Wednesday, June 7

Plugged In

So I mentioned on the social medias that I bought a what some would consider a "stupid expensive" flat tire fixer thing.  I purchased the Dynaplug Air (with Megaplug kit).

The Dynaplug Air is $74.99, add the Megaplug kit (includes nozzle and four Megaplugs, $19.99) and an additional five pack of plugs for $5 more... grand total, something like $100.  Stupid, right?  I mean, you can get the Genuine Innovations Baconator for a lot less, so why bother?

I've used the Baconator before.  My reasons for upgrading were thus:

* I really felt the need to preload the bacon into the tool at home, in a clean environment, with no coffee shakes.  It's a bit like threading a needle, if the thread were covered in glue and the needle might break if you force a bad hand (I've broken two tools in the past trying to get the bacon threaded).

* Inflation still has to be done through the valve... which, if you're lazy and haven't checked to make sure your valve stem is free of sealant and cloggy bits, inflation may not be as easy as you were hoping.  Yeth, that could be avoided with "maintenance," but let's not go there.

My biggest issue is the former and not the latter.  A tire plug really is a "I've got X amount of time to respond, find the hole, jam in the plug (which the Baconator sometimes requires some canoodling to get in, as I was reminded Sunday when Paw flatted in Wilson Creek).

So, a big investment in the Dynaplug, but when you're tossing hundreds or thousands of dollars to travel and do big races where DNFs not only hurt the ego but also the wallet?  And you're also sitting on "new bike monies" but don't need a new bike in the least.  Why not?

I got to use the Dynaplug Air in a very incorrect yet semi-successful manner at the Pisgah 111K a few weeks ago.  I shoulda practiced beforehand or at least thought it out better, but at $10 for five new plugs...  Um, yeah.  Practice woulda cost me $2 plus one of the 16 gram CO2s they shipped with the kit (I never carry anything less than a 20 gram while racing).  Derp.

Here's what I did, and then I'll follow up with what I shoulda done, and then a bunch more answers to your questions.

I noticed the flat after hitting a big rock.  Pulled over.  Huge hole right at the rim.  I had the Megaplug attached because I felt like based on my success with using TruckerCo Cream, if I were to flat, it would be a big tear.

Because I am dumb, I did not attach my CO2 first (the tool is designed to inflate through the hole in the tire before removing the nozzle and leaving the plug in place).  I wanted to dry fit the larger plug into the hole to make sure I didn't need to attach the smaller size plug/nozzle.  It went right in smooth as butter (that's why they have a metallic tip, as regular bacon can be reluctant to go in).  Like a moron, instead of threading the CO2 on now, I pulled the nozzle out thinking, "Great, my new tool is gonna work."

And the plug stayed in the hole... like it was made to do.

So, grab my regular inflator, air up the tire... second hole found in the tread.  Pinch flat.   Meh.

Now I've got my CO2 with plenty of air left in it attached to my other inflator, so I can't thread it onto my new tool, so I grab the standard size nozzle with the the plug preloaded and jam it in there.  Sealed.  Both holes... albeit not in the way things shoulda went down because... I'm dumb.

Here's the new plan.

Preloaded Megaplug already to go.  Attach CO2 to the tool.  Insert the Megaplug.  If it's too big to fit in the hole, swap tips with the smaller plug.  Stick it in.  Inflate.  Pull out.  Ride away.

In the case of how things went down at the Pisgah 111K (with a double puncture, tire bottoming on the rim)... insert Megaplug, inflate, see other hole start to spew sealant, turn CO2 off, pull out, swap nozzles, insert smaller plug, inflate, pull out, ride.

Dammit.   Hindsight being what it is...

To answer the other questions, "What happens if you have a bad day, flat multiple times, run outta plugs, and need to use a tube.  What about those pokey metal bits?"

When I had time to look the tire over at home, I considered patching the tear between the treads... because I'm dumb and don't read much wells.

