Your tubeless tire is mortally wounded with a puncture too big to seal and it’s bleeding out sealant on the trail. You only have seconds to save its life. What do you do? Before you bust out the spare tube, try a tire plug.
Tire plugs are strips of vulcanized rubber designed to be inserted into a puncture to seal the tire. Plug kits are easy to carry on your bike and they can repair tires quickly, saving you the hassle of installing a tube. Whether you’re riding road, gravel, or mountain bikes, plugging a tubeless tire is an essential skill. Here’s how it’s done.
How to plug a tubeless tire
1. Remove a tire plug from the packaging
2. Thread the plug through the eye of the plug tool.
3. Fold the plug in half and insert it into the puncture. Leave a decent tail.
4. Remove the tool from the puncture. The plug should stay in place.
5. Air up with a CO2 or pump and ride away.
Tire plug tips and tricks
- It can take some force to get the plug through the tire. If your tire hasn’t gone completely flat, it’s nice to have some air in the tire to push against. Try holding a finger over a leak or have a friend do it while you get the plug ready.
- Large punctures may require more than one plug to seal. Use your best judgment, but if 2-3 plugs don’t take care of a puncture, put in a tube.
- When you remove the tool, it should leave the tire plug in place, but you might need to press a finger against the plug to encourage it to stay behind.
- If the tire plug holds air reliably, you can keep riding a plugged tire until it wears out. If you want, trim the plug so it looks neater.
Our favorite tire plug kits
I currently keep a Genuine Innovations kit on each of my bikes. They come with small brown plugs called “Bacon Strips.” One Bacon Strip will take care of most punctures, but sometimes I have to double up with bigger mountain bike tire punctures. The basic Genuine Innovations Tire Repair Kit is the least expensive and the lightest. I’ll keep this in my road bike saddle bag. (Yes, I ride tubeless road tires!) I keep the Tubeless Tackle Tire Repair Kit on my mountain and gravel bike because of its handy water-tight container.
If you want a stealthier option, try the Lezyne Bar-End Mount or Sahmurai SWORD kit. These kits hide the tire plugs and tool inside your handlebars. The Lezyne and Sahmurai plugs are much larger than Bacon Strips and are great for sealing bigger punctures.
Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tire Repair Kit - $8.79
Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Tire Repair Kit - $27.49
Lezyne Tubeless Patch Kit - $19.99
Lezyne Tubeless Insert Bar-End Mount Tubeless Plug Tool - $24.99
Sahmurai SWORD Tubeless Repair Kit - $24.00
No-thread tire plug kits
If you don’t want to faff around with threading a plug through a tool while your tire loses air, the Stan’s Dart and Dynaplug attach the plug to a barb that allows for instant insertion. The Stan’s Dart is lightweight and works great, but I’ve found if you’re not careful, you can break the plastic barb off during insertion and lose the plug inside the tire.
The Dynaplug kit with multiple tools and brass-tipped plugs is the gold standard, but it’s expensive and might be too heavy for weight weenies. If so, the lightweight Dynaplug Racer might fit the bill.
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