This sidewall damage is what happens with a blowout.
It is very often caused by riding on under inflated tires.
It is bad enough when it happens to a car tire, but on a motorcycle, it can literally be the difference between life and death.
I have always been concerned about tire pressure, and everyone else should be as well. Last summer a couple of things happened that made me take more notice of my tires, and take it more seriously.
I was out riding one night on an unusually hot evening with another rider. Earlier in the year he had discovered a nail in his rear tire that was causing a slow leak. Fortunately he is very good at checking his bike regularly, a good practice that I have to mirror. I can be a bit forgetful or plain lazy sometimes and so this is why I am looking at things to help me be safer. I think things like that catch up to a person sooner or later, and usually with unpleasant and costly consequences. He repaired his tire with a plug kit himself and carefully watched it as he continued to ride. We had talked to several people and it seemed to be about 50/50 whether or not to repair or replace it. Err on the side of caution is probably the way I would go. Just grimace and hand over my credit card for a new tire. I found that tire shops won’t fix a motorcycle tire, probably for fear of liability, and rightly so. So watching his bike, knowing he had a plugged tire made me nervous, but it seemed to have done the trick and he had no problems. Of course all of this is relative to the amount of damage the nail caused, where it was on the tire surface, and the skill of the person repairing it. I just picture myself crashing because of a blown tire and think how cheap a few hundred bucks would seem to me then.
We stopped for a break on the way home and when we returned to our bikes and began riding out of the parking lot he discovered his rear tire going flat fast. At first we thought it was the plug repair he had done but on closer inspection this was not the case. Someone had stabbed the sidewall with a knife to vandalize the bike. We ended up repairing it with an inflation/sealant kit and it held long enough to get the bike home.
The tire was trashed because of the site of the puncture, not in the tread but in the sidewall. I am told even if this were a car tire it would not be able to be repaired. The emergency seal and inflate kit worked great and saved us a tow bill but it is by no means more then a very temporary fix. We took the bike a short distance at lower speed and watched carefully so that if the temporary repair failed we would not end up with a blow out as pictured above. The emergency repair kit is not to be confused with another product that is installed inside the tire BEFORE a puncture happens. I have recently purchased and will be installing a product called Ride-On that is very different and I am anxious to write a review on it soon. I think it is a great invention that will most definitely keep motorcycle riders safer. Check back for my review and information on where you can get it coming soon.
There were a lot of bikes out that night because of the hot weather and the next morning I read about a couple killed when they blew a tire on the highway and both went into the ditch on the highway in our neighborhood. Now if that isn’t a wake up call I don’t know what is! So, I started researching how I could be as safe as possible. Enter technology.
I was familiar with the tire pressure monitoring systems on cars and wanted to look for a similar product for motorcycles. The first one that I was interested in was called TireGard Wireless TPMS It caught my eye because it is wireless but then again aren’t they all? On closer look it is what I was looking for, easy to install and easy to read, but there are drawbacks that concern me. I have not tested this product myself but I am writing about what my research revealed. The wonderful thing about his product is that you simply remove your valve stem caps, put batteries in the new caps, screw them into place, put a battery in the monitor and turn it on and set it to your preferences . Nothing to it. You simply press a button on the key fob that you carry in your pocket and it gives you the current pressure on the front and rear tires. Reports from several sources say it is very accurate within .5lbs of pressure and thats acceptable to me. It also has a vibrating alarm and will flash a warning if the tire falls below limits you set yourself. It also monitors the temperature of your tires. Over heating is a concern but that is often caused by low pressure so this part might be redundant but it is an added feature.
Now the bad part.
During my research I discovered that there were concerns about installing the caps on rubber valve stems because the added weight causes the stem to bend during higher speeds and will eventually cause damage that would cause the tire to loose air quickly. I didn’t see any actual documentation but users were concerned and it is something I need to think about. It was suggested that it only be installed on tires with metal valve stems. I have a support on mine so I think it would be fine. A friend of mine looked at this unit for a VTX 1300 and said that because of the way the valve stem comes out on the bike it would not accomodate a larger valve cap. So, you would have to go take a look at your setup and decide if you think it would fit your bike.
