Going Tubeless - do's and dont's

I was considering going tubeless ever since I got my Trance, and after talking to Aaron about his setup I decided to try it out this winter while the bike is parked.

A few things I have learned.

Years ago I tried the ‘original’ ghetto tubeless way. Gorilla Tape (black super tough/sticky version of duck tape) used as a rim trip and a tubeless presta valve. This failed horribly (probably due, at least partly, to the ‘sealant’ I used) and I ditched the idea and went back to tubes. This bike is now my beater/winter bike, and since I don’t think tubeless would fair too well with homemade studded tires, that bike will stay tubed.

This time I am using a tube split down the middle with the excess trimmed off either side once the tire is pumped up. Stans sells a kit that does the same thing, but it costs a lot more then two tubes and a pint of stans sealant and in the end does the same thing. I would imagine weight between the stans kit and the homemade version would be very similiar, however I am doing it to eliminate pinch flats.

Tube size; When you get a tube to split in half, do not get the same size tube as your wheel, get the next size smaller.

For my 27.5" (650B) wheels I am using a 26" tube. If I was converting a 26" wheel, I would use a 24" tube.

It is a bit of a pain to get the tube and tire put together with the edges of a cut tube sticking out from either side, but with some time and patience it really isn’t that bad. I had one side all done, and the other side partly started before I added my sealant to the tire. Once I had the other bead all seated with the tube sticking out and centered on either side, I rubbed some stans on either side of the bead to help it seal.

Pumping up the tire; Your floor pump will not work, so don’t waste your energy. You will need a compressor to force lots of air in quickly to get the tire to seal. I found pushing down on the tire at the valve helped to get it to seal. Once the tire is holding air, you can now use your floor pump to pump the tire up to your desired pressure. A C02 cartridge may work for this, but I didn’t bother wasting one since I have easy access to an air compressor.

I like to flip the wheel over a few times, as well as spin it a bit to help spread out the sealant and get everything to seal once the tire is pumped up.

The tire will generally leak around the bead for a little while, but eventually it will seal. Once you don’t see anymore air bubbles you can pump the tire up again, and then you should be good. Keep an eye on the air pressure checking it every day or two. Mine has been holding 40psi no problem for a few days. Soon I will lower the pressure to my riding pressure, and I hopefully I won’t have a problem.

Now all that’s left is to cut off the excess tube sticking out, and then you can enjoy riding your bike with no pinch flats!

I’ve had great luck with the slime from Canadian Tire. Never dries up like Stan’s. Have a set up right now that has had the same sealant in it since the spring with zero issues other then the odd inflation every couple of weeks. Used this set up on a few different wheel sets. First time using only fibreglass strapping tape, valves and sealant (same sealant for over a year even after a 1/4" slash to the tread. Rode it for months after like this before going to a 29er). Current set up is specialized rim tape. I have even changed tires and dumped sealant from one to the other (none on hand) with no problems. I just can’t justify paying the price for Stan’s when it eventually turns into a ball of latex inside your tire and you need to top it up.

Glad to hear this! Not only the end of pinch flats, but the beginning of riding at better pressures for grip, control, floatation, comfort, etc. Just as a note, I haven’t had to add air to my tires yet! It’s been months. I see no reason for tubes in the woods if you plan on leaving the tires mounted. And all this UST/tubeless-specific stuff, even the tapes, seems less reliable in real world riding, both from other forums and my riding mates. Here’s to the good times!

Should mention that all tires used were tubeless ready, but not UST.

I’m surprised you could make the slime stuff work. I had no luck with it at all.

On the Trance I am using the Schwalbe Nobby Nic`s that came on it, which are tubeless ready. I think I may have had tubeless ready, or possibly UST tires when I tried it a few years ago, but I think the main problem with that was the method I used.

How low a pressure are you running?

I’m tempted to try tubeless as well. However, I’m dubious if it is worth it. There is little gain in tire weight (as far as I can tell). Just no more pinch flats and lower tire pressures.

