Tubeless Gravel Tire Fail: Sealant Fail, Plug Fail, Tube Fail – Lessons Learned!

Ever had one of those days when it all went belly up? It happens to all of us, and JOM of the Gravel Cyclist crew is no exception.

tubeless gravel tire fail
Hang on, aren’t you supposed to be riding the bike?

During a rainy day mixed-surface ride, all was going splendidly until JOM picked a bad line, and struck a rock with his rear tire (tyre). Unfortunately, said rock cut the sidewall of the tyre, causing enough damage that the sealant within the rear tyre could not seal the puncture.

tubeless gravel tire fail
Ruh Roh! That tyre looks a bit flat…

From there, it got a little worse… the plug kit failed, followed by a spare tube fail (wrong length valve), which was made all the better by constant drizzling rain. Thankfully, JOM’s good mate K-Dogg came to the rescue and collected JOM, but what could he have done differently?

tubeless gravel tire fail
On Walk-a-Bout

In the video below, JOM analyzes what happened and thinks about ways the roadside repair could have been handled better, and so on.

tubeless gravel tire fail
Walk-a-Bout continues…

Constructive comments are welcomed, but please, keep them positive.

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30 comments on “Tubeless Gravel Tire Fail: Sealant Fail, Plug Fail, Tube Fail – Lessons Learned!

  1. IMHO, it’s also worth carrying something to use as a tyre boot; Oz $5 bills are good for this. 😉

      1. Oz $5 bills are smaller, lighter and cheaper than $10, etc; higher value bills get bigger. Being plastic they’re very tear resistant, but no way I’m putting a $50 or $100 bill into a tyre semi-indefinitely. Of course, some people reportedly used to use C Notes to light cigars, so YMMV.

        1. Stephen, I’d like to see you improvise with some $2 coins. The Canadians also use polymer $$$, but I think we Aussies were first 🙂

          1. $2 coins wouldn’t be the best choice – they’re too small! $1, 20c or 50c coins would be better but the corners on 50c pieces might chafe tubes(?). I’m never going to find out…

            One can buy things like Park tyre boots, but $5 notes are probably cheaper and more likely to be available, pre-pandemic at least; cards wouldn’t work as well as cash. 🙂

  2. Keep a valve extender in your seat bag? I had this happen to me as well, and the valve stem on my spare tube was too short for my newer rims. Would’ve been a non-issue with a valve extender.

    1. Usually one resides in there, but it was removed for some reason or another, and not replaced. I review too many wheels and sometimes, stuff goes missing!

  3. Been there with a set of Maxxis Ravengers. Thought my day was headed like yours but was able to stop the leak long enough to ride home. Took three Dyna Plugs. The only thing I do differently now is carry a couple more plugs than I think is appropriate. Since tubes have been relegated to emergencies only these days, I carry at least a 60 but most normally an 80mm valved tube regardless of bike. That will get me home on anything from my gravel bike to my aero bike. The MTB, that’s whole different story.

    1. Proper spelling for tyre. Also, it would be cool if you cut the bad lingo down when posting to the site, kids may be reading. Thanks.

  4. Hot summer day about 32 blocks from home nail in my rear tire on my ebike, that was the good part. Nail is easy to find. It took 3 hours. First politely running off somebody trying to help that was making things worst. I was on a street that was a trolley route. If it was a bus route I could have loaded by bike on a rack on the bus. A shop showed me how to change a rear tube on a rack. Of course I didn’t have a rack and always knew that situation would be a nitemares. I carry a spare tube and a small handpump which I used many times. I’ve had four flats, all quite a story. I’ve since purchased a self sealing intertube for the rear. Haven’t gotten the nerve to take that rear wheel off yet, and I have a nice maintenance rack at home.

  5. Stick to the standard tube N tires but with sealant in the tube!! Best thing I did and it still doesn’t work use patches or new tubes. 4x holes still going

    1. I’ve only had limited luck with this method. It ultimately ends up as a slow leak. I had great luck with tubes when living in the states. I don’t think I had a flat for about three years. That said, the thorns here (Southern Africa) laugh at any tube you can throw at them.

  6. Stans Dart! I recently plugged a puncture in the very same place as yours. It worked perfectly and got me back home. It works fine with any latex based sealant.