I went to pull the plug out, and the tip came right off.  I sent Dynaplug an email asking why they don't mention that the tips remove easily to soothe the hearts and minds of the concerned rider:

"Yes, the tips are removable if needed, like you found, and the plug should stay in the tire but actually its the tip on the other side that keeps in place until the material has totally bonded.  All of our plugs are now soft tip (slightly rounded point) or bullet. We are going to schedule some tests, but we've not actually found a situation where a tip has punctured a tube or injured any part of the wheel."

And also from their site's FAQs:

"2. What happens if the brass tip comes loose inside my tire?

If the brass tip comes loose you have nothing to worry about. We chose brass for the specific reason that it's non-abrasive to the tire. We have conducted centrifugal testing and our findings showed that the tip will eventually break down and disintegrate."

Here's some closeups of my dealio:

Megaplug at bead, standard in the tread.  I've since trimmed them (as suggested) and will be mounting this tire back up as some point to use... until I wear the tread out.

An inside look after I tugged on the metal bits.

The metal bits.  Seriously  Removable with minimal effort.

How I'm carrying the Dynaplug Air right now:

It's all in my Tülbag with my other tools.  I made a holder out of a Bic pen to keep the standard size nozzle and one extra plug in so they stay clean and dry.  The Megaplug nozzle is protected by its own cap (purple thing in background).  It does exponentially add to the amount of money I have tucked away in my Tülbag, but I've had zero Tülbags fall out of my jersey pocket.  The Griptech fabric all but ensures that if you lost your Tülbag, it's because you absentmindedly left it somewhere.  It ain't just gonna fly out... like ever.

So, anyways... it is a lot of money, but is it worth it?

To me, yeth.  Going beyond the time and money spent doing an actual race, consider all the time you put into preparing and planning, the training, the sweating of the details.  Then think about the other options.  Trying to fiddle with the loading of another piece of bacon and jamming it in your tire, putting in a tube and riding carefully the rest of the day, doing the sealant shaky dance and blowing through all your CO2s... or spend money and plan ahead and get back in the bike in less than sixty seconds.  Seriously.

I can see where a recreational rider would scoff at this.  I would.

I can also see where this should be the number one option for serious XC racers.  If I was a pro, this thing would already have a CO2 on it in my pocket ready to go.  Get a flat and probably be rolling in under 30 seconds?  Bueno.

But I'm an occasional recreational racer type, I guess.  Best way to classify myself.  I care just enough for these things to matter.  I've also been in sweating my balls off in Costa Rica fixing a flat with a pump and a tube with miles and miles of riding down the center of railroad tracks all the way to Punta Arenas still to go.  I've been stymied by a hard-to-remove valve stem at SSWC05, watching a top forty shot at the go cart race for the tattoo slip outta my fingers... literally.   I've ridden a flat for miles at the end of the Cohutta 100 and a stage of the Trans Sylvania Epic for a stomach-wrenching win... when this woulda taken less than a minute to solve.

So many times that I can think how this woulda made my life that much easier over the last... I dunno.  Seventeen years of endurance racing on a tubeless set up?  Divide $100 by that number and analyze the breakdown.  Then get back to me.

I doubt I'll be done "racing" or getting flats any time in the near future.

Not that I'm looking forward to my next flat, but when I do, I'll be using this tool the way it was meant to be used.  Now you can to (assuming you can retain the knowledge of ill-gotten wisdom I shared above).

So... sure.    Seal of Semi-Approval material.

The price certainly takes a bite, but for a Made in the USA product of this quality, and you can get five new plugs for $10 or three Megaplugs for $12 (free shipping)... which isn't that bad when you think about how much a tubes cost nowadays.   If you're not comfortable with the price tag, they have much lesser "racer boi" options down to $25 (same plug technology tho), which.. yeah.

That would be great for a normal person with normal person problems.

I'm just not normal.

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