Tire plugs existed long before our bikes went tubeless. People have been forking fiber-reinforced strips of non-vulcanized rubber into holes in their car tires for decades. So, that’s the system that early bike-specific tubeless plug kits used. It wasn’t until later that brands like Dynaplug, Stan’s and Blackburn started reinventing the wheel. Those plugs are fine, I guess, but I like to keep it classic. I find that the standard “bacon-strip” style is the most versatile, cheap and user-friendly approach to fixing leaks. They come in different thicknesses for different sized punctures, and if they’re still not thick enough, it’s easy to just keep inserting more and more until you’ve stopped the leak. On that note, they’re also pretty cheap. Usually about 50 cents each, so I always just have way more than I need. Mostly because it’s just so easy to pack a ton of them into a small space. A small space like, for instance, the storage can that’s built into the Genuine Innovations Tubeless Tackle Kit.
The kit comes with a couple of the plastic sandwiches that each house five bacon strips, but there’s room for plenty more. I actually roll one extra sheet, as well as a sheet of oversized plugs from Lezyne. Even the oversized Dynaplug Megapill kit has room for a maximum of eight plugs. I have twenty. I can pretty much pack that canister full, even though the insertion tool then has to go in the middle of it all. Reason being, the insertion tool is really really small, which is probably my favorite thing about this tool.
Full disclosure, this isn’t my tool. Ryan Palmer takes a better photo than me, so he shot his own kit. I’ve made one extreme modification to mine that I think would come off as confusing for anyone who doesn’t read the rest of this. On my insertion tool, I’ve cut off the tongs that would otherwise capture the plug, leaving just a tiny little split to center the plug as I push it in. Reason being, I’ve found it’s a little frustrating to get the plug through that tight opening. It’s like threading a needle if the thread is covered in bubble gum. Also, unless the puncture is especially tiny, I’ve had the tool pull the plug right out after inserting it. Stretching it over my modified stubby fork gives me a little more control over how much force is needed to separate the plug from the tool when it’s time to pull it out. The disadvantage is that I can’t have a plug pre-loaded, so quick-installs are hard to pull off. But back to the benefits of the insertion tool’s small size, this approach means there is very little other than the plug itself going into the hole. So many other insertion tools are wider and easier to load, but they take up more space than the plug itself. The narrower the tool, the easier insertion and removal will go, and the less likely you are to stretch the puncture when getting your plug in there.
This is especially true when inserting plugs into holes at the bead in the event of a pinch-flat. These are tough to reach, and often need to be inserted at an angle. Sometimes these punctures make it hard to get a deep insertion because the rim is in the way. My method allows me to get in and get out with no fuss. The Tubeless Tackle Kit is cool like that. It’s not all that sleek or innovative (despite “innovations” being in the brand name). It just works. It’s cheap, it’s practical, it’s made of metal, not plastic, and you can get replacement plugs for it pretty much anywhere you go. It’s simple, but effective, a design philosophy all too rare in mountain biking.