  7. I’ve had some that seal and some that don’t. It might have been that your cut was so severe that a tube with a boot (or another tire/tyre) would be required.

    My experience is that the lower the pressure (wider the tire), the better the probability to seal. Also, I have had better luck with Stan’s Race than with the original recipe.

  8. I wrap my spare tube in a 6 inch corner of a tyvek bag. I pick up the bags at the post office. It protects the patch in my seat bag, and you can use it as a boot for a torn tire. Or is it “tyre”?

      1. My understanding is that a tire lives under a fender, and a tyre lives under a mudguard.?

  9. Gashes in the tire carcass can be so destructive and unrepairable. Glass and steel debris have caused most of my tire cuts which usually results in me getting a new tire. Carrying a spare tire is an option. Having the phone number of someone who can drive a car to where you are and transport you is always a good policy. I certainly have wandered off on a bicycle ride only to flat and not have the proper tool, tube, repair kit ect. And I’ve also thought I had the flat tire space covered only to find out that the replacement tube valve stem was too short, the pump would not work on a presta valve, and all the other goofs that can occur. I use bags that are bigger than yours to carry tire repair goods. I always carry a tire pump that will actually pump a tire to at least 80psi without having the strength of Superman to use it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve helped people that had CO2 cartridges that did not complete the repair for whatever reason. Most were for keeping a previously used cartridge because it still had pressure. Once the seal is broken I guess they slowly leak until you get your next flat and find out you have no charge left. I don’t carry CO2. I wish the lessons I learned 40 years ago didn’t have to be learned again and again.

  10. You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find spare tubes with a 60mm stem for those wheels. I just bought a spare tube for my spare tube as it’s taking a month to get delivery

    1. Supply is having a difficult time keeping up with demand at the moment, thank Coronavirus for that one.

  11. Same thing happened to me on the road this year!! The sealant failed but not entirely. It was able to maintain 20psi which is very low but was enough for me to make it very slowly home.

    I had the sealant topped off and it sealed but only partially. The tire would hold air for about a day and then deflate to 40 psi then 20 within 2 days which meant I had to inflate the tire every ride.

    Oddly enough this has gone on the last 2 months of th season until one day, I don’t know why, it finally sealed properly and not it holds the air.

    Anyways. Tubeless is neat but sidewall cuts are aweful!

  12. Heavy duty thread and needle to sew the tear back together so sealant can work. Works well when combined with tire plugs because the thread can help keep them in place. Fixed a 1/2″ v-shaped puncture in the center of a fat bike tread without taking the wheel off and rode it out and then rode it for a few more days until I had a chance to patch it better. Take 2oz of Orange seal and and injector as well.

  13. I had a mid ride walk due to an unexpected flat tire issue. Flatted after managing to snap off the rear wheel valve while negotiating around a down tree on remote single track trail. No worries, since I carry a spare tube, C02, 2oz of sealant, and pump. I went to remove the thru-axle and the head of the the unit came off leaving me without any way to remove the wheel. I tried MacGyvering things for awhile with no luck. Without other options I started walking. Got to the trailhead and found a house/home owner that had tools to allow me to remove the wheel and make the repair. Needless to say I will be switching over to bolt on thru-axles.

  14. I carry 3 or 4 pieces of doubled over duct tape in my bag. About 3 inches long when doubled or tripled over, depends on where we are going. This has saved me and several others from walking.
    Here in Texas we have mesquite thorns that will tear a tire up.

  15. I carry standard tire plugs from the auto / moto world. Since all plugs are just rubberized yarns they can be pulled apart into various sizes just like string cheese. I carry a Sahmurai Sword plugger in my bar end with a good size plug ready to go. This handles almost all pinch flats within seconds. In my tool kit is a cheapo little Genuine Innovations plugger for small leaks that just won’t seal. (maybe I should try different sealand…) On more than a couple occasions I have had to take a big piece of plug material a few mm/s in diameter and 70mm long and tie a knot in it. Thread it thru the cut from the inside out. by only pulling the tire off the rim near the cut the sealant stays in the tire, pop the tire on and get to pumping. I have had many side wall tears over the last few years on gravel bikes that I have fixed this way, I have not used a tube in years using this method but still carry a small road tube a small denomination bill ‘just in case’. I do see the frequency of big cuts is going down as casings are getting better (and stiffer)

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