For those of you not interested in the technical aspects of a solo ride in a remote region, this post may seem pretty boring. Flat tires are a fact of life on the road, even more so on rough unpaved roads. In many cases, a tubeless tire as is on the BMW 1200 GS can simply be repaired by plugging the puncture with any number of kits available on the market.
However, consider this: You are riding along on the Dalton Highway, 100 miles out of Fairbanks and another 100 to Coldfoot, and you hit a particularly gnarley
patch of gravel highway that tears a 2″ slice in the side of your rear tire. Hmmm, what to do now. You could remove the wheel, wait for good sameritan to come along, ride the 100 miles back to Fairbanks, get it repaired, return to the bike (if it is still there), mount the tire and be on your way. At best, you loose a day, maybe two and the bike sits along the highway until you return.
As an alternative, you can carry an emergency inner-tube or spare tire, remove the tire in the field, repair it and get on your way. In my case, this may take an hour or two (a few grizzly bears in the area might speed this up), but a bunch better than the other scenario. To this end, all I have spoken to indicate that you had better know how to change a tire in the field and have some experience doing so, especially when riding solo. Well, I spent Saturday morning doing just that. Removed the rear wheel on the bike, removed the tire with only the tools I will be carrying, reinstalled the tire and inflated it.
A couple of technical points to those as unseasoned as me, it ain’t real easy…
- Found that breaking the bead of the tire was the toughest – using the side stand of the bike. Tough to get 650 lbs of machine to bear down on the 4″ square side stand. Removing the Touratech side stand base helped.
- Small CO2 cartridges (16 g) did not seat the bead on reinstallation. Needed the larger 45 g, did the trick nicely.
- If I were to install a tube, a valve stem puller would definitely help. Don’t know if I could install the tube without one…
Another major advantage to being comfortable with this procedure, I will be able to switch from street tires to knobbies (Continental TKC80s) once I reach Watson Lake, Yukon; before beginning the trek up the Campbell Highway with a day trip down the Canol Rd. Not sure this will be necessary, and I am not too thrilled about carrying a set of tires 5,000 miles to the Yukon, but I haven’t come up with a better alternative yet.
In any case, one major “TODO” off my list – thanks to Andrea pushing me to do it while I had the time. I am committed to handling the next tire change myself, in the garage – another month or so when the current ones are worn out.