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Even More Tyre Trouble

Ride Date - 15 April 2022

Why oh why oh why oh why... is is EVERY SINGLE gosh darn pooping time I have a long trip (actually several long trips) planned AT LEAST one of my tyres is in that "maybe/maybe not" enough tread stage? Oh no, no, it's not like I look at the tyre a month in advance and can categorically state "That, Ren, that tyre is definitely going to need replacing". No, it's always "Hmmmm, it's partially worn and a tad thin but there's still some life left in it, more than just a couple of weekend trip's worth too, but perhaps, maybe... not enough for a full on holiday".

The front has 2mm at the lowest points. The minimum requirement in the UK for motorcycles (NOT CARS) is 1mm (1.6mm for cars). As such I have double the legal minimum. I usually replace the tyre when the wear bars meets the tarmac. 

The wear bar indicators on a motorcycle tyre
Circled are the "wear bars" or "you're tyre is worn out" indicators. 
Tyre tread depth gauge showing 5mm of tread on a front motorcycle tyre
Most front tyres have 5mm of tread to start with - norra lot.

The first trip is to take advantage of the long Easter weekend to see father dearest in that there daaaan saaaaf land. A total journey, with some riding while down there, of around 600 to 700 miles. Considering 5mm of front tread usually lasts 15,000 miles I estimate the 2mm remaining tread will certainly remain legal and I doubt I'll even get to the wear bars.

That's it, settled. The current tyre will see me to dad's and back, then before the next adventure I'll replace it with the new one that's already here in my living room. Good plan Ren, good plan. Well done boy.

It's good Friday, first thing in the morning. Tyres, oil, lights and luggage checked then away we go. A quick stop at Hilton Park services to stretch the legs and empty the bladder. 65 miles later I peel off the motorway and into Banbury for a McDonald's cuppa and cheap Tesco fuel.

As I peel off the motorway onto the roundabout and lean into the corner the front end shakes it's head. Not violently, just a shimmy, a quick twitchy wobble. Hmmmm. That's not right. All else is fine and as I sip my tea I ponder. Maybe a patch of diesel? Maybe some random road surface? Perhaps I've got my luggage mass too high up and it's affecting stability?

As I return to the motorway the subtle oh-so-slight shimmy is still there but only when I'm leaning hard into a roundabout, otherwise it feels just fine. As I ride onto the M40 once more I consider that the head bearings are too tight, notched or dry? Oh for poop's sake I really should not need to work on the head bearings after only 20k miles surely. Blooming Hondas, pffffft.

80 miles later and finally, much to my relief, I can pull off the M25 at junction 9. This means I've done the real work and the rest is just a short 45 miles of A roads. As ever I shall stop for a stretch at Ryka's cafe near Box Hill. 

Whoooa! That subtle twitch is considerably less subtle now. I take it easy around the roundabouts and bends, hoping that Ryka's comes into view sooner rather than later. It's not terrifying, just disconcerting.

At Ryka's I put the bike on the centre stand. There's no play in the head bearings and no notchyness or stiffness that would concern an MOT tester. Both wheel bearings are present and correct as is the swingarm's. I don't have much luggage with me, considerably less than I have carried many times before when camping. There's no rhyme or reason to my wibbly wobbly problems.

As soon as I depart Ryka's it becomes blatantly obvious. The steering is now as stiff as rusted up brakes on a "barn find" that was actually in a hedge. 


Front punctures are much less common that rears. Why? A nail or other such puncture inducing object will typically lie flat on the floor. The front wheel travels over the object which doesn't puncture the front but DOES flip / lift / toss / angle the object so the rear tyre can collect it such as to cause penetration. But this is a front puncture. Dammit.

I'm about an hour from dad's place. I've already managed 80 miles and 1.5 hours from the "start" of the puncture to here. Rather than trying to fix it now I'll pump it up with my hand pump, sufficient to get me to a garage where I'll inflate it to the correct pressure. It'll be fine then and I can sort it at pop's place.

Much pumping with my bicycle type pump sees me with 25psi. I know there's a garage about a mile away and with the extra air the bike is ridable, but I remain careful. At the garage I spend a pound (A FRIKKIN QUID!!!) to inflate the front to the correct 36psi. I set off with much aplomb.