Other comments were about the high price. I noted that it was $210 and is on sale now for about $150. I did not think the price was too much if it works well. But thats all a matter of opinion. Perhaps if you only use it to check tire pressure and not monitor it, then I would agree its pricey but I wanted to use it while I am riding to alert me of any danger on the road so I have time to respond.
Other complaints were that they wanted a handlebar mount for the monitor. I don’t agree. Yes, its useless if its in your pocket where you cannot hear it, see it, or feel the vibrating alarm but I would plan to put it under my jacket and close to my body so it would alert me by alarm. Depending on if it would fit or not, I would also consider mounting it inside my helmet so I could hear it on the road. I havent examined this product yet so this is just an idea.
All things considered I like this and if it works as reported I think it would be an added piece of security for me and my bike. But there are other options as follows:
Flag Type Monitoring Systems
This type of monitor is probably the simplest and cheapest monitoring system. Like the above system, you just unscrew your existing valve caps and screw the replacements on. You purchase a set that is set to the pressure you require and is not adjustable. There is a little indicator that comes out as the tire pressure decreases and is colored yellow when it has dropped by 3 psi and when the red band is exposed it has dropped by 6 psi.
The good part is they are cheap and easy to install and can transfer easily to another bike.
The bad part is that they cannot warn you if you are riding because you have to see them. Also, they don’t indicate a leak until it has lost at least 3 psi. They are not suitable for sportbikes.
Wheel Mounted Systems
The last system I looked at was the wheel mounted system. This can be used on motorcycles but it is more commonly seen on four or more wheeled vehicles. This would be excellent on transport trucks and passenger vehicles and trailers.
This is mounted internally on the wheel and some have an aerial that is also mounted on the exterior of the vehicle and there is a monitor installed inside the vehicle. Because of the more difficult and costly install of removing each tire and mounting it on the wheel, I will pass on this system in favor of the external wireless sets. If the battery needs replacing it means removing the wheel and tire and that is just not cost effective enough for me to be interested.
How Old Are Your Tires and Why is it Important?
It is difficult to say how old your tires are by just a visible inspection unless you know how to read this simple code. Prior to the year 2000 tires were stamped with a 3 digit code.
The three digits indicate week and year of manufacture. The first two digits are the week and the last number indicates the year. This tire was on a year 2000 model motorcycle so I will assume its date of manufacture was the 21st week of 1999.
Starting in the year 2000 the system uses a 4 digit code which makes more sense. In this example it shows this tire was made in the 5th week of 2006 which is the same year the bike was made.
The reason the age of the tire is important is because rubber degrades over time and the way it was stored is a factor. If it has been stored in a hot warehouse or in direct sunlight it causes a process known as outgassing as the tire heats and cools down. This will make the tire less pliable and even brittle. It will not grip the road the same as a fresh tire. So the fresher the better.
A Handy Little Gadget for Inspecting Tires
I recently came across this gadget that is so simple to use and so handy. Inspecting your tires can be difficult because to properly look at all the surfaces means you have to move the tires. I would have to move my bike several times to make sure I was looking at the all the places I need to see when looking for nails or other damage.
It is easy to roll the bike on to it and kickstand it and get off and turn the wheel. It works well for both front and rear tires. I do put a block under my kickstand so that the bike stands more upright when using it. As you can see in the picture it is small and can be stored in a drawer or hang it on the wall like I do and use it as part of your regular maintenance.
I like the first TPMS I researched and I am seriously thinking of purchasing it soon. I have more then one bike and its easy to switch from one to the other, its accurate according to product documentation and user testimonials, its easy to read and I can wear the monitor under my jacket and stop if I feel the vibrating alarm. I will add my comments here first hand once I own one.
And to get you off the road when you do discover a flat I recommend one of the many emergency repair kits on the market such as the one shown below.
Drive safe, be aware of potential problems and be prepared. It may pay off big time for you one day.
An Emergency Repair Kit
The tire sealant and inflation kit we carried worked very well and is common to use in cars but this is a band-aid at best and can maybe get you home or the nearest repair shop. It worked for us but we only had a short way to go and once the bike was back in our shop, the tire was replaced with a new one. I will still carry one on trips to help me out like it did that night, but by no means would I ride more then a few miles on a tire containing it.