DIY in-the-field flat repair

Discussion in 'The Garage' started by Straightedge, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. Straightedge

    Straightedge Skin Donor

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    I'm "working" on a little project here that is a Kawasaki ex500 with klr650 wheels, forks, etc., like some inmates here have done. It has been a long (over a year to get the title), thoughtful, and rewarding process and I've enjoyed all the mental/puzzle aspects of things going together where they were never designed to.
    Here's my dilemma. It's time to remove the existing non-DOT knobbies and replace them with dual-sport treads. In my years growing up I can't remember more than a couple flats on our dirt bikes. Every time I've tried replacing the tubes I can't remember ever being successful; ending up taking it to a shop. Now I'm back there again. I've humbled myself and watched how-to videos, read how-to articles and asked mechanics "how-to" remove and replace a tire. This is ridiculous! I'm an engineer-minded detail-guy who's hands feed his family and they're sore and worn out after a couple hours of tire-removal failure and insanity! I promise you i will not shed one more bead of sweat over this seemingly impossible grunt work and will give my mechanic money tomorrow. (Whine, whine...)
    Now the obvious secondary problem, and maybe more crucial, is I am still not learning what I need to know: how to make a field repair. And it bothers me. Much. I now have little or no confidence that I will be able to express my "wanderlust" on every gravel road, forest service trail, or deer path that interests me. I surely don't want to be stranded and I surely do want to ride this bike wherever, whenever.
    I need some advice here folks. And some affirmation!
    #1
  2. 3DChief

    3DChief "Moto therapist"

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    Two things about tire changes:

    1. The videos make it look simple because that tire has been off/on the rim repeatedly and hasn't sat on that rim for years and thousands of miles. They are not going to put up a how-to video where you watch them curse and fumble for hours with a stubborn tire!

    2. Changing a tire is all technique. If you can break the bead, that is the hardest part. As far as taking the tire off or putting it on, if it is hard, you are doing it wrong! The three main points are to have a little air in the tube to prevent pinching it, keeping the tire down in the well of the rim on the opposite side that you are working on, and taking small bites with the tire irons. Also, don't skimp on the lube or use stuff not designed as tire lube. Go buy a gallon of tire lube at Napa for $15 and it will last you for years.

    For changing/repairing a tire while out on a ride, I practice changing my tires at home with the tools I carry with me on the bike, even though I have a HF tire changer. I use another bike's kickstand to break the bead, plus a few blocks of 1x4 to put around the rim as I push the bead down until it finally breaks free. After that, it's a 5 minute evolution to take the old tire off, put the new tire on, install the tube, and inflate.

    The best thing you can do is watch someone in person change a tire. The videos are great, but you can't ask questions or see everything that is going on. Then practice it yourself with them helping you through the process. In your garage, you'll give up pretty easy, but 20 miles from the closest pavement and help will make you very persistent and inventive to get it done because walking sucks!

    :beer
    Tim
    #2
  3. Scott_PDX

    Scott_PDX Leisure Engineer

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    Practice, practice, practice. Being able to change a tire in the field is a very handy skill. Walking out sucks. Changing them at home is practice for changing them in the field. It's not rocket science, it just takes practice. The videos help, but nothing replaces practice...see a theme here?

    Some tips
    - When mounting the tire the opposite side of the bead MUST be in the groove in the middle of the rim. That extra 1/2" makes it much easier to spoon the bead over the rim.
    - Warm tires are easier to spoon on/off (Let it sit in the sun)
    - Some tires are easier than others. Stiffer sidewalls, slightly bigger rims are harder.
    - Get 3 spoons. I like the little Motion Pro steel ones that look like a spoon on the end. My favorite are the Motion Pro ones with the wrench in the opposite end. They are softer aluminium and won't scratch the rim. If you need a 2' long car tire spoon, you aren't doing it right (See top tip).
    - It does get easier with time, but is never "fast" in the field - at least for me.
    - Carry both a front and rear tube if possible. The front can be used in both in a pinch, but doesn't last long cause it's all folded up in there. If you use a front in the rear, end your ride and head back to the truck/home and change it out ASAP before you get stranded.
    - Get a cheapo DC Slime Pump and wire a batter connection for it (Batter Tender connection etc.) and find a place on the bike for it. You get too tired in the field spooning the sucker on - you don't want to have to manual pump also.

