IN my bike riding lifetime I, like you I suspect, have done a few tubeless set ups. For me those have been on my mountain bike and later on, my gravel bike.
I just upgraded my eMTB to tubeless – this after a flat on my way home from a ride.
GOING tubeless on a road bike, though, is much less common (at least in my “mere mortal” circles). Sew-ups or glue-ons? I’ve never been at that level. My nephew Ryan went tubeless on his road steed several years ago, but that lad has always been an early- adopter/over-achiever. I’ve known few others that have done so, yet I’ve heard for years that the ride can be life-changing. Okay, maybe not life-changing but certainly ride-changing.
I’LL let you know once I get out and ride it. Sadly, right after I set things up I went under the knife (under the water perhaps would be more apropos – my procedure was by robotic aquablation after all) for a prostate upgrade and now that I can ride, the roads have been too slick with ice and snow. 🙁
THERE is a tremendous amount of information out there on how to upgrade to tubeless so I’m not going to go into a step-by-step in this post.
Instead, I’ll focus on a few things I’ve learned as a tubeless-runner. Our friends over at Tempo Cyclist, by the way, posted something up on the subject last month. It’s certainly worth a gander, and you’ll enjoy the Tasmanian vibe. I know I did.
AS for my tips, read on!
Get the Right Tape and Stems (And Tires)
I bought the necessary rim tape (went with Mavic’s 25mm UST Tape) for my Aeolus wheel set, as well as the tubeless stems (Trek’s VLV BNT TLR in 67mm). As for tires…I’m running Continental 5000s TRs (it’s a fairly new tire) in 28mm.
You’ll likely need to do a bit of measuring (with a metric ruler or tape) to get the correct wheel depth, which for me was a bit challenging because of that deep-dish wheelset.
TIP: If you’re still not sure, get a small selection of sizes and return what you don’t need. That’s what I did. With Competitive Cyclist, where I get 99% of my stuff, returns are simple and usually free. And if you, like me, go through materiel like mad, you can even get your own gearhead!
FOR the eMTB, by the way, I ended up going with Reserve’s RSV AM Rim Tape in a 34mm width. Tires? I’m a Conti devotee, and based on the mixed, but mostly loose, terrain here in the Sierra I chose the Argotal 29″ (x 2.40), and for stems Stan’s 35mm Universal Valve. Standard wheels on that bike…
For Sealant It’s Got To Be Stan’s
AND I go with Stan’s Race Sealant.
IT’S better, I’ve found, than the standard Stan’s (lasts longer and is designed for “extreme conditions”) BUT it does not allow for injection of the sealant via the valve stem.
IT will clog so you’ll need to add it by “un-beading” the tire. Trust me on this as I’ve tried forcing it in with that injector I used in the past for the standard sealant, and it didn’t go well.
No Compressor? Use C02 Cartridges
THIS was a tip from my “brudda from anudda mudda” Toph. Getting that bead to seat the first time can be challenging so if you don’t have a compressor, rather than pump like a madman (done that and had some success) use a C02 cartridge to seat the tire (the pop is unmistakable) and then inflate with your usual unit.
Can’t Ride It Right Away?
IT’S important that you coat the tires well so the sealant can work into all those nooks and crannies. Mmmm, Thomas’. 😋
BEST practice = go for a ride. If you can’t do that, though, do what I did.
SET the bike on the ground or floor upside down. Crank the pedals to get that rear wheel going and hit that front real with your hand (roulette anyone?) to get it moving. I set my bikes up while I was doing some chores around the chalet and then, every time I walked by, I gave those tires a spin.
THIS approach worked very well for the road bike (less volume so easier to coat) but it didn’t go so well on the front eMTB tire so I ended up taking Bessie out for a short spin (just a couple miles). That did the trick.
Have a Backup Plan
HERE’S the rub…Going tubeless typically means no, or extraordinarily fewer, flats. BUT not always. So carry a tube (or two for those epic rides) just in case and also get yourself one of those 2 oz. bottles of Stan’s to tote in your jersey, pack or saddle bag.
SO there you have what I hope will be some helpful suggestions to help you take your ride to the next level.
TAKE your time, put your patience hat on (as a mechanic once told me), and you’ll be a professional tubeless-tire-installer in no time.
IF you have any issues though, feel free to reach out. I’ll be happy to help.
OTHERWISE, enjoy the ride!
3 thoughts on “Going Tubeless In The California Alps – Lessons Learned”
Dang! Now that you have joined Tempo in extolling the virtues of tubeless, I may have to jump (or climb very slowly) onto the bandwagon. I have tires on hand that I’ll have to use up first, so it may be a few years. I learned one of the dangers of rim tape. When my wheels were built, the builder used tape instead of rim strips, but the tape wasn’t wide enough. After multiple flats, I realized the tape had rolled up on the edge and exposed a spoke hole. The edge of the spoke hole was abrading my tubes. Had I been tubeless, I probably would have had leaks anyway.
Been running tubeless mostly with Conti GP 5000 and 5000S (28 at first, now 32’s) for around 3.5 yrs. Using Stans standard sealant and refresh about every 4-5 months. Only one flat! And that was due to a sidewall slice from an acorn cap. I carry a Dynaplug for small punctures, but I have not needed it yet because all small punctures have self-sealed thus far. I carry a Stans Dart tool for larger cuts (>4mm), which probably would have handled the acorn cap mishap, but didn’t know about that tool back then. (The negative press on the Dart tool appears to stem from people twisting it or not inserting at a right angle to the tire surface.) For mounting stubbornly tight tubeless: The KoolStop tire bead jack tool has been very effective. Also just bought the TyreKey tool as a more compact alternative, but have not tested it yet.
Two more things… I haven’t needed rim tape because my Bontrager Aeolus wheels come with plastic rim inserts which seem to work well. Tried MucOff valves but they leaked a bit. Switched to Bontrager valves because they are designed to fit nicely into the little notch built into the plastic rim strips, and hence do not leak the way the MucOffs did.