DON'T GET CAUGHT WITH A FLAT
The notorious, but fun to ride, Macquarie Pass is not the sort of place you want to have trouble with your bike. You can’t just pull off beside the road because, for most of it, there isn’t a “beside the road”. A few years ago I was riding up there and came upon a bike that was obviously experiencing some trouble. It was stopped in a rather precarious position on the side of the road. Nowhere to go to get off the road, so it was parked as close to the side as possible. The rider was busy working away at the rear tyre. Not a good place to be! One step to the left and he’d fall down a 10-metre drop through bush; one step to the right and he’d be cleaned up by the next car that came whizzing around the corner. I stopped in front and went back to see if he was okay. “Got a puncture!” the rider replied. Punctures are a big issue on a bike; because you don’t have a spare wheel! Back in my trail-riding days I used to carry some of that goo-in-a-can stuff; Finilec it was called back then. It isn’t recommended though, because it sticks to the tyre and the wheel surface and apparently is terrible stuff to get off. In more recent times though I hadn’t been carrying anything – other than a mobile phone! I asked him if there was anything I could do; someone I could call perhaps? “It’s okay; I’ve got a repair kit. Shouldn’t be long and I’ll be able to get going.” Hmm, repair kit, eh? I asked him about it. He explained the principle. A rubber plug that you worked into the hole and a tiny can of compressed air that re-inflated the tyre. Clever! Much quicker and easier than calling someone with a trailer to come and pick you up! He assured me he’d be okay, so I went on my way. A little while later I was at a cafe having a coffee when I saw him cruise by. Yep, must get one of those! So a few days later I did; and I’ve been carrying one ever since. Back when tyres had tubes (all the trail-bikes I had ran tubes) some people carried those vulcanising tube-repair kits. That always seemed like a lot of work to me; work that included removing and replacing the tyre, which is not a particularly easy thing to do. So I never bothered with that. I carried the goo-in-a-can instead. Perhaps thankfully, I never had to use it. These days, with nearly all road-bikes running tubeless tyres, those old burn-the-patch-on devices are useless anyway. Puncture repair kits are the way to go. And because bikes still don’t come with a spare wheel, they are something we all should carry. The chances of actually getting a puncture might be fairly slight these days, but, as I discovered that day on Macquarie Pass, it can happen. And if you do get a puncture, you’ll reckon the money you spent buying one of these kits was the best money you ever spent! If you check out the bike shops, or browse the on-line accessories specialists, you’ll see there are quite a lot available. Some brands, like Innovations and X-Tech, look very impressive and are well-priced too. Two brands that seem to be the most popular, and the most recommended, are Rema and Cargol. The one I bought after witnessing the stricken bike on Macquarie Pass was the Rema one (shown on the left); because that was what the guy was using. That consists of a rubber plug (and tools to fit it) and some cans of compressed air. Recently, the good people at Kenma Australia sent me a Gryp Cargol Puncture Repair Kit to have a look at. You can check out the range of these by going to the tyre-repair page at Kenma. (Just click the links here). On the page you’ll see that there is a wide range of kits available, all made by Gryp, and varying mainly in the type of kit, the amount of repair gear included, and the application. (The one pictured at left is their top-range kit). You can also watch a video with a guy from Cycle Torque demonstrating how to use them. Very useful! The most impressive of these are the Cargol “Turn & Go” kits. As Kenma says, the Cargol Turn & Go tyre repair system is a totally new way to effect a temporary repair of a punctured tyre. It’s designed to be simple and quick to use, and requires no skills or tools to use. (Sounding pretty good isn’t it!). As they say, “Why wait hours for roadside assistance when you can be going again in a few minutes?” Here’s how it works. First you mark the spot with chalk so you don’t lose the hole during the repair process. Next you remove the offending object from the tyre, using the needle-nose pliers supplied in the kit. Then you simply screw the specially designed plug into the puncture, break the head off, and use the CO2 cartridges and adaptor supplied to re-inflate the tyre. It’s as simple as that! Oh, one tip. Apparently the little CO2 cartridges get very cold when the air expands as it inflates the tyre. They provide a mesh covering to help protect your fingers, but I’d put a glove back on to hold it as you inflate the tyre. (Same comment applies to the cartridges in the other kits). The thing I like about this is how easy it is to use. Back to the guy on Macquarie Pass again. What I witnessed was actually his second attempt at