MotoMojo: What to Do When a Tire Goes Flat

Nov 12, 2014 View Comments by

Tips for how to change a flat tire while on the road

Eventually, almost every motorcyclist finds themself in that unpleasant situation with a flat tire. Therefore, it’s important to know what to do and what to carry for such an event.

As long as you understand that there is some risk involved, you can perform emergency repairs that should get you to a place where permanent repairs can be made. Park in a safe location and place the bike on the centerstand (if equipped). Inspect the tire and look for the cause of the leak; it’s usually a nail or screw in the tread area. If the sidewall or wheel is damaged, call a tow truck.

I’ve found that liquid tire sealants seldom work effectively, and they also make a mess of the tire and rim. Some tire manufacturers say that they shouldn’t be used to repair a motorcycle tire, and add that liquid sealants may adversely affect ply material, mask secondary damage, or change tire balance and handling.

If you or your riding companions don’t have any tire repair skills or equipment and you have a flat, it may be time to call for help. Highway call boxes can be used to arrange for a towing service. Or you could use a cell phone or pay phone to call for assistance from a friend or commercial repair service. I carry a list of motorcycle towing specialists in my area.

Tubeless Tire Repairs
Tubeless tires (which are used on many solid rims and some special spoked ones, such as on certain BMWs) are easier to make emergency repairs on, because the tire doesn’t need to be removed from the rim. Carefully extract the impaled object, noting the angle of entry, and mark the location. Work the reaming tool in and out. Prepare the plug on the insertion tool and coat it with tire cement. Insert the plug per the directions. If it’s a string type, push it all the way in and then pull it out about one half inch. Then cut it off flush with the tread and inflate the tire (read following procedure).

Tube-Type Tires
Tube-type tire repairs require that the tube be removed for patching or (preferably) replacement. Note the location of the impaled object in relation to the valve stem and remove it carefully. Unscrew the valve stem core to completely deflate the tire and remove the nut on the stem.

Remove the wheel from the motorcycle and, working on a grass surface (to protect the rim); try to pop the bead loose. If you don’t have a portable bead breaker, you can improvise by pressing down with a sidestand or step on the inside edges of the tire with your boot heels. With the bead popped, start to pry one side of the tire over the rim. Protect the rim, either with plastic rim strips or wrap tape around the tire levers and apply some water as a lubricant.

Before you can get the tire bead over the rim, the opposite side of the bead from where you’re working must be pushed into the rim’s center. While using a tire lever on the rim, push down with your foot on the tire opposite the tire lever. Pry the tire over the rim, working your way around hand over hand until this bead pops off the rim, but don’t go too deep and pinch the tube.

Pull the inner tube out of the tire and patch or replace it. Replace patched tubes as soon as possible. Insert the valve stem into its hole in the rim and thread the stem nut on loosely. Inflate the tube enough to give it shape, and then deflate. Begin slipping the tire back onto the rim, holding the edge down with a tire lever and working around with the other. Protect the rim, lubricate bead surfaces, and avoid pinching the tube. Reinstall the tire and the wheel on the motorcycle.

Wear eye protection and stand back with no part of your body near the perimeter of the tire and rim. With tubes, inflate slowly at first to allow the tube to seat. Then inflate the tire until you hear the pop of the bead seating on the rim. Keep hands clear of bead area, as they can be severely pinched when the beads pop. Check for even bead seating; if the beads do not seat evenly, deflate, re-lube and repeat. Finally, set pressure to recommended PSI.

Tool List

  • Tire repair kit
  • Air supply (pump, compressor, or CO2 cartridges)
  • Tire-pressure gauge
  • Eye protection

Before you can mount/dismount tires you’ll need:

  • Tire levers (2 or 3)
  • Tire lube (water can work)
  • Rim protectors to protect rim from tire levers (or tape tire levers)
  • Valve stem removal tool (some valve caps have a slotted tip for this)


  • Portable bead breaker
  • Valve stem installation tool, has cable that makes it easy to snake a valve into place

Aerostich, (800) 222-1994,
Genuine Innovations, (520) 295-3936,
MotionPro, (650) 594-9600,
MotoGear Outlet, (303) 456-4757,
RPW Motorcycle Accessories, (800) 397-7815,
Spoiled Biker, (877) 246-7187,
Stop & Go, (815) 455-9080,
Touratech, (800) 491-2926,
Twisted Throttle, (855) 255-5550,
Whitehorse Press, (800) 531-1133,
Wing Stuff, (800) 260-4050,

Procedures described are for emergency repairs only. Faulty tire repair can result in tire deflation and a resulting loss of control, which could lead to an accident. Check inflation pressure frequently. If you lack the skills or equipment to safely repair a tire, do not attempt it, and consult a qualified professional motorcycle tire technician. Most tire manufacturers recommend only permanent plug-patch repairs of small (maximum 1/4-inch diameter), tread-area punctures from within the dismounted tire, by a qualified technician. Speed should not exceed 50 mph for the first 24 hours after repair, and 75 mph thereafter.



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