    Finally, FWIW, I still consider tire changes a home workout myself. It's simple, but not always "easy". I'd still rather do it myself though.
    #3
  4. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach Long timer

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    Wow great tips. This is one dilemma im not looking forward to on the road. I know it's only a matter or time though. My tires are about spent, maybe another 800 miles or so?, so im guessing it would be a good time to learn to put on the new ones as well? I've never had to deal with a flat or change a tire before. And as I say this im sure I'll get one Friday when I move and head back home to Bellingham from Chelan.
    #4
  5. trailer Rails

    trailer Rails Long timer

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    I remember changing my first tires, it was a royal PIA. Now that I have done 100 or so tires, it really is not too bad, I have a 30 gallon metal drum as a stand, a pair of long levers and WD40 in a squirt bottle. Make sure you at least have those 3 things and you will get it.
    #5
  6. sTE610vE

    sTE610vE Long timer

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    In addition to the tips above TIRE LUBE is an essential imo. I carry a small squeeze bottle with a flip top of Ru-Glyde tire lube but you can use other things like soapy water. I believe lube made for mounting tires is better but I have also heard of people using windex with success.
    After you get the bead back on the tire make sure you squeeze the tire away from the rim to make sure you don't have the tube caught under the bead. :thumb

    And i have the $10 slime pump but I don't carry it on the bike anymore after one failed after only a few uses, they are cheap for a reason. I carry the little more expensive slime atv/motorcycle pump kit that is about $30, I trust it to not leave me stranded, I also carry a very small 6 inch bicycle pump just in case.
    #6
  7. jon_l

    jon_l Long timer

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    http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=50717

    I am not an expert, but after reading every post of Neduro's thread, and buying some basic tools, I started changing my own tires and tubes last year. Have done 4 replacement tires and one tube only change so far. It isn't easy for me, but it isn't impossible.

    None performed in the field as yet, but I have the kit in case I need to.
    #7
  8. MrPulldown

    MrPulldown Long timer

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    Pinching a tube is no joke. Make sure you know where the tip of your tool is. I guide it in with my fingers to make sure I am not pinching anything.
    #8
  9. 3DChief

    3DChief "Moto therapist"

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    Here are some examples of the practice you get on the TAT, we had about 20 flats between the two bikes over 7,500 miles of riding last summer:

    Oklahoma, 110 degrees, construction staple, patch wouldn't hold, replaced tube:
    [​IMG]

    Arkansas, nail, 110 degrees, able to patch this tube, about 30 minutes total.

    [​IMG]

    Putting new tires on both bikes in the hotel parking lot, Arkansas. You can see my tire/tube repair kit next to the chair.

    [​IMG]

    North Carolina, 100+ degrees, had an audience of Harley riders who couldn't believe you could fix a tire without taking it to a shop, took about 20 minutes but would have been quicker without the audience asking questions!:lol3

    [​IMG]

    Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, nail, luckily right as we pulled into the campground, so I could get out of my riding gear and fix it at my leisure!

    [​IMG]

    As you can see, it's really not a big deal if you have the tools and know how to do it. It's also not all that uncommon if you get off the beaten path regularly. For our cross-country trip, we carried two 21" front tubes and one spare 17" and 18" rear tube. I usually patched the hole, replacing the tube was my last resort. One tube had 11 patches before it finally blew a seam and had to be replaced! I have a small repair kit in a tupperware type container that holds patches, spare valve stems, valve stem fishing tool, several small tubes of patch cement (they dry out), small bottle of tire mounting lube, and small bottle of baby powder for the tubes. In my tool tube, I carry 4 tire irons, a small Slime compressor, and also a small bicycle pump, plus rags to lay the parts out on.

