Puncture repair kits

You may or may not know, but the 2004 R1200 GS came with a BMW branded Rema Tip Top puncture repair kit as standard. The exact same kit (and slight variations of it) is readily available for the rest of us bikers. But at £15 - £20, are they worth it?
Update 2006-09-17: Added more pictures to show the repair procedure. Scroll down for full set of pictures.

The repair kit

The Rema TipTop puncture repair kit., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

The Rema TipTop puncture repair kit (BMW Branded). From left to right: instructions, awl, 3-kidney shaped plugs, the knife, the 3 air canisters, the case, the air tube and the cement.

When you buy a (new) bike, you expect it to come with a tool kit containing the tools you need to perform necessary essential maintenance, tightening the chain for example.

If you’re lucky, or if you bought an expensive bike, then you may have gotten a puncture repair kit too. The Rema Tip Top Rep&Air kit that was supplied with Jocke's BMW comprises:

  • A strip of three kidney shaped plugs
  • A tube of special rubber cement
  • A tool to insert the plug and apply the cement
  • A sharp blade
  • Three canisters of compressed air
  • A valve adapter
  • Chalk (to mark the puncture)
  • A plastic cover for the canisters of compressed air (so your fingers don’t freeze)

How easy are these kits to use?

To sum it up in one word – very. The kit contains very clear instructions (and pictures!) and if you have been fortunate enough to never need to use one of these kits, it would probably take you about 15 minutes to plug your puncture. If you are in the unfortunate position of having had to practice plugging tyres, then you can probably get the job done in about 5 minutes. We haven’t tested the inflation system, but the three canisters of compressed air should be sufficient to inflate a fully deflated tyre enough to get you to the nearest garage.

How do you use these kits?

The kits come with detailed instructions so follow those rather than my brief recap of them here

  • find the object that has given you the puncture and remove it. Mark the hole with the piece of chalk. Its amazingly easy to loose the hole once you have removed the nail/stone/etc
  • coat the tool in the cement
  • put the tool in the hole and move it in and out a couple of times to coat the hole with the rubber cement
  • get one of the kidney shaped plugs and put it in the eyelet of the tool
  • coat the tool and the plug liberally in the cement
  • push the tool (and plug) into the tyre as far as it will go without turning the tool
  • remove the tool without turning it
  • cut off the excess plug that is sticking up out of the tyre with the blade (I don’t like putting sharp blades near my tyre either!)
  • screw the valve adapter onto the valve
  • put the protective plastic onto the gas canister, or wear your bike gloves (Important! The cartridges freeze when filling the tyre)
  • screw the cartridge onto the other end of the valve adapter. Use all 3 cartridges

Do these kits actually work?

Jocke's R6 showing how gooey a tyre foam repair get., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Jocke repaired the rear tyre once with tyre repair foam, this is the gooey result.

Unfortunately I have been in the situation where I needed to use one of these kits and (because I ride a Suzuki?!!?) I didn’t have one.
One Friday afternoon, just before I left work, a colleague came and put a can of emergency tyre weld on my desk and told me that I had a puncture (see Continental Sport Attack tyre review). I didn’t particularly want to use the “emergency tyre weld” for a number of reasons:

  • It advises a max speed limit of 30mph. I work about 35 miles away from home and I didn’t want to have to do that journey at 30mph
  • It makes a horrible mess of your wheel/tyre which you then have to clean up
  • It is only intended as a very temporary solution

This is where having one of those puncture repair kits would have been so useful! But I didn’t have one, so I took the next best option and rang Jocke who works about 10 miles away. Fortunately I was told about this puncture at about 12:15, so Jocke very kindly rode up to where I work during his lunch break and plugged my tyre for me. Thanks!:-)
The bike felt just fine whilst riding on the plug, I took it very steady for a while, and checked my tyre pressures half way home – No problems at all :-) So I upped the pace a little bit! If the tyre hadn’t been close to the end of its life, and I hadn’t been taking the bike to the Nurburgring for my next bike trip, I may have ridden with the tyre plugged for a while (Definitely not recommended by the repair kit manufacturer!)

The only complaint I've heard about the puncture repair kit is that it doesn't seem to work well in colder temperatures. I've read about a guy who was aiming for Nordkap had a puncture on the way, and he didn't manage to plug the hole, possibly due to the low temperature.

Jocke Says...

