Going tubeless ... the daunting made easy ...

2manyoranges

Senior Retro Guru
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I promised that I would put up my own approach to going tubeless, which is based on composite advice from a variety of very good sources and results in a highly dependable fitting regime.

Going tubeless is expensive. But the assets are considerable; it not only enhances puncture resistance, it prompts higher levels of grip, due to the compliance of the tyre unemcumbered by tube.

The expensive bit – you will need:

1 a rapid-fill device such as an AirShot – a tank which blasts air into the tyre. Yes you can use a track pump but it’s far more hit and miss. An AirShot makes things SO easy.

2 high quality tape – I have used Stans and MucOff. I buy in bulk, and have used Swiss-made Tesa tape, which looks like Stans and also performs well. But the ultra-thin and sticky MucOff tape is really excellent, and even goes onto the reluctant-to-stick Spank rims. For 30mm internal, use 30mm tape; for 35mm rims, 35mm tape etc. You CAN do two runs round of 25mm tape in a 35mm rim, but it all gets a bit hectic.Tape should adhere the to the bed of the rim and extend over the bead seats, and be flush to the inside of the rim wall if possible.

3 a tubeless valve. I prefer longish Presta. I like the ones with a rectangular inner rubber; they seem to tighten up better, and seal better.

4 sealant and syringe with flexible 20cm hose – Race Stans is recommended but is eye-wateringly expensive. Standard Stans works OK, but I have used MucOff in bulk, which seems to work well. CaffeLatex is OK and I have used that. But I like MucOff. Yes you can use a ‘slop it in to a tyre open at the bottom’ method, but I prefer to inject into a fully seated tyre, knowing exactly how much I am putting in as I do it. The tube should fit the syringe and Presta valves. Schraeder need a converter. And I don’t like them.

5 a tubeless rated tyre – Schwalbe TLR or Specialized Grid, Maxxis etc. You CAN set up non-tubeless rims and tyres as tubeless, but expect trouble….even a tubeless tyre can be a pain…a Specialized tubeless ready I have just weeps sealant right through the wall of the tyre in a weird, weepy way. Schwalbe TLR have been totally reliable. I prefer Kevlar-beaded tyres for tubeless, which I explain below.

6 a valve key. The tubeless valve may come with a small plastic key. But I use a blue alloy one from ebay – Presta and Schraeder.

7 a one-inch paint brush and small pot/jamjar

8 two plastic tyre levers – I use Park blue ones.

9 a pair of VERY sharp scissors, and a fine pointy pick or weeny screwdriver, but a straight pick is best by far.

10 weirdly, but the secret to success, a Presta inner tube.


Right: the doing of it all. The secret is the preparation.

1 Prep the tyre
Scrub the inside of the tyre with detergent and dry - to remove mould release (thanks Matt). Make sure that the tyre is as round as possible and the beads have no kinks, particularly if using wire beads. You can correct kinks in wire beads using needle nosed pliers. But it all works better if you have Kevlar-beaded tyres. They are lighter anyway. I leave mine lying on the floor for 24 hours. We have underfloor heating and that really helps get the tyres into the very best shape.

2 Prep the rim
To make sure that the tape adheres really well, thoroughly degrease the rim, using washing up liquid or brake cleaner, whichever floats your boat. Make sure that they are absolutely dry. This step is vital, without it the tape will not adhere and you will do the whole thing yet get persistent leakage.

3 Do the tape
Start 15-20cm before the valve hole, really stretching the tape onto the rim, and smoothing the tape with a thumb. I prefer to hold the rim between my legs and REALLY pull the tape away from me, doing perhaps 15cm at a time. Try to minimise air bubbles. Go right round the rim until 15cm or so after the valve hole and then cut with the really sharp scissors. Smooth around with your thumb, pressing really hard, working any big bubbles out.

4
Mount the tyre and make the hole
Get one bead of the tyre onto the rim. Do not disturb the tape at all. Find the valve hole and put a TINY TINY hole in the middle of the valve hole. Just a pinprick, nothing more, but right through the tape.

5
Mount the tube and tyre fully
Take the tube and push the valve through the TINY TINY hole. Rippety rip. Then get the tube inside the tyre and mount the second bead, but make damn sure that you don’t mess with the tape if you are using levers. I can do almost any tyre with thumbs, it just needs the tyre to be really round (see 1) and in the centre well of the rim.

