PUNCTURED PILOT?! It's no big deal to fix flats

Go ahead and keep sticking things in our tires; the Stop & Go Tire Plugger will have us back on the road in 15 minutes.

Among the things that make me believe in a higher power with a playful sense of humor is the frequency with which roofing nails, sheetmetal screws, horseshoe nails, really big staples, small brads, nice brass screws, petrified thorns from the Crucifixion, inflation needles, self-tapping screws, bolts, stalactites, baby narwhal tusks and jagged chunks of who-knows-what wind up embedded in my rear motorcycle tire. In all the years I’ve driven four-wheeled vehicles, I think I’ve had one holed tire. On motorcycles, though, with their rear tires offering up a way smaller and harder-to-hit rounded target, foreign object debris puncture remains the leading cause of death. Why is that? I can only conclude it’s because nature loves a challenge, and because the man, woman or children Upstairs like to fool with those of us brazen enough to interface the world on two wheels even more than they do normal people. There is nothing random about it.

No longer willing to be a victim after the most recent (sheetmetal) screw in my new Dunlop Qualifier (which only recently replaced the previous screwed Dunlop), I cast about for a good tire repair kit and came upon Stop & Go International Inc. Every time I've been rescued at roadside, it's been with that kind of rubbery rope patch you fold in two and shove in the hole, then trim—then roll down the road with a hairy mole poking out of your tire which will probably get you home but not exactly filled with confidence. And while the tire manufacturers say never patch anything! (and who can blame them?), the underbreath mumble is that if you must patch a tire, do it from the inside with a permanent mushroom plug. Well, if you're going to all the trouble to get the tire off the bead, you're probably going to go ahead and replace it. Stop & Go offers a better way. With its kit, you insert the good mushroom plug from outside; the tire never leaves the rim.

This is a pretty ingenious yet simple deal. First you ream out the hole a bit with the supplied rasp (and if you can feel a steel belt, the tire will need replacing ASAP post-plug), then you stick the plugger nozzle into the hole. Then, load one pre-moistened mushroom plug into the plugger tool, screw the plugger tool into the nozzle in the tire, and crank away with the supplied Allen wrench on the end of the tool, which forces the plug through the cone-shaped nozzle and into the tire. Remove plugger tool, et voila, the mushroom is in there. Yank on it to make sure it's seated. Yes, it is. Re-inflate with about four CO2 cartridges, trim off excess plug, away you go. (Replace the gas with air ASAP.)

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I got the Pocket Tire Plugger plus CO2 Inflation kit for $47.95, which would be an okay deal if not for the fact that shipping CO2 cartridges incurs exorbitant fees over which Stop & Go has no control. The better way to go is with the regular Pocket Tire kit for $31.95—then pick up a 12-pack of screw-type CO2 cartridges at your local bicycle shop for around $12. (The plugger tool, nozzle, etc., are of such quality steel construction, it’s hard to see how Stop & Go makes money at this price. Even the 7.5-x-5-inch zippered pouch is nice—and the instruction card is laminated.)

When it's all said and done, Stop & Go must of course adhere to the company line that its plugs are intended to be a temporary fix to get you to the nearest new tire, says Bill the owner, who's happy to talk to you from Crystal Lake, Illinois, if you pick up the phone. How far or fast you go is really a personal choice, he says. According to online testimonials, people put thousands of miles on tires with this type of plug, no problem, but we at CW do not endorse extended mileage on plugs either.

So far, my own R1 hasn’t lost a pound of pressure in 200 miles of around-town use with its new plug in place. When I get around to it—if a track day or long ride comes up—the tire will definitely be replaced. But for now, the mushroom-plugged Dunlop seems to have plenty of perfectly good street miles left in it. In any case, the next time fate throws a jagged steel lightning bolt my way, I’m ready. Which means it will probably never happen again. Touch wood.

Stop & Go International

3610 Thunderbird Lane

Crystal Lake, IL  60012