I've had to use these kits too. At 600 miles my new BMW R1200GS had a puncture. A biiiig screw was screwed into the rear tyre. I tried adding slime into the tyre, but that didn't work - in fact it quietly seeped out and disappeared. I then took to the puncture repair kit and within 20 minutes I had the plugged tyre in the boot of the car on my way to a service station to fill it with fresh air. The plug stayed in the tyre for the remainder of the life of the tyre. Over 4,000 miles, with little respect to the manufacturers directions of the plug being "temporary" and something about a 70mph limit. I wouldn't dare recommend against the manufacturer, but that's what I did and it worked. It might not work for you, so be warned.
All I have to say about these plugs is that they're well worth the circa £15 I paid to replace the kit. Tip Top in my book, so to say.

So where can I get this and how much can I expect to pay?

A lot of bike shops now sell these puncture repair kits. They may not sell the Rema Tip Top Rep&Air which is the kit that this article is based on, but there is a good selection of alternative brands. A quick search on the M&P website shows a small selection of the puncture preventatives/repair kits
The puncture repair kits available (for both tubed and tubeless tyres) are:

  • Rema Tip Top Rep&Air
  • Innovation have a range of repair kits
  • Progressive Suspension also have a range of repair kits

The cheapest I have seen these kits selling for is about £15, and I have also seen “deluxe” all singing all dancing kits for over £40. Expect to pay on average about £20 for a kit.
As the saying goes “prevention is better than cure” and many people believe that the the same is true for punctures. There are a wide range of puncture preventatives available that you put into your tyre before you get a puncture. I’ll let you make your own mind up about those. They cost from about £5 a tube and the range at M&P is::

  • Ultraseal
  • Slime
  • Goop

Aren’t the names wonderful?
They also stock the Three Bond emergency tyre weld.
I’ll leave it to you to decide which option suits you best. Personally, I only take a puncture repair kit with me and I don’t bother with the other options. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider my choice one day!

Another puncture

This time the puncture was on Tony's rear tyre. He saw a shiny screw head in the tyre. Puncture repair kit to the rescue! This time we also got to use the air canisters. They worked well except the tyre was quite under inflated and needed "proper" air ASAP. It did get us moving within quite a short while.
I also took some more pictures of the process. Without further ado, here's the pictures.

A screw and the hole it made in the tyre., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Here's the culprit. A nice screw, and the resulting hole

Lubricate the tool with the cement. The cement will melt the tyre rubber and turn it into a sticky goo., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Lubricate the tool with the cement. The cement will melt the tyre rubber and turn it into a sticky goo.

Moving the tool in and out... oooerrrr, missus, Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Move the tool in-and-out at the rough part to clear up the hole and apply the cement. This creates a larger hole, cleans it and it also softens the rubber.

Get a new plug out, attach it to the tool. Use a bit of cement as lubrication., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Get a new plug out, attach it to the tool. Use a bit of cement as lubrication.

Use the tool to push the plug into the punctured tyre., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Put a lot of cement onto the plug - the more the merrier. Then simply stick the tool into the punctured tyre. Push it so far that the the wide part of the plug has gone through, but not so far that the second wide part goes through.

Motorcycle tyre plugged with the Rema Tip-Top Rep and Air puncture repair kit., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

There it is; The plug in the tyre. I wiped off the excess tyre cement. Then use the supplied knife to cut off the excess of the plug. Cut as much as possible off, but don't worry if you won't get it all. It'll wear off no problem.

Using the plastic adapter and the air canisters, fill the tyre up with air., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

Time to fill the tyre with air. Screw the plastic adapter onto the valve. Then get the air canister, and put the net on the canister. The net protects you from freezing to the air canister as it gets cold when emptied. I also wore a glove. Then RAPIDLY screw the air canister into the plastic adapter. The quicker you screw it on, the less air you'll leak out.

The Rep and Air plugged tyre after about 50 miles., Click here to view larger image (NaNkb)

There's the plug after about 50 miles. Not the most perfect job, but air tight nevertheless.

This is now the third time I've used these kits. Every time they've saved us time and money. I cannot recommend them highly enough. I believe that I could fix a tyre in about 10 minutes if it happens again. There's no chance a recovery truck could get to me in less or equal time.


To conclude….

These kits can be a potential life saver. They will get you off the side of a motorway and to somewhere where you can get a new tyre fitted. And at £20, it’s a damn site cheaper than having to give the AA/RAC an emergency call to come and rescue you! Even if you are an AA/RAC member, you still have to sit (vulnerably) by the side of the motorway waiting for them to come and help you out. Surely spending £20 on the kit is worth it just to save time??!! The plugs have a higher maximum speed limit than the cans of emergency tyre weld you can buy and you don’t have the horrible task of cleaning the remaining goo off your wheels after the tyre has been changed.
Having been rescued by one of these kits, whenever I am now going out on the bike on my own, I take one of these kits with me. I’ve seen how easy they are to use and how they can get you out of a hole (no pun intended!). Stick one of these kits under your pillion seat! You may just be glad of it one day.