    I was like you a few years ago and feared getting a flat or changing tires. But this is a crucial skill to learn if you plan on doing much ADV riding and is not as difficult or mystical as it seems. It's not hard to do, but it does take practice and technique. Learn now in the comfort of your garage, because in the beating sun with no shade in Oklahoma when it is 115 F and the closest town is 60 miles away is NOT the place to learn!:deal

    :beer
    Tim
    #9
  10. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach Long timer

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    Also, where can I find those nifty packs that Velcro onto the front fender?? I've seen many of them in photos... Does the pouch come empty and you supply the tools and goodies??
    #10
  11. 3DChief

    3DChief "Moto therapist"

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    Got mine at Rocky Mountain ATV.com, it came with two tire irons. The clips that hold it to the fender are not to be trusted! You'll lose your fender bag on the first ride. I used a bolt and a fender washer through the bag and fender with a nylock nut on the bottom side, has held up to 15K miles of rough riding. It will hold one tube, two technically, but it will rip out the seams in short order with two tubes in it. I carry the rest of my tools in a PVC tool tube and a small tail bag, but I can fix 99% of the stuff that can go wrong on the trail. Lots of zip ties, safety wire, hose clamps, and tools to fit every nut, bolt, and screw on the bike.

    :beer
    Tim
    #11
  12. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach Long timer

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    Thanks Tim. I was a boy scout for 6 months many moons ago and I learned to always be prepared. I'd rather have the goods and not need them then need them and not have them!

    Im learning a lot from you Master Jedis
    #12
  13. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

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    holy crap 3Dchief ... me thinks you've got fixing flats down! how did you get soooo many flats?
    #13
  14. 3DChief

    3DChief "Moto therapist"

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    Just lucky I guess! :lol3

    Nails, drywall screws, chunk of steel, construction staples, and one thorn! All the flats were rear tires, I've never had a flat front tire. Something about how the front tire stands the offending object up and the rear tire hits it just right.

    Not running low pressures, 20-22 psi on both bikes. Tires were in good shape with good tread and brand new for the trip. We changed to new tires (and tubes) way earlier than I normally would, but didn't want to risk ruining a once in a lifetime trip because of tires.

    Thousands of miles in places like Death Valley, Moab, lots of National Forests, and trails in Alaska, never had a flat tire. On the TAT it was almost a daily experience, sometimes several times in one day!:huh

    No regrets! It's all about the memories, and a trip isn't an AVENTURE until stuff goes wrong!

    :beer
    Tim
    #14
  15. FlyingFinn

    FlyingFinn Long timer

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    +1 on what Chief said.

    In addition to using right technique, the right tools make the job also that much easier.
    At home I nowadays use the plastic "Stubby" tire levers.
    They don't mar the wheels so there's never a need to mess with any sort of wheel savers. The machined end notch grabs the lip of the tire really well while being safer for the tube than a metal spoon.
    I change all my tires by hand with levers even at home just for the purpose of getting the practice. And I really like the Stubbies.

    [​IMG]

    Mikko
    #15
  16. Straightedge

    Straightedge Skin Donor

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    Thanks guys, great ideas, links, and encouragement. My wife asked why I worried about it (trail fixes) as I "probably won't be riding in the middle of nowhere". I know that one-lane country roads with no cell phone service is "in the middle if nowhere"! From the pics and stories above you never know what the next road or trail has in store.

    I did break down and pay the shop to change it out. His hydraulic machine made quick work of it. He did mention the bead on one side was pretty tight. As he and a couple other guys in the Cyclegear store talked one of them mentioned a big boy they know that breaks the bead without tools. Fish story? I don't know but they did appreciate my attempts (one guy rides a legal xr).

    The front tire will be done in-house. Or maybe out in the yard.
    #16
  17. Straightedge

    Straightedge Skin Donor

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    [​IMG][/url][/IMG]
    #17
  18. Straightedge

    Straightedge Skin Donor

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    [​IMG][/url][/IMG]
    #18
  19. AnnieGS

    AnnieGS Namasté, bitches!

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    better?


    hit 'quote' to see the IMG coding.

    It's been over seven years since I've paid for a tire change. It just takes practice.
    #19
  20. One Fat Roach

    One Fat Roach Long timer

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    So today was my first day back home. My friend calls me at 8am to go ride. We head out and at the trail head is his buddies house. His buddy and his son were loading up their KTMs in the trailer and one of the bikes had a flat. Right when we showed up he was in the beginning stages of changing the tube. The guy didn't use a tool to break the bead. He stomped on the tire with his heal several times and got it loose.

    I thought it was awesome how the last few days I've been reading about how to do this project and the first day im back home I get to see it done. The guy was VERY experienced and it still took him about 15 mins. Im sure it will take me at least an hour when the time comes :lol3
    #20