Dynaplug Covert Drop review: The fanciest of handlebar-stashed tubeless plugs
Hide four pre-loaded tubeless plugs within either a flat or drop handlebar.
Hide four pre-loaded tubeless plugs within either a flat or drop handlebar.
Just a few months back, Dynaplug was at the Sea Otter Classic quietly teasing its tubeless plugs in new handlebar-stashable versions. Named the Covert MTB and Covert Drop, these new and now-available flat bar and dropbar compatible plug tools are a more premium option than pre-existing stashable tubeless plugs. And how premium they are.
The new Covert MTB and Covert Drop are designed to put Dynaplug’s jab-and-go tubeless repair plugs into the ends of your handlebar for quick and easy access when needed, and secure storage when not.
Ever since Sahmurai Sword changed the game by hiding tubeless plugs in a handlebar, the idea has been copied to death without much (or any) improvement over the original. And that’s why I’m excited about Dynaplug’s premium offering. In my opinion, the patented impregnated rubber tubeless plugs are simply easier, faster, and more reliable compared to the gummy worm style plugs almost every other plug tool employs. Yes, they’re also vastly more expensive, but it’s a fee I’ve been willing to pay in the event a puncture sees my tubeless tyre start spurting sealant like a faulty sprinkler.
Sold as a pair, there are two key components to the made-in-California Covert. There’s the aluminium housing that is affixed inside the bar end. And then there’s the plug tool threaded by hand into the aluminium housing for storage. The plug tool is made of aluminium and stainless steel, and features the same dual-sided and flippable plug holder/insertion shafts as the Racer Pro. The design provides four preloaded plugs.
The Convert MTB (83 g) and Covert Drop (70 g) share the same overall design. Where the MTB version differs is with its larger diameter on the externally visible parts, it hides one larger “mega plug” instead of a fourth standard soft tip plug, and the exterior is treated to a highly durable Cerakote finish (Cerakote is likely a limited edition thing for launch) where the Drop version is anodised.
The initial installation of the Covert is easy but fiddly.
Both models fit into the ends of handlebars with a minimum internal diameter of 18.42 mm. You tighten the three teeny grub screws to affix the tool to the open bar end. Dynaplug provides 3 and 4.75 mm-length grub screws to ensure you can expand the tool into various handlebar diameters.
Those grub screws are oddly in freedom units: 5/64” drive size. Thankfully Dynaplug includes the necessary stubby ball-end hex key, and being from Bondhus, it’s a good one. And if you lose that, a 2 mm hex key will do the trick.
As you may imagine, adjusting those small grub screws with an even smaller hex key is a fiddle. The trick to speeding up the process is to slide the long length of the hex key through one of the opposing holes (with the Covert out of the handlebar) and wind out the grub screws as far as possible while still allowing the plug to be installed into the end of the bar.
In the few drop handlebars I tested, the Covert replaced the pre-existing bar end plugs and worked fine with the excess bar tape tucked into the bar. This will mean repeating the fiddly install when it comes time for new bartape. The longer-term solution is to wrap the bars without tucking any excess tape into the bar’s end – a common technique for bikes with a Di2 junction box at the end of the handlebar. Either way, the installation is fiddly enough to consider this a set-and-forget item.
And that brings me to compatibility. Suppose your bar ends are already occupied by a Shimano Junction box, a WolfTooth EnCase multi-tool, your garage door remote, or similar. In that case, this isn’t the tubeless plug solution for you (although you may be able to use one Covert instead of the pair). The Covert also won’t work with mountain bike grips with hard plastic enclosed ends or road handlebars with integrated tape flaps (Enve).
I have no concern about installing them into the ends of a carbon handlebar – just don’t go tightening the grub screws as if they’re responsible for holding your handlebar in place.
I’ve managed a couple of months on the Covert Drop and can attest that the product works as claimed. It just sits at the end of your bar without making a peep. The overbuilt design can take countless knocks and won’t budge. And your riding friends won’t know you’re hiding anything until it saves the day. You may even forget that they’re there.