6
Pump to nearly max pressure to really seat the tape
Know the pressure rating of the rim and the tyre. Pump to near max pressure. Leave 24 hours. This is a great step, which seats the tape brilliantly, squeezing out all air bubbles.

7
Remove tube and insert tubeless valve
Get all your kit ready. In the pot, make some REALLY soapy water using a bar of soap, hot water and the brush. Deflate the tyre, carefully demount ONE side of the tyre only and carefully remove the tube. Take the new tubeless valve and smear a small amount of sealant around the base of the valve, and push it through the hole, tightening the external valve collet really tight by hand. Remount the tyre.

8
Blast on the tyre
Pump up the Airshot to 100lbs. Brush warm soapy water all around the tyre bead. Undo tyre valve, attach airshot and BLAST the tyre on …POW! Remove the Airshot and tighten the valve head. Check the tyre is on all the way around, on Schwalbe using the seat-check line around the tyre.

9
Deflate tyre and remove valve core – putting the slop in
Deflate the tyre, remove the valve core, and with the valve at 8 O’clock, place the syringe and tube over the valve stem, pushing in 70-120 ml depending on tyre size and type of use. Remove syringe, place a tiny blob of grease on the valve core thread, and re-insert valve core. The grease stops the valve core from getting glued in with sealant.

10
Inflating tyre – again – and wiggling
Pump up Airshot to 100lbs and BLAST the tyre again – bang bang bang onto the rim. Great fun. Remove Airshot, close valve head. Check rim seat indicator line all around bead. Pump to 30lbs. Put on Fat Boy Slim (Funk Soul Brother) and to the rhythm bounce the wheel a few times, then hold it horizontal and wiggle it in a figure of eight pattern, and just get that fluid all over the inside of the tyre. Cool. Funky.

11
Done. Clean the syringe, wash up the brush and pot. Put everything away. Have a coffee/beer, crisps or a hummus sandwich. Check the tyre 30 mins later and if losing pressure, do the wiggling thing again, and pump to 30 lbs again.

I have had zero failures using this method. Others may have interesting refinements or different views, but this is a quick and easy way to do it. Yes, it takes 24 hours in total, but that prep makes the intensive parts of the task really quick and easy.

Go ride. Ride safe.
 
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2manyoranges

Senior Retro Guru
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Peachy I can fully understand why. I run a mix of tubeless and tubed across my bikes. It's just swings and roundabouts really. I do like the lack of punctures and I do like the extra grip. But conversely, for my shambling about bikes it matters not. I did want to know how to do it, and I wanted to know how to do it well. Topping up, unknown longevity, mess, ungreeness of thrown away tyres with good tread but bunged up with dried sealant. It's not all....er....peachy.
 

rwm1962

Orange 🍊 Fan
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How you finding longevity? I'm holding off doing my modernish P7 (tyres & rims are tubeless spec) as I can't ride for a while yet & I don't want the sealant to go off. Never an issue with the lad as he's burping sealant out & topping up or changing tyres regularly enough for it not to be an issue.

Then there's the issue (or is it?) with not being able to use CO2 with it ruining the sealant. The lad also carries a tube most of the time as he has had issues reinflating a tyre on the track. Saves a long walk home or a DNF. Not sure I'd bother for my style of riding! Any burps come from me.
 

2manyoranges

Senior Retro Guru
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In reality I have absolutely no understanding or proper knowledge of longevity, either from my own experience or that of others. EVERYONE seems to say on a ride - ‘when are you topping up your sealant and how much are you putting in?’. NO-ONE seems to know anything definitive. In some tyres I can hear the sealant sloshing around - I left one bike unridden for 9 months during lockdown and yet it seemed fine (Stans in Schwalbe) - I did rotate the tyres every month or so. And others seem to dry up MUCH faster - at which point I put in 50ml and hope for the best. And I do carry a 27.5 tube around - fits 26 with a fold, 29 with a stretch and of course goes into a 27.5.
 

mattr

Old School Grand Master
Stage 1, Scrub the inside of the tyre.
Gets rid of mold release and allows the sealant to wet the inner surface of the tyre, rather than beading up and running off.
 

dyna-ti

Gold Trader
MacRetro Rider
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Going tubeless you can drop about a pound of weight off your overall bike weight ;) (Based on a 29er)
 

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