About 10 minutes later and the last roundabout experience suggests this "slowie" puncture has gotten somewhat quicker. I stop and hand pump again. I have to stop a further 3 or 4 times before dad's place is but a few metres away. It is with much relief I dismount.

After a brew I set about plugging the tyre. With the benefit of a proper foot pump I inflate the tyre and find the hole, right in the centre of the tread. The tyre plugger kit's bungs must be aging as they're not slipping in as well as they should - note to self get some fresh bungs. However the plug is fitted and I reflate once more.

Excellent. I congratulate myself on a job well done.

Wait - wassat? The tyre does not look right. Poop. Testicles. Male chicken. Tanker. Bar staff. The centre of the tyre appears to be bulging. This does not require any thinking about at all when it comes to using this front tyre. That tyre is structurally damaged way way beyond me even riding it to the end of the street. 

The front tyre has a noticable bulge in the centre of the tread area
Errrr, no. No, nope, negative. This is an incorrect tyre profile indicating the carcass's structure is (severly) compromised.

Frankly I am lucky to be alive, although I do not feel at all lucky at present. I am 280 miles from home. This is the most closed time of the year after Christmas. I'm unfamiliar with any local tyre or motorcycle shops. I must be back at work on Tuesday. Poop. Testicles. Male chicken. Tanker. Bar staff.

Urgh. The rest of the evening is spent on the internet trying to find tyre shops and learning all I can about the local situation regarding motorcycle tyre fitting.

Saturday, 0800 after a restless night.
"Do you do motorcycle tyres?"
"No mate, sorry"
"Can you recommend someone who does?"
"Nah, can't fink of anywhere raaand ere"

"Do you do motorcycle tyres?"
"No mate, sorry"
"Can you recommend someone who does?"
"SE Tyres, they'll av 'em"

SE Tyres do list various motorcycle tyres although their site suggests they're more car tyre based.

"Hello SE Tyres"
"Do you do motorcycle tyres?"
"No mate, sorry"
"???? You're website..."
"...dunno 'bout that but none of our shops do 'em, try Alf's Motorcycles"

Alf's Motorcycles, the local Kwakker dealer. Their answerphone tells me they are shut over the whole bank holiday Easter weekend. Pfffft part timers I tell ya. Onwards.

"Do you do motorcycle tyres?"
"Yeah, what you after?"
"120 - 70 - 17, anything you got"
"What, well... oh you got a problem, need it today?"
"No, we get them in to order, can have one by Wednesday?"

This continues on call after call and my heart is sinking. I'm either going to be relayed from recovery truck to recovery truck over a 36 hour period or I'm going to be somewhat late for work aren't I.

"Do you do motorcycle tyres?"
"Do you have them in stock?"
"Yeah, some, what you after?"
"120 - 70 - 17, anything you got, I'm in deep doody"
"Metzeler XYZ123-Rr -RRRRRR? Can do that for £130?"
I nearly faint "...er...I just wanna get home I don't need to get my knee down?"
"Pirelli Diablo Strada, be more like your bag I reckon, £100"
"That'll do..."

They're busy. The best they can do is "drop the wheel off and we'll call you when it's done". As such dad's facing a 45 minute drive to Billy's Motorcycles in Pulborough to drop the wheel off, 45 minutes back then a repeat leg "sometime later". Presently his idea of a big drive is going to Amberly to play with the choo-choos, 20 minutes each way. This is as big a trip for him as it is for me getting here from Bolton.

With his wife and myself for moral support this is done. It's a long and worrisome day all around but Billy's Motorcycles do their thing and I get the wheel back in situ all before teatime. Many thanks to pops for driving me around and to Billys for, well, for being open, being helpful and doing the job.
Why the bulge in the punctured tyre? I suspect well in excess of 100 miles of low pressure running with another likely 20 or 30 miles of far too low pressure running will ruin any tyre's carcass. 

So, chilblains, what did we learn today? Tyres does not enjoy being run with low pressure. I thought "it'll be reet" but it wasn't "reet" at all. If you have a slowie that loses a few pounds over the week then OK, pump it up and get it sorted soon. If you're losing any more than this, save for getting safely out of traffic and harm's way then it needs fixing or replacing now. 

