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plugging a flat tubeless tire

what you'll need:
Time needed: a half-hour or so, but assume longer if you're on the side of the road somewhere in the pouring rain.

Flat tires are one of those things that happen when you least expect it. I was lucky; my tire decided to go flat in my own garage.

Please note that this particular procedure is done on a tubeless tire. If your motorcycle has tube tires, the procedure will be different. Don't go ramming pointy things into a tubed tire. See the tubed tire procedure here.

The kit used here contains many tools for both tubed and tubeless tires. For tubeless tires, you'll need the strips of plug compound, rubber cement, reamer, and needle-like tool. If done correctly, the plug should hold air in your tire until you can get to a shop for a new tire. This is an emergency -- and therefore temporary -- plug.

If possible, put the bike up on a stand so that you can spin the punctured tire. If you're on the side of some highway somewhere with a punctured front tire, you may be a little SOL. Then you'll just have to add insult to injury and push the bike around.

OK, let's state the obvious: you need to locate the puncture. If it's not readily apparant, smear some soapy water around the tire and look for little bubbles. I've circled my puncture with chalk here so that it's painfully obvious.

Once you've found the puncture, you'll need to enlarge it. If you have an emotional attachment to your bike, this part is a little unnerving. You don't normally want to stab pointy things at your motorcycle bits, and it doesn't help that the tool is called a "reamer". But ream you must, until the puncture hole is large enough to accept the needle tool. Unless you want to be there all night, you really have to get into the reaming. Push and pull and twist and really attack the tire. Yes, it's very unnerving. Try not to think about it too much.

Now you have a nice, um, reamed hole. Pull off a strip of the plugging compound and thread it through the eye of the needle tool. Smear rubber cement along the strip on both sides. Cover the end of the needle tool, too, for good measure. You'll want to do this step a little quickly, or you'll drip cement on yourself and everything else.

Once you've got a big drippy mess of cement, shove the needle tool into the tire puncture. Push it all the way in to the handle of the needle tool. Give it a twist and pull it out slowly, until about a half-inch of plugging compound sticks out of the tire.

Cut the strip of compound and remove the needle tool. Trim the remaining compound down so that about a quarter-inch remains sticking out from the tire.

Spin the tire so that the puncture is facing down to the floor. This'll make any cement puddle up around the puncture hole and will help to seal it. Let the cement harden before riding on it. I let my tire sit overnight, but obviously, that won't be practical if you're on the side of the road somewhere; use your best judgment.

If your tire lost all of its air, you'll need to inflate it before trying to ride. My tire kit came with CO2 cartridges, but I didn't use them as my flat happened about 2.5 feet from my air compressor. If you do need to use the CO2 cartridges, the Stop & Go tire repair kit includes instructions on using them to fill your tire. I used the air compressor to inflate the tire to its recommended 36psi; two days later, the tire pressure still read 36psi. I didn't check the tire again after getting to the shop, but it didn't seem wobbly at all on the ride over.

When you do ride on the tire, be careful. Remember: it's a temporary plug that's only meant to get you to a shop for a new tire. I have no data on what speeds or distances are reasonable. I personally rode for 4.5 uneventful miles, with a top speed of 50mph, on the pictured plug.