A Torn Valve Stem: A $6 Part Can End a Ride

Kelly and I left early Saturday morning heading to Star Valley, Wyoming. It had been a while since we had a good long ride and wanted to get some miles in before we attempted the Iron Butt ride in a couple of weeks.

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I had recently purchased a BeadRider (a beaded seat cover recommended by Iron Butt Association members) to keep your seat cool and comfortable on a long ride. I’ve learned over the years that a tour or other big ride (like the Iron Butt) isn’t the best time to test out new gear, so a 400-500 mile ride would be a good dry run for the BeadRider to see if I wanted to use it on the 1,000-mile Iron Butt.

I admit to being a little skeptical, but have to admit the BeadRider did the trick. I’ve tried several different types of cushions and pads over the years and this one is the winner for keeping your seat dry and spreading out the pressure points. I’ll be taking this on every big ride.

Riding into Montpelier for lunch I noticed a little wobble that got more pronounced as I pulled into our lunch stop. I had a flat tire.

Aside from the flat, the tire didn’t look too damaged, so I thought we should be able to plug it and get on our way. As we slowly turned and inspected the tire, we couldn’t find a nail or anything else that might have punctured the tire—which is when we noticed the torn valve stem.

I don’t think I hit anything on the road, so I don’t know what could have torn the stem, but the flat had now escalated to a difficult (if not impossible) roadside repair.

We got on the phone trying to find some kind of motorcycle or motorsports dealer nearby thinking they would probably have some kind of motorcycle lift we could get under my Road King, but there isn’t one in Montpelier. What we did find was a place called McPherson Tire that was open on a Saturday afternoon. After finding a motorcycle valve stem, we headed down the road to see if we could remove the tire, replace the stem, and get back on the highway.

These guys were great. They welcomed us into the shop and since we knew how to change a motorcycle tire, they gave us access to the shop so we could figure out how to lift a Road King in an auto tire shop without a motorcycle lift.

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We were able to scrounge a piece of 4x4 that was wide enough to sit under the frame, but we couldn’t get the floor jack and the 4x4 under the bike. We ended up riding the front wheel onto an auto lift so we could gingerly raise the front of the bike up high enough to get the floor jack and the 4x4 under the bike so we could lift it up high enough to get the wheel off.

We decided since my legs are a little longer than Kelly’s that I would straddle and balance the bike (there’s no way this rig was stable enough to get off the bike) while he pulled the tire and replaced the stem.

This would not have been the best way to learn how to change a motorcycle tire, but we fortunately had both done it before so once we figured out how to get the front of the bike up, it went pretty quick. I think we were actually in and out of there in a little over an hour.

Because we didn’t need to completely remove the tire from the rim all we needed to do was break the bead, replace the stem, and put the tire back on. We did have to pull off the brake calipers to get the tire off and fortunately, one of the mechanics had the 12 point 10mm socket we didn’t have for the brake parts.

Needless to say, the 10mm socket and a couple of extra valve stems will be going into the tool bag should this ever happen again. In well over 100,000 miles of riding neither of us had ever experienced this before, but we were pretty lucky to find a valve stem and someplace that would let us use their shop to get the job done. Without the lift at McPherson, we would have been relegated to a tow, several hours of waiting along the side of the road, and probably a couple hundred dollar fee.

Instead, we were able to fix the tire ourselves and finish the ride. The guys at McPherson’s didn’t want to charge us anything, which was incredibly generous on their part, so I left the store manager and the mechanic who helped us out both a tip. Again, these guys were awesome to us.

Thanks Kelly for your help. It’s always good to have a creative problem solver on board in an emergency. Our ride ended up being just a little bit over 400 miles, which is a great way to spend a Saturday.