The days of pulling out your inner tube and applying a patch kit have come and gone. With a large majority of mountain bikers realizing the benefits of tubeless wheel and tire combos, a new version of the patch kit was needed. Obviously, tire sealant plays a role in sealing small cuts or punctures in your tire, but sealant alone often isn’t enough. Something more was needed. That something was inspired by the automotive industry. Tire plugs soon became the answer to quickly repairing mountain bike tires, and, over the past few years, we have seen a huge growth in companies offering their own versions of this product. So, with the popularity of tire plugs growing among cyclists, we decided to do the dirty work for you and show you how you can salvage your ride with one of these handy plug kits.
Nothing stops a ride faster than a flat tire. A tire plug can save the day.
TYPES OF PLUGS
There are a number of different styles of tire plugs out there, and while each have their own benefits, the function is basically the same. The main difference is size. Some plugs are made to be small and compact so you can store them in a pocket while riding. There are even some tire plug kits designed to be hidden away in your handlebar. Others look more like a screwdriver with a large handle to provide better leverage and control when inserting the plug. The plugs, sometimes referred to as bacon strips, are nearly identical; however, there can be some subtle differences. For one, some bacon strips may require you to add adhesive, while others are ready to be installed right away. Although there are variations in the types of plug kits out there, the following instructions will typically be applicable.
HOW TO USE A TIRE PLUG
Once you’ve noticed your tire is punctured, it’s time to act fast. Start by locating the hole or holes in your tire. This step can be made easier if you keep an eye out for tire sealant, which should already be trying to seal the puncture. A plug is likely needed if sealant alone isn’t doing the job.
Once you’ve located the hole, determine whether or not a tire plug will fix it. Be realistic here. A large slash in your tire will be almost impossible to plug; however, a round hole can be plugged fairly easily. Start by loading a bacon strip on your tool, folding the plug in half and holding the middle of the bacon strip with the tool.
Insert the tool with the bacon strip loaded directly into your tire. A bit of force might be needed, but be careful not to push too far. The bacon strip shouldn’t be pressed all the way into the tire. Normally, the strip will slightly protrude from your tire. Carefully remove the tool and rotate the tire so what’s left of your tire sealant can work with the plug to help seal the hole.
Begin pumping up your tire with a hand pump or CO2. In this situation, a hand pump is ideal, since CO2 can freeze your tire sealant, rendering it useless; however, in a pinch, you have to do what you have to do. If the puncture is still leaking, you can try inserting an additional plug. We’ve heard stories of riders using four or five bacon strips to seal one tire. Small punctures, however, can be sealed with just one or two bacon strips. Once the hole is sealed, return the tire pressure to your desired psi. Continue to check pressure throughout your ride to ensure the puncture is fully sealed.
TIME TO SHRED
Once you’ve completed step four and have determined that your tire is no longer leaking, go out and shred. A tire plug installed properly can even be ridden day after day and sometimes will even last the entire life of the tire. Keep in mind the integrity of your tire can be compromised, so it’s best to replace the tire sooner rather than later; however, riders on a tight budget might be able to get by with the plug in their tire. The best part about these plug kits is that the tool can be used repeatedly, and a pack of replacement plugs can be purchased for under $10. It’s still a smart idea to carry a tube in your pack for worst-case scenarios; however, the tire plug is a viable option for riders looking to quickly repair a puncture during a mid-ride inconvenience.
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