We often see that simpler (and vastly cheaper) designs tend to try to strike a balance between easy removal and security, and that balance is often a bit iffy. By contrast, getting the Convert plugs out of the bar is remarkably simple with a large diameter and grippy texture to grab a hold of. It takes four revolutions until it’s completely unthreaded, and the smooth machined thread means you can spin it out. From there, the plugs are ready to be jabbed into the unwanted deflation exit point.
That jab-to-fix is something I’ve tested numerous times over the years and my success rate is high enough that there are now times that I’ll go for a ride with nothing more than a phone, house keys, and a Dynaplug. Just last week I had a small road puncture that was spraying me with sealant for about a minute longer than I wanted. After the sealant had proven to me it wasn’t going to work, I jabbed a Dynaplug into the hole and continued riding without adding any further air (yes, it was soft at this point, but still rideable). I’ve since left that plug in place, topped up the sealant, and have done another couple of rides without the slightest sign of pressure loss. And this is on a 28 mm (measured) road tyre; the lower pressure demands of gravel and mountain bike tyres only add reliability to the plugs.
If one plug per bar end isn’t enough, you can flip the threaded tube to access the other plugs. Doing this is quicker than reloading a gummy worm into the fork of a cheaper tubeless tool.
Perhaps my favourite part is that the design keeps your grip or bartape protected and untouched with each use. So many handlebar stashable repair accessories have a habit of pulling out your bar tape when using them, but that’s not an issue here.
So what’s not to like?
Well, the Covert adds a 7.1 mm to the handlebar end. By comparison, I just installed some new Ergon GXR grips on my XC bike, which have plastic end caps that sit out by 4.7 mm (and this is fairly thick compared to others). I may sound super pedantic, but that extra 2.4 mm on either side of my handelbars is enough to have me questioning whether I want to use the MTB version instead of having a Dynaplug Racer Pro strapped to my frame (which is also a lighter and cheaper option). Of course, this is a non-issue on a road or gravel bike where the extra stack is merely a cosmetic difference, not one of clearance through tight trees.
I also think the aluminium housing that sits within the handlebar is a little overbuilt for the purpose. The Covert isn’t super heavy, but some unneeded weight is waiting to be relieved from the system.
And finally, the dropbar version includes the same length of plug-insertion tube as the MTB version. When I first reviewed Dynaplug’s system back in 2017, I highlighted that this longer tube can bottom out onto the rim/rim-tape if inserted straight into shallow-depth road tyres. It’s a rare issue that Dynaplug has since solved with some road-specific insertion tubes. However, the company suggests those tubes account for approximately 1.5% of demand. Meanwhile, the provided regular insertion tube is perfect for gravel and mountain bike tyre volumes.
And then there are the usual complaints that follow Dynaplug everywhere – first on that list is the little pointed brass tip that hangs in the tyre. This has proven to be a non-issue for me, but some other users have experienced them dropping off the plug and rattling in the tyre. Thankfully such a nuisance doesn’t impact the purpose of the plug, and you can just pull out the loose and blunt-profiled brass tip once home.
Others have previously pointed out that the metal insertion tip can cause rim damage. I’m not going to say this is impossible, but you’d have to be incredibly unlucky to pinch the exact repaired point of your tyre against the rim. And then you’d have to be even more unlucky for the rounded and soft metal tip to not slide away from the impact. This one strikes me as people who haven’t used the product seeking an excuse not to use it.
Lastly, there’s the most justified complaint – price. The Dynaplug tools are typically priced at a significant premium over everything else, and the US$125 asking price for a pair of Coverts raises that bar considerably higher. And then the proprietary (and patented) plug refills work out to be more than US$2.50 a piece – although they can be purchased far more cheaply at the time of buying the tool. Yes indeed – they are expensive!
Overall there’s a lot to like here, and the build quality of this American-made product is exceptional – these truly are built to last. Unfortunately, such quality comes at an eye-watering price for a set of tubeless plugs that hide in bar ends. I’m convinced these are the best money can buy, I just wish they didn’t require so much of it. And because of that, I’ll stick with the Dynaplug Racer Pro that I’ve now bought a few of.