Personally, I would still be carrying a spare tube to.

Currently I’m switching over to my screw tires so, ain’t no tubeless happening there, but after that tubeless might be an interesting experiment.

I’m planning on running about 25psi. I’ll raise or lower the pressure if I think I need to.

I’m not sure what, if any weight savings there are, but I’m doing it for the low pressures and no pinch flats.

Just incase I’ll still ride with a spare tube and C02 cartridge.

I’ve had mixed results with tubeless but I’m hooked. I love not having pinch flats and the low pressures mean so much for traction. Unfortunately my rims don’t have the lip that holds the tire on the bead so the tire has burped air a few times and on a couple of occasions has come right off the bead during aggressive cornering. I’ll be replacing my rims this season.

For pressure, I’m not sure, but on my 26" rig, I used to love running 14 to 18psi. Mind you, I had a 2.6" tire on the front and wide trail hoops. I’d put my current pressures around the high teens/low twenties.

As for bead hooking, my ghetto slit tube method used seems to glue the strip to the tire, making it similar to a tubular tire in some ways. No burps whatsoever, even when run at squirmy-low pressures. And these tires were a LOOOOOSE fit, even with the slit tube between them and the rim. Not the ideal set up.

Weight wise, the idea is not to try drop the weight of a tube. Usually you are adding weight, what with thicker sidewalls, tapes, sealants, etc, but the performance gained is unreal! My 29er feels like a real monster truck, as I can charge rock and root sections with no worries, more comfort and control, climbs like nothing I’ve owned before, and opens up more spots to ride more realistically without suffering just to say I could. It’s what really made me see the light for fatbiking as well. Can’t wait.

As for spares, I still have two tubes in my Camelbak. Always should. Stan’s won’t seal a massive tear or cut. And my mini pump won’t reseat them if I ever did pry one off. Just make sure you like your pump, as you will be using it a fair bit to tune your tire pressure the first little while, and for varying conditions.

Oh, and on a final note. If you puncture flat a lot now, or have thorny stuff in you neck of the woods, the Stan’s is great stuff.

Coaster2, I think Spank had some new hoops that have crazy ridges on the beadseat. Might be worth a look when the time comes.

Basically, you can not go wrong trying the idea out with you current rims/tires and the split tube method, just to see if you even like tubeless. For the cost of some sealant and two tubes, try it out!

Some of my thoughts.

On my big bike I run proper DH tires set up tubeless and run in about 20-30psi. Any less and it starts to get a bit sketchy at speed. I’m using Stan’s strips on the Demo and they’ve been great, almost never burp unless I do something stupid like say a 20+ foot jump and land completely sideways.

I have to ride around 30-35 psi in the folding tires on my xc bike to keep them from collapsing under hard hits and cornering, as I’ve found anything less then about 27psi on the enduro equals a trip to the ER for me.I think I should swap to some thicker 1.5ply free ride tires for my use.

Tip: if you get a cut or hole in your tire that your sealant won’t plug take the tire off, clean it and patch it same as you would a tube with a glued patch. Patch the inside and out side of the tire if you can. I’ve saved many a tire this way and can’t believe who many people turf a perfectly good tubeless tire every time they get a little hole in them.

I’ve been meaning to post an update for a while. Tires have to holding 25 psi for quite some time, although that is with no riding on the setup.

As far as the weight part of it, I was quite surprised.

Here is the excess tube that was cut off of one tire.

On the scale.

That’s 152 grams (again, just from one tube/tire)

The weight of 2oz of water (54 grams). The sealant probably weights a little more, but I wouldn’t imagine very much.

I put ~4oz of sealant in each tire, so I still lost ~46 grams per wheel with going tubeless.

Time for another update.

About 2 weeks ago while riding at Fight Trail my back tire burped, and would not re-seal and stop leaking. After pumping the tire up a few times and still leaking, I ended up pulling the setup apart and putting a tube in to finish my ride.

