Saturday, March 30, 2013

To Convert to Tubless or Not to Convert to Tubeless: That is the Question

Way to much stuff.  Better to have an not need than need and not have.

Admittedly, I am lagging far behind in the world of tubeless tires, this is my first interaction with the magical world of tubeless tires.  The technology, maybe technique is a better word, has been around for a while.  I typically don't spend much time or resources on something unless I am convinced it is worth it.  Although I drank the cool aid (or should I say "latex sealant") I am still not convinced that they are worth it for me or the average rider.  They have been around a while and people still complain about getting their beads to seat and tires to seal.  The interweb is full of discussion on tips and tricks to get past stubborn setups, even for those specifically designed to be tubeless.  There is so much written about tubeless and countless youtube demonstrations, setting up tubeless tires should not be a mystery or an exercise on patience and/or futility, even though that is exactly what it turns into.

I spent the better part of the week trying to convert some wheels to a tubeless set up.  I spent $100 on stems, yellow tape, rim strips w/stems built in, and sealant.  I did the research and followed manufacturer's instructions.  In the end I prevailed but spent a day plus trying to get these bad boys to seat and seal.  In the end I returned the Stan's rim strips after I successfully did it for pennies on the dollar with Gorilla tape and Stan's stems.  

Weight--This does not matter to me because I am big and don't race.  I will still carry a spare inner tube just in case, but that is two less.
Flat protection--I will be using these for commuting to work.  This is key for me as I have often flatted on little pieces of glass or metal.  Could be beneficial in areas with small cacti or thorny things.  Could be beneficial in a race, which I don't do.
Traction--Riding at lower pressure to get better traction with out risking pinch flats.  I kind of care about this as I usually run 30 psi.

Challenge to Set Up--I am convinced this is why they are not the mainstream.  They can be messy if they don't seat right away.  They pretty much require an air compressor which most people don't have.  I don't have a ton of time to spend horsing around with wheels, I would rather be riding.
Require Routine Maintenance--The sealant drys up and must be replaced annually if not sooner.
Not Guaranteed to Hold Air--There are some cool videos showing a bike rolling over boards covered with nails.  There are no cool videos showing air burping out and tires separating from rims.  Spare inner tube should be carried just in case.
$$$$$--Wow.....I spent a ton of money on a few products.  Tubeless ready tires cost more than the equivalent tubed tire.  Stems and yellow tape add up.  Sealant is not cheap and I threw at least 8 ounces out from failed attempts.  


Salsa Semi 29er rims with Tubeless ready Continental Race Kings--Disclaimer--I set up a set of Salsa Semi 29er rims which have a sticker located on the stem hole that specifically states they are not to be set up tubeless.  I also have stood on the top of a ladder that states the top is not a step....and I lived.  So far they have worked very well.  I have great insurance and take full responsibility for my actions!  These are wider rims and need an air compressor.  I used Stan's yellow tape (the wide stuff) and a stem.  I could not get the bead out of the deep groove in this rim so I used a couple wraps of Gorilla tape to fill it in.  It seated nicely but required manipulation and the extra tape.

Giant PX 29er rims with not tubeless ready Tioga Psycho Genius tires--These rims are listed by Stan's as compatible with their systems.  These were a challenge to get seated even for older tires that have been stretched and ridden with tubes.  Really tough actually.  Again, I used Gorilla tape and I had to use levers to work the bead.  The people at the neighborhood gas station probably got tired of occupying their air compressor.

The jury is still out for me though when considering cost and time spent making them work.  I could have bought a lot of inner tubes and patch kits.  Yes it is a pain to pump up a tire on the trail but I don't ever recall hours to change a flat and get rolling.

 Of the four tires/wheels I set up no two had the same setup procedure and each required a lot of manipulation.  I can understand different rims/tire combos, but each one?  Mystery.  I could understand if a professional racer has them for weight savings and protection, they have a lot on the line if they flat.  For the average Joe, I would say it would be based on the environment and vegetation.

They Hold Air!  For the the mountain bike tinkerer.....they are a dream.

1 comment:

  1. Seems like a lot of trouble..m..Jessica