Over the past 60 years and over a million miles of motorcycle riding, I can only remember suffering a couple of front flats, but I’ve had to repair at least 30 or 40 rear tire punctures. In my experience the item that causes the puncture (usually a nail) is kicked up by the front tire and picked up by the rear tire.
Since the advent of products like “Fix-a-Flat” and “Slime” I’ve been in the habit of installing 8 to 12 ounces of Slime into the rear tube after balancing the entire wheel. This has worked well for me as long as the puncture causing item was small in diameter and short in length. In fact, a couple of times I’ve been able to leave the offending item in place until the tire was worn out.
Now fast forward to November 2015 when I was headed for Hostel Sauzal, which is about 6 miles north of Ensenada on Mexico Highway 1. After passing through Mexican customs, I headed west along their new four lane concrete road. As I was riding up a long hill in the right lane, the back end of my bike began to weave back and forth. With heavy traffic behind me I looked for a place to pull off, but the shoulder was less than half the width of a car and curbed. Just as I was getting ready to pull onto the narrow shoulder, the bike’s rear end began to weave and yaw wildly, almost tossing me off in front of heavy traffic. Somehow I was able to pull over and stop.
I got my repair gear unpacked and installed the segmented right side stand as traffic whizzed by only a few feet from my butt. I pulled the axle and removed the rear wheel for inspection and repair. It didn’t take me long to discover what had happened: the rear tire had picked up a large 3¼” nail which had passed through the tread. The nail was long enough to puncture the tube multiple times in the area of the drop center causing the air and slime to escape rapidly.
The worst thing that happened was that the escaped “slippery” slime lubricated the beads on both sides of the tire a full 360 degrees causing them to come completely off the rim and into drop center. No wonder I almost crashed. If it hadn’t been for the wonderful bulletproof Motion-Pro rear rim lock I probably would not be writing this article today.
After removing the messy rear tube from the tire I discovered that I had everything I needed to make the repair except an air pump. Apparently, when I had moved my gear from a rear bag to one on the left side, I forgot to pack my bicycle air pump. I have to admit that with only two and a half hours of daylight remaining I was becoming more than a little concerned.
As I stood there next to my bike with cars zipping past me a few feet away, a police cruiser from Playas de Tijuana pulled up behind me with lights flashing. Officer Yazmín Cerón Sanchez immediately stepped from her vehicle asking me what had happened and how she could help me get going again. I admitted that my biggest problem was that I did not have an air pump. In Spanish she responded, “I’ll help you install the new tube and then I’ll take your wheel to a gas station for air. We need to get you out of here before the big afternoon traffic rush begins.” I suddenly realized that despite the presence of the police car, we were both in a considerable amount of danger there on that narrow shoulder.
Once we had installed the new heavy-duty rear tube and pried the tire back on to the rim, Officer Cerón put my wheel in the back seat of her cruiser and drove to the nearest Pemex station. She returned in less than 15 minutes, but due to lack of a turnabout was forced to park on the other side of the four-laner. Once her patrol car was secured with lights on, she walked across four lanes of traffic carrying my motorcycle wheel. At this point we did not have the police cruiser parked behind us to give us that extra little bit of safety. Because it was so dangerous there on the narrow shoulder, I suggested to her that I could finish the job without taking any more of her time. She replied, “We can get the job done quicker with two, and then you can be on your way!” Twenty-five minutes later my bike was repaired, packed and ready to go. I thanked her profusely for her assistance and before she left I made sure to get all her contact information.
After Officer Cerón made her way across the highway to her patrol car, I donned my helmet, gloves and jacket and eased back into the flow of traffic. It was too late in the afternoon for me to make it to El Sauzal before dark, so I decided to turn around and head back to the border and home. Needless to say, Pauline was a bit shocked to see me back home so soon. As I recounted my afternoon’s adventures, she thanked me for not calling her on my cell phone while the drama was playing out. Having ridden tandem with me several times on that stretch of highway, she was well aware of the dangerously narrow shoulder.
There are lots of horror stories about how dangerous it is to travel in Mexico, but I have not found that to be true. In fact, this is the third time that I have had law enforcement respond positively when they were needed most. Officer Cerón Sanchez went beyond the call in helping me with a very serious problem in a dangerous place. Maria Navarro at Hostel Sauzal, who understands Mexican customs and speaks much better Spanish than I do, is helping me find a way to appropriately express my thanks. She endangered herself in order to help an “old gringo” get out of trouble, and I can assure you I’ll find a way to show my appreciation. Muchisimas Gracias, Officer Yazmín Cerón Sanchez!!
As for Slime, in the future I will carry an 8 oz. bottle with me in my gear, but I will only use it if I have a puncture caused by a small object that is causing a slow leak. In the event of a puncture by a larger object, I will take the time to do some patching or install the extra rear tube I carry at all times. Oh, and I won’t forget my bicycle pump and a recently purchased CO² inflation kit!