickly, but changing tires and tubes is among the most frustrating (and time-consuming) tasks we can think of.
In the ISDE racing, riders must observe strict rules and time allowances for changing tires and do them with no outside assistance. Watching the ISDE racers change tires proves that practice makes perfect and there’s both a correct and efficient way to do it.
In this article, we’ll look at ways to avoid flat tires via good preparation and a few products that you can use to save your day when the dreaded flat tire demon strikes.
Number 1: CHECK YOUR TIRE PRESSURE
One of the biggest causes of flat tires is under and over-inflation. When tires are under-inflated, the tire, rim and especially the tube become much more vulnerable and the resulting tube movement can cause valve stem damage, causing a flat.
Over-inflated tires can lead to an increased load on sidewalls, more exposed surface area as well as contributing to shorter tire and tube life in general. Neither situation is optimal and not only lead to flat tires, but also unsafe handling characteristics.
Checking tire pressures should be performed prior to every ride without fail...this is easy to forget but important. Always use a low pressure gauge as outlined later in this article. Tires that show problems in your garage certainly aren’t going to get any better after you load them in the truck.
What tire pressures should you run? No single answer to this question, but you can find tons of discussion this HERE.
Motion Pro Professional Low Pressure Tire Gauge
Number 2: INSTALL TUBES WITH CARE AND PATIENCE
Many times when the dreaded flat demon strikes when you are within distance of your truck or trailer, the opportunity to fix it presents itself.
Relax…Breathe. I’ve seen many riders and racers rush through the tire changing procedure only to find out they’ve punctured the tube during the process and ruin the only spare they’ve brought.
A few tips: make sure the surfaces are clean and free of dirt, inflate the tube slightly before insertion, check for debris around valve stem, make sure surfaces have baby powder applied, be extra careful around the rim lock/stem and most of all, take your time. We’ve also found that the factory supplied rim strap is fairly ineffective so we also use a thin strip of duct tape on the rim surface cut precisely to fit in the rim groove against the spokes.
The most important thing is to treat the tube with care and be patient when installing it, because once you’re even slightly nicked the tube, you’ll have to start all over again.
Treat these with care!
Number 3: DON’T IGNORE THOSE PESKY RIM LOCKS
Rim locks and bead locks are strange little items that only off-road motorcyclists know about…because street bikes and scooters don’t have them. Even though they’re a pain in the butt, rim locks serve a very important purpose…to keep the tire from spinning on the rim under acceleration and preventing the tire from coming off if the tube is flat.
When rim locks fail to stay in place, they allow both the tire and tube to spin. This places the valve stem in great jeopardy and a few inches of movement will actually shear the valve stem right off the tube, resulting in a catastrophic failure and a non-repairable tube.
There are better alternatives to the cheap factory supplied rim lock setup such as the LiteLock from Motion Pro - a lightweight plastic rim lock that features a one piece molded design made from special high-strength nylon composite and a beveled washer that are 10 to 20 percent stronger than cast aluminum rim locks and only half the weight.
Motion Pro LiteLoc Rim Locks
Number 4: DON’T USE A CHEAP OR WRONG SIZED TUBE
As our sport isn’t cheap, sometimes a bit of penny pinching can occur in the wrong place…like buying tubes.
If you walk into your local motorcycle dealer and ask for a common 110/90x19 tube, you may have a myriad of products presented…everything from the standard $18.99 BikeMaster unit to the $44 ultra heavy duty MSR alternative. We’ve used both types and found the MSR heavy duty tubes to be very resistant to punctures and are worth every penny.
Standard tubes are also made with street bikes and overall cost in mind and are very thin, while most of the heavy duty options such as MSR, Bridgestone, Dunlop, etc. are usually 2.5mm or thicker so look for this measurement as your benchmark when buying heavy duty tubes. Look for a box marked similar to this one:
Look for the words "Heavy Duty" and "Puncture Resistant" on the box.
Number 5: GET THE RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
Changing off-road tires is difficult and you can use all the help I can get. There are many products that address this problem and can make this job a lot easier. Here are some of my favorites:
Motorsport Products Tire Changer with Bead Breaker: Forget the old 5 gallon bucket…this portable tire changing stand provides a compact answer to both holding the tire and has an integral bead breaker to help with the hardest part of the job.
Motion Pro T-6 Combo Lever Set: This tire iron set has everything you need, like compact size, a 32mm hex on the lever end, and on the other a combination 10/12mm for rim lock nuts and a 27/22mm adapter included in the kit to tighten and loosen 22 and 27mm axle nuts, in addition to the 32mm size.
Motion Pro Professional Tire Pressure Gauge: When filling tires it’s easy to be off by a few pounds and this is crucial to get correct. I used to use a cheap low pressure gauge but now I use this low pressure gauge. With low accurate low pressure reading and a handy bleeder valve, I feel there is no better tool for this job.
Motorsport Products Tire Changer with Bead Breaker
NUMBER 6: BRING YOUR SPARES
Our crew always brings tons of fuel, food, brap mix, spark plugs and assorted sundries, but no one seems to have the right sized tube when we need it. It’s up to you to be like a Boy Scout and “Be Prepared” when it comes to tire repairs.
Changing tires while at the track or favorite riding area certainly isn’t as easy as it is in the garage and may take even more time and patience, but once it’s done the fun can resume.
So don’t forget to pack all the tools listed above and also a manual tire pump, duct tape, baby powder, soapy water in a spray bottle, gloves to avoid the scraped knuckles and a good friend to help you.
Bring all your tire gear and even your manual...It may prove invaluable.
Number 7: AVOIDING THIS PROBLEM UP FRONT
One of the ways to avoid repairing flat tires is to prevent them from occurring in the first place and in terms of technology, the standard tire/tube/rim lock setup is growing old quickly…alternatives are available.
One such alternative to the heavy-duty tube is to replace it with a tire mousse designed for Michelin off-road tires, as Michelin is the inventor of the “Bib-Mousse” product. A bib mousse is a foam insert that fills the tire cavity with a semi-solid object (molded foam) that is not susceptible to punctures in any way.
Bib-mousse inserts are a sure way to avoid flat tires, but they come with a hefty price tag (around $125) and are notoriously difficult to install, but offer the ultimate in off-road protection against the dreaded flat tire demon.
Another very innovative tire technology that has gained popularity is the TUbliss tire system. TUbliss states “TUbliss replaces conventional inner tubes with a small red 100 psi insert that creates two different pressure zones inside the tire itself. This enables an incredible 100 PSI of rim protection, increased tire stability and eliminates pinch flats. In turn, this allows you to run very low tire pressure for massive gains in traction and a much plusher ride.” Although a bit complicated to understand and install at first, many riders we spoke to highly recommend it.
TUbliss Cutaway Diagram
In conclusion, getting flat tires is a part of off-road riding, are hard to prevent and can ruin a whole day of riding or racing before it even begins. Being prepared in advance can dramatically reduce the risk of flat tires, but no amount of prep can avoid them completely…so be ready for them!
If you utilize the tools and techniques outlined above, you’ll be able to cut down on the frequency of flat tires as well as being able to get back up and riding in the shortest possible timeframe.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
How are you minimizing flats? What are you super-secret, home-brew techniques? Please share them in the comments section below. We'd love to hear from you!