If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to screw up a ride on the bike, it’s got to be a puncture. Whether you run over a rogue screw on the road or a massive thorn out on the trails, the moment it happens your day takes a down turn. For off road riders, there are options to minimise or completely remove the risk using heavy duty tubes, tyre balls tubeless systems or mousses.
But for road and adventure riders the options are more limited – tubeless systems and mousses simple are not suited to any element of tarmac, and they’re legality is at best questiionable. Which is where tyre sealants come in.
Most preventative tyre sealants are chemical-based gels that you squirt into your tubes. They contain a mix of polymers, binders and congealing agents and work by coating the inside of the tyre and filling any holes as soon as they occur. However effective, being chemical based they inevitably have a certain shelf life after which the product begins to breakdown.
The other type of product is the emergency aerosol type – this is more of a one use product to get you out of trouble as it contains compresseed air with the sealant so you can get going again and take your bike to a proper puncture repair centre.
Bike Seal works in a similar way to the gels, inserted into a tyre and staying in place as a long term preventative measure. However unlike the gels or the aerosols, Bike Seal does not breakdown and will last for the life of the tyre or tube. We had to test the technology.
Bizarrely the technology behind Bike Seal was developed by NASA to prevent punctures in astronaut’s suits! Later the same tech was adopted by the American military to protect their troop vehicles from punctures after being shot – makes the ride to work sound quite tame really.
After tests by the UK Government funded Motor Industries Research Association – MIRA – the product was approved for us by the British Armed forces and NATA troops too. Beyond this, the product has also been adopted for use in heavy industry, haulage and agriculture and is used worldwide.
Essentially, the product is Kevlar or Aramid in solution, which sits permanently within your tyre after application. If a puncture occurs, the combination of internal pressure and centripetal force allow the fibres to plug the hole within just a couple of revolutions of the wheel, with minimal pressure loss so the rider will not even notice. Further revolutions enforce the plug and increases the seal on the puncture and because it’s a mechanical process rather than a chemical one, there’s no chance of the product being out date and failing to work. If there’s a hole, it will find it – much like copper based radiator sealants.
All you can see on the outside of the tyre after a small puncture is a small dot of beige fibres which will remain in place. Bike Seal can fix holes up to a staggering 15mm diameter, but clearly in such circumstances then it’s probably going to be time to change the tyre once home and safe.
The distributors state that it protects 95% of the tread area from punctures and will seal rim and bead leaks on tubeless tyres and unlike competitors, the same solution can be used on tubed tyres too so it’s good for on or off-road. And on the tarmac having the solution in your hoops doesn’t mean there are speed restrictions, in fact road racers use the product but at slightly less volume to reduce weight in their race tyres.
Oh and although it’s water based, it has a freezing point of -35 C so that’s probably time to stop riding anywhere.
What more do you need to know?
FIITING TO THE TYRES
The test bike for Bike Seal was to be our Yamaha Tenere 660. We were fitting new tyres to the bike anyway and as the bike will be used for both on and off-road, mousses were not going to be an option, so it made sense to start with a clean slate and hopefully puncture proof tyres.
Fitting is simple and decidedly low-tech. For larger bikes, you need 250 ml per tyre, so as the bottle is 500 ml, it’s half per end. The pack includes a valve remover which you’ll need as the solution is not going to get through. With the valve out it’s just a case of fitting the applicator tube to the valve stem and squeezing in the correct amount.
Once done, it’s back with the valve and up to pressure with a pump or compressor and the installation is complete. Just a proviso here – machine balancing tyres with the product inside is tricky, so it’s best to do this before inserting Bike Seal.
REAL WORLD TESTING
OK so product testing any puncture sealant is not necessarily that easy unless you want to stick nails and screwdrivers into your tyres. Having seen the demonstration in person and on the various You Tube clips linked on Bike Seal’s website, we were pretty convinced that there was sound science behind the product. We were certainly not going to voluntarily make holes in our brand new Mitas E09 tyres that had just been fitted by the chaps at Classic Enduro.
But what we could do was ride the bike to test it and as we were due to ride the first UK section of the Trans Euro Trail this felt like a suitable challenge. The route we were riding went from Dover to Chepstow, covering nearly 500 miles across the south of England.
So with the sealant in place, the pressures set at 20 psi both ends and the bikes loaded up, we set off.
Our route took us on a meandering route across the country, travelling on everything from fast dual carriageways and twisty backroads to tight and technical rocky trails to deep ruts on slippery flint and chalk. At times the tyres were spinning up on the rock hard and icy ground, sometimes taking big hits on rock steps as we muscled the Tenere forward along the GPX route of the TET.
If this were not enough of a challenge for the tyres and tubes, the recently cut hedges in many of the lanes and trails presented another level of risk of puncture. With literally thousands of sharp sticks, thorns and shards of wood covering the entire surface of the trails at times, this was prime puncture territory.
So over the course of the four days we experienced absolutely no issues with the tyres – no punctures, no loss in pressure, nothing.
Of course we have absolutely no guarantee that this would not have been the case without the Bike Seal fitted. Punctures are not inevitable, but on the terrain we were riding and particularly with the impacts from rocks and the number of sharp sticks on the trails, we can be fairly confident that the risk was high.
And in reality, because the product almost instantly seals punctures, then we might have had one puncture, we might have had 21! When the only evidence might be a speck of the fibres plugging any holes on the tyres, we’d need to get out the magnifying glass to check for evidence. But in a sense, why we would we – the tyres are inflated, undamaged and ready to go!
Fitting Bike Seal to the tyres gave us confidence that we were not going to have our ride wrecked by punctures. Armed with this confidence, we didn’t pack tubes, levers or pumps, leaving all the hardware in the garage. Whether you’d be confident to do the same in far away places is another matter, but given that the product gives vastly more protection than simply running HD tubes, then making the choice is not difficult.
At £27.50 for a 500ml bottle that will do both wheels on an bigger bike or just £15.00 for enough to do both tyres on a trail bike, it’s not a difficult decision …
RIDE EXPEDITIONS BIKE SEAL REVIEW RATING
We are 100% sold on Bike Seal – we think the confidence it gives against the possibility of punctures wrecking your day is worth every penny of the incredibly reasonable ticket price. Five stars all day,
OK so with tubeless tyres you would need to buy and fit half bottle for every new tyre, but given that’s just over £12 per hoop, it’s not a major concern. With a tubed tyre, the sealant is going to last as long as the tube is serviceable, which is likely to be many years.
If that’s going to prevent even one episode of struggling with levers and tubes at the side of a trail, it’s a no-brainer.
Are you using tyre sealants, mouses or tubes? Let us know your experiences and we’ll share it with the class
SHARE THE POST...