For one, I think I was running too low a pressure for the tires (very thin, soft sidewall, and didn’t fit super tight on the rim). For two, the stupid stans crap dried up just like Ben12 mentioned and the tire wouldn’t reseal.

Since I never liked the tires that came on the bike, I picked up a Maxxis Advent, and tried that out tubed on a few rides both front and rear. I really liked the tire, so I decided to get the second tire and be done with it.

I am now back to tubeless with the new tires. Same method as before, but I am using the green slime from crappy tire, but still rubbed stans on the beads of the tires before I pumped them up, as the tube was pretty much glued to the beads of the tires from the stans with the previous setup. It may partly be because the new tires fit tighter on the rim, but this setup sealed up almost instantly and has been holding air for about a week with no pressure loss.

Now it’s time to do some experimenting with pressures! Hopefully this green slime doesn’t dry up like the stans did!

I have been running “ghetto tubeless” for a couple of years on the bike I ride the most. It is set up with 20" tubes on 26" rims, and using regular tires, not tubeless ready or UST. I use stans sealant, and yes it does dry up, I add more about 2x a season, I use shrader valves, so I can pull the valve core, and use a bottle with a small tip to pump more in so I never have to pull the bead off.

I used to have 4 or 5 pinch flats a season + other flats from thorns/nails/ whatever. Have not had a flat since I started using tubeless.

My take on the stans"drying up" If what you are using doesn’t dry in the presence of air, how do you expect it to plug a leak in your tire? That is how this stuff works, you get a hole, air rushes out, the sealant sloshes over the hole and dry’s out quickly, plugging the hole.

I just converted this weekend, I had another pinch flat last week so I decided to give it a go. 1 ride so far and nothing bad has happened.

I did the gorilla tape method with valve stems, no split tube. I have Mavic XM319 rims and Continental Mountain King II folding tires (not the fancy Protection model that is now tubeless ready).

I did a test Friday evening with valve stems cut from my blown Continental tubes (they have removable valve stems so that’s a bonus) and electrical tape on the rims. It was actually quite easy to get them to seat with a floor pump, those tires always seems to seat strong when they had tubes in them. About 15 min of playing with a floor pump and they had air in them, although leaking around the bead they were holding it quite well.

On Saturday I picked up some gorilla tape and Stan’s sealant, cut the gorilla tape to the proper width for my rims, installed my DIY valve stems, got the tire seated with soapy water, added the sealant and bam! tubeless setup for under $25. The front tire gave me some hassle getting seated for some reason, but after 30 min of frustration it did seat.

Funny thing though, all was well except for when I was getting ready for bed and then I herd a distinctive psssssssss sound from the living room where the bike was. I though oh no, it failed, but the air wasn’t coming out from the sidewall, valves or spoke holes. It was a tiny pinhole in the sidewall, very strange that it decided to let go after 6 or so hours. I just rotated the hole to the bottom and the sealant sealed it up right away. Hasn’t given me an issue since.

Took the new setup out for a ride around Whopper yesterday with about 30-32psi in the tires and as far as I can tell they held air, didn’t burp at all and I did ride reasonably hard. They feel pretty nice and the grip is certainly good, lighter too. I did loose air in the rear by 10psi by the time I got home, but there was a pinhole leak facing up in the bike rack, spun the wheel and now that one is sealed too.

I’ll get another ride in an evening this week and we’ll see if the performance maintains. So far so good.

I’ve gone tubeless too, but I cheated and bought new wheels and tubeless ready tires. No problems whatsoever with installing the tires. Got my first ride in yesterday and loved running under 30 psi without getting a flat.

I think my big fear with running under 30psi is hitting the rim and possibly damaging it. How are people finding that aspect?

