Monday 13 April 2015

'Nail Mafia' - say what now ??


Please don't worry, this news is not as a level of a concern as few of you might have imagined (all thanks to the series of movies that's been made on this subject). Recently while scrolling through the Bangalore Traffic Police page on Facebook, I came across the term 'Nail Mafia' and out of curiosity read the whole post to realize that, it's a scam that was recently busted by Bangalore Traffic Police. Great job guys!! Again, I feel this is nothing new and more or less we (Indians) have already been aware of it. Good to know that cops are being supportive and nabbing such people. All thanks to social media posts and discussions that bring such minor yet troublesome incidents to the attention of authorities. In case you are getting too restless to know what the heck is it that am talking about, read this post:

Now, this incident made me realize that most of the people whom I met and were interested in touring on a motorcycle, shared one common concern. Which is "what if the bike (tires) gets punctured?".

Now if you have already gone through this phase of worrying about punctures (like me), it might sound a bit silly. However, when I recall my initial days tripping on motorcycles, I too always stayed within city limits, just for this reason. So I can totally empathize with the newbie riders here.

So let's delve into this topic and I will share some advice (which may not be the best advice ever but has worked for me), on what to do during a puncture scenario. For those of you, who want to get rid of your fear of a flat tire, read on.

First, Cheer up !!!

Now having ridden enough distance on motorcycles, I can tell you, that puncture is not something you should be worried about too much. In case of a puncture, if you could afford the time and tools and have a spare tube (recommended), you will be back on your way in no time. Someone has rightly said, "Prevention is the best possible cure". So let's take a quick look at a few simple things which are responsible for punctures, like stopping at the side of the road.

Things to know while pulling over to the side of the road:

I have been suggested by many experienced mechanics/riders to be watchful while pulling the bike over to the side of the road for the following reasons:

  • Metal pieces, broken glass, nails (taken out from other unfortunate vehicle tires) and even tools (there are many on the Leh-Ladakh route) eventually end up on the side of the road
  • Some punks may purposely drop nails (as we got to know from the above post) on the side of the road to target two-wheelers, to make a quick buck
  • The road surface may not be even/safe for bikes to stop
  • Sometimes gravel on the side might have sharp stones which may damage the tires if run over unintentionally
  • The level of the ground on the roadside may be too low, which may cause one to lose balance or fall off when trying to get down
I hope the above points are more than enough to make you watchful and a tad bit extra careful while pulling over. 

Now as you are smarter now to avoid common mistakes which usually cause a puncture, you are reducing your chances of facing one. But just in case, if and when you do face one, the following information will come in handy. 

Given below is a step-by-step guide to learn what to do when you/a friend ends up with a flat tire during a long trip and you see no tire repairing shops in the vicinity:

The moment you realize that your tire is losing/already lost air:
  • If you are on a roll as it happens, have a quick glance at your rear-view mirrors (especially to your left), switch on your left blinkers and slowly steer your bike towards the left edge of the road and come to a slow rolling halt.
  • NOTE: When tubes are punctured, they lose air slowly enough for you to feel a wobble. So the sooner you realize and initiate your exit to the side of the road, the safer it is.
  • Take a deep breath and accept that you have a flat tire. Yes, it will take some time now and will possibly delay your ride schedule by 1-2 hours, so better accept this and stop cursing your fate/the road/your stars/etc. Doing this will help you stay calm and relaxed and you will make fewer mistakes in the following steps.
  • Push the bike to a safe place on the roadside away from any moving traffic, possibly to some shade where you can work peacefully on the bike.
  • Take off the helmet and gloves (and jacket if it is summer) and keep it safely/securely on the handlebar (if you are to remove your rear wheel) or on the passenger seat (if you need to remove the front wheel). 1) this will help add some weight to keep the side of the bike floating, once the wheel is removed and 2) in India if you are riding in summer, by wearing all the insulated gear, you might dehydrate while trying to fix your wheel because of the heat and exhaustion.
  • Take the tools out which will help you to remove the wheel and tube.
  • Take out the spare tube and keep it handy.

Do not ride a bike when it's punctured : (unless its the only option left for you due to some unknown reason) - Riding a bike with a deflated Tyre will not only damage the tube, it will damage the tire as well as the wheel (/rim).

While removing the wheel, things to remember:
  1. Rear wheel: Mark the position of the adjusters before you open the wheel axle
  2. Front-wheel : keep the metal bushes clean and safe when you pull out the axle and also do not press the front disc brake lever when the disc is out

Simple high-level steps to replace the tube:
  1. The first thing to do is put the bike on the center stand : so that the punctured wheel can rotate freely, then rotate, find out, and remove the nail/item that caused the puncture (in rare cases the valve stem or the valve might have caused the air to leak, so investigate properly before coming to a conclusion)
  2. Remove the bolt from the outside and take the valve out safely and keep it in a clean place
  3. Push the valve stem softly, yet firmly into the rim: until it goes completely inside (and is no more visible on the rim). This step will avoid the stem to break from the tube, which makes the tube useless 
  4. Use tire rods to break the bead of the tire: Do this step very carefully and avoid using a screwdriver for this work as the sharp side oftentimes damages the tube further.
  5. Once the tire is off the rim on one side, reach out for the valve stem and take it out from one side:  Then work your way around the whole tube from underneath the tire until its completely out.
  6. Patch it or replace it with a new one: I suggest keeping a new tube on long rides, that's more reliable than a patched tube and takes no time to swap with the punctured one. You can use the same valve if that's not causing any leaks)
  7. Follow the same process in reverse order but in a more watchful manner: as the worst thing that could happen in this process is you may damage the new tube just to stop on the road again (Trust me people do this more often than you may think and they will tell tire puncture is hell. Well clearly it is not if we are patient and careful.)
  8. Inflate using a Compressor/Hand-pump.

Be careful with the mechanics:
If you happen to find a mechanic to do the above work for you, be vigilant while Steps 5, 6, and 7 are performed. As this is the time, they try to damage the tube or introduce new punctures, just to fleece you, especially if you are already disturbed due to the incident of the puncture. Staying calm and composed helps you here as well! See, I told ya so;)

Now if you want to see the above steps in pictures, just head over to one of my older posts available here:

Replacing Front Tyre / Tube  [ 2014 > August ]

Hope this information helps you be more confident on the road. If you find this post/site useful, or if you have some suggestions/tips to share, do leave a message in the comments. And before we part, here is an inspiring video to watch and appreciate:

Still, you think you can't do something?!!

Cheers !!


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