My First Flat Tire Experience
By: Marie Dingley-Martin, Michigan
GWRRA, Chapter E
After the Michigan GWRRA District Rally ended, my friends and I left the fairgrounds in two groups on the Fun Run. In my group, I was the third bike on the left with two other riders behind me. We had only been in the run about a third of the way, heading east on M-61 and were on the lookout for our next turn at Lincoln Rd. The pavement had just changed into a fresh layer of smooth pavement. Within seconds I started to hear a humming noise from my tires. I questioned myself, "Is this payment grooved?" But of course, it was not. I slowed for a second and the hum was not detectable. I then resumed my normal speed and the hum returned. Not wanting to appear a paranoid inexperienced rider, I did not use my CB system to ask anyone else if they noticed a difference in the pavement. After a short while, I noticed a different noise that I thought was coming from my mufflers. Still not realizing that I had a flat tire, I did notice what felt like a decrease in the power of the motorcycle. That's when I realized something really was wrong, and that I needed to pull over to the side of the road immediately. I did a head check to see where the rider immediately behind me was while at the same time the bike was slowing at a rapid pace. Finally it dawned on me that I had a flat tire. But I couldn't truly see what the rider behind me was doing, so when I moved to the right, I moved all the way over off to the side of the road that was about 6 inches wide and covered in gravel. Certainly not where I wanted to be, but I still managed to keep the bike straight up and steady while I completed the stop.
Now, before I finish this story let me point out my mistakes and those of some other riders.
Pride. I should have immediately asked on the CB if any one else noticed a change in the pavement's surface affecting their handling.
I failed to use my CB to let the other riders know that I was in trouble; therefore they only had a visual warning.
I forgot everything I learned in my MSF Basic RiderCourse. (Use the brake on the wheel with the good tire). I definitely was using both brakes and braked abruptly not smoothly. I think the only reason I didn't go down was the new pavement was smooth enough to not grab at my flight tire and affect my ability to stay upright.
The rider behind me (also an inexperienced rider) did not react to my lane position and speed change fast enough for me to bring the bike to a safe stop on the pavement. (If I had gone down he may have too.)
Once off the road and stopped, both groups pulled over too. Examining the rear tire, we found the culprit. A small finishing nail imbedded in the tire. Since my bike has tube tires, we couldn't put in a plug. We pulled out the county map to determine where we were and I called Tow Busters to get my baby safely to her next destination. Another group member looked up the phone number for Linwood Cycle Sales in the Gold Book and gave them a heads up that we were coming in with a flat tire. Three others stayed behind with me to wait for the tow truck, and we assured every one that we would be all right and they should finish the ride.
Of course there was not a shade tree around and it was a typical hot summer weekend was hot. Thankfully, the tow truck (Al's Service -- out of Skidway) showed up just under an hour. Al and his partner were great. First they told us that this was only the second bike they had ever towed. So with the four of us advising, we managed to get the bike tied down. The tow truck was actually short one tie down strap so we broke out our set to help secure it. They thanked us for showing them the proper way to tie down the bike and within just a few minutes we were on our way. From this experience we learned that we should always carry tie downs and know how to tie down our bikes, since you can never be sure if the towing service can load and tie down your baby.
Linwood Cycle Sales installed a new tube for me. One of the service men asked me if I wanted to see the nail. I went back into the garage and they showed me the tiny little nail. About the size of a straight pin! Soon, we were back on the road and finished the last 25 miles of the Fun Run with the rest of group. All in all it was a great time, in spite of the tire, and I learned some new things about motorcycling to make it even better next time.
From the MSF Basic RiderCourse Rider Handbook:
With modern tubeless tires, actual blowouts are rare, but they can occur. The most common cause of tire failure is riding with the tire pressure too low. Check tires frequently and keep them inflated to the manufacturer's specifications.
If a puncture should occur, maintain a firm hold on the handgrips, but do not fight the steering to correct any wobble or weave that can develop. Avoid downshifting and braking until speed is low and under control. If traffic permits, slow gradually and move off to the side of the road. If braking is necessary, use the brake on the wheel with the good tire. Using the brake on the wheel with the bad tire can cause a tire to separate from the rim, and this can cause immediate loss of control. Be aware that integrated braking systems don't allow "rear brake only" application and linked braking systems do not allow any single-brake operation. On motorcycles equipped with either of these systems, braking with the "good tire only" may not be possible and any braking should be done as lightly as possible.
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