Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fix A Flat

This diary entry is for me. A milestone in my many years of riding. I finally got a flat and fixed it at home using one of those plug kits that I've heard so much about and that I carry on my Vespas. The only requirement is that the tire not have an inner tube, as my late lamented Bonneville did, the motorcycle that got wrecked by Hurricane Irma.
I checked the tire pressure on both Vespas Wednesday and they were fine. Yesterday afternoon I moved the bikes to wash them. I spray them with S100 and rinse it off and they get a very satisfying shiny look with no elbow grease at all.  Except this time I felt the back end of the orange Vespa wobbling all over the place. I knew what that meant and sure enough I found a piece of metal in the tire. When I pulled it out I could hear air hissing, the last of the forty one pounds pressure leaking away...
So here I was finally face to face with that idea that I could"fix a flat" by the side of the road if necessary.  I pulled the kit out from under the seat and faced my demons. The instructions were brilliantly clear with little color photos to explain each step and a complete bag of tools to do the job. How hard could this be? Yet I still had the niggling feeling at the back of my mind that somehow I would fail, like stopping a  dripping faucet, a job I can never quite accomplish. 
It's a pretty slick package sold for about fifty bucks as I recall by the ever helpful Aerostich company out of Minnesota, the giant motorcycle gear shipping store. They test the products they sell and this one was brilliant because it seems to work.
Rusty was keeping guard for me. Or something. He likes sitting in the driveway watching the world go by.
The plug gets inserted after you ream out the hole and to get it in you use these screwed together tools. It's actually very slick and relatively easy. The Allen tool twists the inner core which pushes the rubber mushroom into the hole through the insertion tool pressed into the tire's surface (below). The mushroom expands inside the tire and presses back against the inner surface sealing the hole. It took me two goes to get it right but there are lots of little mushrooms in the bag. They say you should only use mushroom plugs that have lubrication on them. So the first failed attempt I threw away.
Once the plug is screwed into the hole you retrieve the insertion plug and leave the rubber stem sticking out of what was the hole.
 And there is the stem sticking out of the hole on my second attempt. If I were roadside I'd then use a couple of CO2 cartridges that also come with the kit to re-inflate the tire.  As it was I was at home so I used my handy dandy (Aerostich) pump to get the tire to full pressure. I used the supplied blade to cut the stem off AFTER inflation and that was that.
 A quick test ride up Highway One with a check for leaks using the sputum on the finger method and all seemed well. The little soft rubber mushroom plug looks like this. Terribly phallic I know but it actually seems to work. Amazing.
Whether or not you can treat a plug as a permanent repair is a subject for debate and you can figure out how that goes. From my perspective the hole was small and in the right place (not the wall of the tire) and I have only a thousand or maybe  a little more miles left on the rear tire so if the plug holds, (and why won't it?) I shall ride on it. The good thing about tubeless tires is they usually leak slowly when they get a puncture. I am still quite amazed this half hour operation worked as well as it did. And now I know what I'm doing it is quite the confidence booster.