repairing the tyre. He’d originally got the puncture, and effected a repair, about 30kms earlier, but hadn’t quite got the plug in properly. So it worked it’s way out, allowing the tyre to go flat again. He was very confident of performing a successful repair on this second attempt but the point is that the process does require some fiddling to get the plug in properly. The beauty of the Cargol Turn & Go system is that you just screw the repair “plug” in as hard as you can and it’s right. Break the top off, inflate the tyre and away you go. That’s why I have swapped the Rema kit that I used to carry for the Cargol one. (But both are good, and highly recommended!). The Cargol kits are a popular choice. We had a question on these repair kits a while ago from a reader who was about to embark on a long trip. (Click here to go to that Questions page). He said that he hadn’t worried about punctures too much before, but with the trip coming up he decided to investigate. You can read my reply and other readers’ replies by clicking on the link there (and scrolling down the page a fair way), but the end result was that he bought a Cargol kit. “Ah, but does it work?” I hear you asking. Well, I did consider driving a nail into one of my new Michelin PR2s and giving it a proper test … but I didn’t consider that for very long! However, I think you can be assured that they do work. In the video I mentioned, Cycle Torque perform a repair. If it didn’t work, I doubt they would endorse the product and show people how to use it! And these kits are being sold all over the world; if they didn’t work someone would’ve been crying out very loudly about them by now! The one Kenma sent me was the one marked GK013 on their site. That is the actual kit they sent me in the photo above. The photo on the left (taken from their web-site) shows the contents all spread out for you to see. This is the full “bells-and-whistles” version, and comes with 3 screw-in plugs (one is for ATV tyres, which need a different plug), 3 CO2 cartridges, pliers, chalk, other bits and pieces and even spare valve-caps! It also comes with Cargol’s other repair method, a kind of sticky rope that you work into the hole. And you get the tools required to fit this. These require more work, but are good for holes that are too big for the screw-in ones. Oh, and you also get a nice carry-bag to keep it all in. One point that should be stressed with all these repair kits is that they are a temporary measure. And they all recommend you not exceed 80kph until you’re back at the bike shop to get a more permanent repair done. But that’s all you want – something that’s going to prevent you from being stranded on the side of the road. Motorcycles still have two wheels with air-inflated tyres. And no spare. As I’ve indicated already, punctures might not be a common occurrence today, but they do happen. All you need is for Bob The Builder to pack his truck a bit untidily and you could end up with a nail or screw letting all that precious air out of your tyre. Now, with these repair kits, you can repair the damage and get going again. So, there really is no excuse to be caught with a flat.
After this article was published, I received an email from Peter, at Kenma. It’s a good follow-up to the article. Here’s what he had to say. “During testing I put 27 Cargols in one tyre (some on severe angles) and that tyre would loose 7psi overnight but it would have still been ok to ride with the 30psi or so left in it if required. “The initial test tyre (27 plug one) was never ridden on with that many plugs, I was simply trying different ways of making a hole (simulated puncture) in the tyre and seeing how effective the plugs were at sealing different types of puncture. That tyre is still used as a display piece at a shop in brookvale.” That's pretty impressive! And as further proof that they really do work, he cites an example of a repair they did on a magazine’s test-bike. “We fixed a Rapid magazine bike also during testing, a long term CB600. When I asked them later how it went and what the guy at the shop who did the permanent repair said, they said they still had not had it fixed properly – two months later! (A big no-no but gave us a lot of faith). Peter points out that Cargol is TUV approved, and says that it is the only puncture-repair system to voluntarily submit their products for testing. He sent me a copy of their report. He adds some further important information. He says that, “While most tyre manufacturers state that any punctured tyre can not be repaired, the mushroom type that goes on from inside the tyre is very effective and the only permanent repair I would trust. Although if the tyre is more than half worn I would chuck it. And if it was a front tyre my advice is to never run a repaired front tyre under any circumstance, but front punctures are very rare anyway, usually the front tyre will pick up the nail or whatever and throw it at the rear causing the puncture.” Thanks for the comments Peter. Some good info, and good advice there!
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