I may have 30 odd years and many miles under my belt, yet the more I learn the more I realise I still have a vast amount left to learn. 

Sponsor Ren some tyres - contact ren@bikesandtravels.com

Reader's Comments

Upt'North ¹ said :-
I think I might buy a bottle of slime.....
Well done fella.
A squid for air!
Strange how I just posted about the compressor.
25/04/2022 17:44:21 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
We can send human beings to the moon (given the political will and funding). We have pocket computers a million times more powerful than the computers used to send human beings to the moon. I can communicate with my brother via video chat as easily as I can open my front door to a friend. In spite of all this amazing and mind blowing technical development we STILL entrust our lives to black inflatable balloons in a doughnut shape - invented and patented NOT by Dunlop originally in 1888 but by Robert Thomson in... 1846!! (See link).

We see from time to time the random release of some new "thing" that will replace our burstable balloons with some weird and wonderful flexible rubber contraption, and yet they never seem to make it to market. It's a conspiracy I tell ya, a conspiracy!

Liking that compressor Upt' - details?
25/04/2022 20:52:21 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-

25/04/2022 23:29:49 UTC
Bogger said :-
To put a positive spin on this. Firstly you could have fallen off, but didn't. Secondly you could have fitted the new tyre at home, before the journey and punctured and ruined said new tyre. So basically happy days and stop moaning.

26/04/2022 08:06:23 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Thanks Upt'.

Bogger - When I do put up a positive post you all beg me to return to my miserable self! I know you lot read this because my miserable existence makes your own lives seem so much better.

OK, yeah. I didn't crash and burn and the tyre I replaced was due for replacement soon. It would have been agonisingly frustrating to have ruined a brand new tyre I agree. For these things I am most grateful. In a perfect world though...
26/04/2022 08:49:14 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
That compressor's quite cheap. Having tubed tyres on both my bikes the plug option isn't available to me sadly. I did convert the Hinckley Tiger's spoked wheels to accept tubeless but am not going to that extent now.

The TT100s on the Honda have 7mm of tread.......
26/04/2022 10:38:35 UTC
Ross said :-
A bit more expensive, but this is what Itchy Boots uses on her travels...even smaller!


I've seen her use it on her YouTube channel and it seems to get the job done despite its size!

PS always entertaining to hear about your woes, Ren! ;) What do you think of the new tyre, any good?
26/04/2022 11:33:09 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
7mm!!! Thems is tyres from the good old days. I suspect most tyres have... errrr... "less" tread these days to ensure they are light and therefore popular with modern reviewers who spend most of their time on a track at the tyre company's or magazine's expense.

The new tyre is fine - but. We the great unwashed don't get to compare them back-to-back on a circuit. It feels better than the Continental Conti-Motion but that has more to do with it being new and perfectly shaped rather than it being a better tyre. I shall, in the fullness of time, merit it upon how well and quickly it ages and its performance in the wet which is as yet untested.

The other thing to bear in mind is I have neither the skills, motorcycle, roads or sensitivity to carry out a proper review. The Diable Strada - so far - is fine.

That pump is probably the same as the one Upt's just got - with the outer casing removed, the pressure gauge removed, put into a bag and doubled in price.
26/04/2022 12:17:46 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
TT100s of course got their name from being on the first production bike to do a 100mph TT lap (Triumph Trident if I remember correctly) so perform well enough for me. They were always my tyre of choice on the Commando.
26/04/2022 13:52:43 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Talking about pumps - I used to carry a gutted cheap one on the Tiger. It probably cost me a fiver from a car boot sale. Looks very much like thae £48 one to me. It may still be lying about in the garage somewhere.
27/04/2022 11:39:01 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
There's probably one pump manufacturer worldwide and everyone uses their pump in different casings...
28/04/2022 17:34:53 UTC
Borsuk said :-
Sometimes not even different casings. A lot of them only change the colour of the casing or just add there own logo to the generic Chinese built item then smack up the price. This is true of most things these days.
30/04/2022 11:37:43 UTC

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