Hitting the rim would definitely suck. I think I have 28 psi in the rear and about 25 psi in the front. The front is 2.35" Schwalbe Hans Damphe, which is a pretty big, beefy tire with a 23 psi minimum rating. Some careful curb testing made me feel reasonably safe with those pressures. I hit some pretty good rocks yesterday with no issues, but I’m about 200 pounds with my gear so maybe I’m going lower then I should.

Ever pinch flat a tubeless setup? Well, I just did.

The entire catalyst for me going tubeless was a bad pinch flat I got the other day at Spider going in on the Replicator Loop just as you descend before you meet up with the main road again.

Tonight was my second ride on the tubeless setup, after a very successful first ride at Whopper. Well what do you know, exact same spot as last time, flat tire. Blew a hole so big in the tire there was no way the sealant was ever going to fill it. To make things even better it completely collapsed the sidewall of my rim (don’t even think I had 10 rides on that wheel yet), so no tire setup was going to prevent this. Now I need a new tire and a new rim, grrrrr. I wasn’t even going that fast, and I was running 32psi, I didn’t think it was that low. I only weigh 130lbs too.

I’ve only tried to ride Spider Lake twice so far this year and got a bad flat in the exact same spot both times, tubeless and non tubeless. Discouraging. Also somewhat ironic giving my last comment in this thread.

EDIT: Checked the tire afterwards, tore a hole in the side wall right above the bead and another hole in the tread, crazy. Having second thoughts about tubeless now, if I have to run higher pressure +35psi to prevent this kind of thing anyway is tubeless really worth the extra effort? I dono.

Le sigh.

Nailing a sharp edged rock is going to ruin your day, tubeless or not. In fact, often times I find I pinch my tire quite a bit in a ride, it’s only the big ones that put holes in the tires that I notice. I don’t think a tube there is going to help you at all though. But getting a huge ding like that at 32 psi, while also being light - either you nailed that rock super hard, or something else is wonky (weak rims, etc).

Opinions I’ve formed from running tubeless for a while (4 years or so):

  • Only use rims you know have been designed for tubeless. Apparently the new “light bicycle” chinese carbon rims are quite good. I also like the ZTRs a lot.
  • Keep air pressure somewhere around 20-23 PSI or higher, I find much less than that and it’s peeling off the rim, and typically burps.
  • Shoot more sealant in every month or so. Eventually it’ll need replacing. Tires only last so long if you ride a lot though.
  • Tires designated “tubeless ready” generally seal tighter, and leak way less goop over time
  • Definitely take some CO2 with you - there’s no way a hand pump is going to be any use if the bead peels off. Some more sealant isn’t a bad idea either.

A guy I met in AZ was saying his magical formula for tubeless was to start with stans, put in 1/4 of the Slime stuff, and throw in some pepper. The slime is thicker than stans, and the pepper helps encourage a seal (the old stans used to have some flecks of mica for this purpose).

I’ve been running the ‘orange seal’ sealant instead of stans recently, the net seems to suggest it’s a better sealant - seems good so far.

As for mounting tires, I have a different approach that I prefer:

  • Mount the tire dry, with the valve core removed
  • Use a compressor to blow a ton of air in - get it to 50-55 PSI. This is where seating issues usually happen
  • Only when seating is finally done and it’s seated well on the bead, do I let the air out, and use a small stans tube to add sealant. This way you know the goop you add is going to stay in there, and not get all over your floor if it fails to seat.
  • Then stick the core back in and pump it up.

After two months I’m completely sold on tubeless. I’ve been running 24 psi and have never hit a rim despite a lot of riding over some very rough, rocky stuff at high speed. I had two pinch flats on a ride yesterday with my non-tubeless wheels on the bike. The first was on a somewhat rocky section of an old road that didn’t seem like it should be a problem. The second was on rails to trails! (Had to jump a curb where they were doing some sidewalk construction and a had a somewhat rough landing.) I’m definitely not riding with tubes (at least on the rear) unless I’m sure it’s going to be a smooth surface ride. (And I’ll be more careful if I have to jump a curb!)