It sucks having a motorcycle tire punctured on the highway or a trail. A tire plug can get you back on the road long enough to get to a shop, but what type of plug works best? As YouTube channel FortNine found out, the old way is still one of the best ways.
While my Suzuki Burgman 650 is a reliable workhorse of a motorcycle, it certainly experienced a lot of tire problems.
One of my tires blew nowhere near civilization and outside of roadside assistance range. So I did the only thing I could: pull out the nail and used a rope plug tire repair kit to seal it up. I limped home just fine, but it made me wonder if there’s a better way.
It looks like Ryan from FortNine had the same curiosity too, and set out to see which method is the best to plug a motorcycle tire. Tire plugs have been around for over a century and there are many ways to do the same repair job. FortNine picked out four to test with a silly Valentine’s themed mockumentary:
The first plug is the rope plug most motorcyclists will be familiar with and fixing a tire with one is pretty easy. Coat the rope in sealant then stick it through the damage. Done!
The next one he tested is a mushroom plug. This device has a bit more pieces at play than a rope plug and requires more effort, too. You have to make a big hole, setup a probe and a plugger device, then set the mushroom plug using a hex key. It’s a lot of work and parts just for a roadside repair.
The third plug is an amazingly fast spear plug. The speed is unmatched as all you have to do is load the plug into the spear, insert it through the damage then pull it out. There, you’re done.
For the last one, there’s an internal patch. Of course, you have to remove your wheel from your motorcycle then dismount the tire from the wheel, so this isn’t a trailside repair. But unlike the other methods, this one gives you redundancy. You have the stem making the seal in the tread and the patch making another seal.
To test how strong each fix is, FortNine uses a push-gauge until the repair fails. While not the most scientific, it can represent hitting a sharp rock directly on the repaired area. The internal patch took a whopping 103 pounds before failure, while the spear plug only held out to 27.5 pounds and the rope plug held on for 28 pounds. The mushroom plug survived the least amount of pressure at only 18 pounds.
I found it interesting that after the rope plug initially failed it actually resealed itself. I don’t think the takeaway here is that any particular plug is terrible, but that the cheap rope plug method used for decades still performs admirably. Our David Tracy used a plug on his Jeep and I’m no stranger to the plugs as well.
For a full disclaimer inspired from Tracy’s adventure: Conducting repairs to sidewall damage is dangerous. The preferred method is to use an internal patch or buy a new tire. You get redundancy and get to tell if there is sidewall damage. The external plug methods shown by FortNine are generally considered a temporary fix.