Repair a Flat Tire While Touring

Have you ever had a flat tire while touring on your motorcycle? Should it happen, I’d prefer finding a tire flat when I came outside in the morning, as opposed to getting a flat while riding. That said, I have seen riders fall after simply jumping on their motorcycles in the morning and taking off. That first corner or stop sign is not where you want to find out that your front tire is flat, so it’s smart to check your motorcycle over each morning, and after each fuel or food stop. I pointed out a flat on a buddy’s motorcycle one morning, but he didn’t appreciate my humor when I informed him of the good news. ‘It’s only flat on the bottom,’ I said. He had the last laugh, though; he didn’t know where the air went in or how to keep it there, so I ended up fixing the flat.

If you’ve never experienced a flat tire while riding, it can feel like the wheels wants to wash out. If the tire’s low, steering will feel heavy, and if it’s flat, it will wobble and return a mushy response to steering inputs. Should you experience a flat on pavement, it’s best to slow down, carefully using the brake on the good tire, and stay on the pavement and continue decelerating carefully. Don’t move onto a soft shoulder at speed and then try to brake or you may end up with more than just a flat tire. Try to move as far off the road as possible so you can safely work on the motorcycle. Turn four-way flashers on if you have them, or leave the lights on if it’s dark.

I always carry the tools and parts I need to perform basic roadside repairs, but for more complicated repairs I always try to contact a repair shop in the nearest town or village.

If you don’t know how to fix a flat tire, then hopefully someone you are traveling with does. I was surprised recently by the low number of hands that went up when I asked riders a recent motorcycle meeting who could fix a flat tire.

If you are an adventure bike rider, then you’re likely to encounter flat tires when traveling off-road. Hitting a rock at just the right angle can pinch an inner tube or cut the sidewall of a tubeless tire. It’s easier and quicker to plug a small hole in a tubeless tire tan it is to replace or patch a tube. I carry tubes, a tubeless repair kit, a tire pump and the required tools to remove a wheel and tire with me. I must have fixed more than a hundred flat tires over the years, but this year, I learned something new while on a road trip.

On a rocky path, which would even be a challenge for a motocross bike and rider, I met two riders who both had a Kawasaki Versys 650. I warned them to ride slowly, since jagged rocks were known to cause lots of flats. One of the riders charged ahead anyway, and sure enough, it wasn’t long before a sharp rock cut a large hole into the sidewall of his front tire. I suggested we rip the valve stem off his tubeless wheel and simply put a tube into the tire. Unfortunately, the tube bulged out of the big rip in the sidewall. Luckily we found a old car tire, which was converted to a garbage bin and we cut a patch out of it, which we then duct-taped to the inside of the tire before putting the tube in. The inflated tube held the patch perfectly until we could get to civilization and get the tire fixed.

A flat tire is probably the most common type of failure when touring, but other things can go wrong, too. I always make sure my motorcycle has had a good going over and tune-up before a tour. It’s better for your regular mechanic to find any issues with your motorcycle before you leave than having an unfamiliar mechanic who maybe doesn’t know your motorcycle or brand; this may not be the most economical solution.

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