Tuesday, May 03, 2011

State Of Tubelessness: 2011

I've written on the tubeless thing several times before, so I figured I better start dating the titles so folks can find this stuff if they want to later! (Always striving to improve here at G-Ted Productions)

State Of Tubelessness: 2011: Recently my co-writer at Twenty Nine Inches wrote this article on his recent tubeless experiences. Basically, what the gist of the article is about, is how there are different standards at work in tubeless tires that, at times, do not work very well when mixed together.

This is a big problem when manufacturers do not delineate the rules for playing with their products and others that are available. It basically puts the onus on the riders, and at times, that can lead to rather scary consequences.

Everybody has their favorite players in the game too. Some will say their deal is a homemade system. Those can be okay, but also can be a pain to install, and maybe not very repeatable, or very re-usable, or both. Some go all in for Stan's. Some are all about "UST". I've had success with all of these, but again, it is easy to have failures with all of those as well. Get a "bad" combination of tire, rim, and whatever system you are using, and blammo! Sealant everywhere, and hopefully you weren't riding when it happened! Or, in some cases, like a TNT Geax tire on a Stan's rim, you can barely get the tire on or off without damage to rim, tire, or your hands!

Added into this are the "not really certified" for tubeless use tires, rims, and their combinations, and you can see where things can get sideways real quick.

My feeling is that the marketplace is going to a hybrid system of Stan's and UST specs. I am seeing more things like this cropping up. Stan's-like tape, latex sealant based on Stan's, and a UST bead spec tire on a traditional hook bead rim, without the licensing of the "UST Label". It works okay, but in my opinion, it smacks of the "easy way out" for manufacturers, and isn't really the best solution, although it works more often than not. It's "open source" stuff, and doesn't cost more money due to licensing, etc.

What is too bad is that the best systems are under license, and available only through a few brands. Stan's actual "BST" rims can be had through Stan's, of course, or Sun-Ringle'. The rims flat out work like a champ, but the resource could be improved upon by other manufacturers if it was open source technology. The other system that is dead reliable, easy to use, and makes a ton of sense is Bontrager's TLR rim strip and tires. I have converted a few non-Bontrager rims with TLR rim strips and it works great in similar to Bontrager rims. But think about what it would be like if all you had to do was pop in a plastic rim strip into a rim to go tubeless. It makes any rim, in effect, a UST kind of rim, but reversible to a standard rim, so you could build a wheel, replace spokes, or swap the plastic rim strip to another rim at will. Again though, it isn't a spec that is available to anyone without paying for it to Bontrager. Too bad.

Others will say a true "UST" rim with capability to be laced to any hub is the deal we should be looking for. Hmmm....I don't know. Not all tires that are "tubeless ready" play well on UST rims. (My co-writer knows this all too well!). That might be a great rim, but tire manufacturers would necessarily all have to be on board with a UST spec tire, and that isn't about to happen any day soon either.

So, in the meantime, choose you system and tires wisely, and you'll have repeatable, good results. Be careless, and you may end up regretting your choices. Yes, it would be cool to have a chart detailing all the possibilities out for every tire/rim combination, but it would also be nice if the industry would do the right thing, and make that obvious from their end. I think it is their responsibility to at least make that clear to us as riders.


kdoggett said...


I posted a question on mtbr.com a week ago, got no responses, but maybe you can help me. I apologize if it is not specifically related to this post, but it is tubeless related.

Do you or others have experience running a tubeless set up with a tube after you have flatted and can't get the tubeless tire to seal? Theoretically it should be no problem, to run the rest of the ride with a tube until a repair can be made later or perhaps even the tire changed out if it can't be repaired.

Specifically what I am wondering about running with a tube is if there might be a variety of thorns, glass, and other sharpies that sealed up no problem when set up tubeless, but that might now start puncturing the newly installed tube which is not protected with sealant. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Jon said...

I get around all of those tubeless problems by...running tubes in my tires. I have yet to see the balance of advantage-to-disadvantage tip in the right direction (for me).

perhaps, if the manufacturers all get on the same page, that may one day happen.

Until then; tubes for me.

Guitar Ted said...

@kdoggett: I would NEVER put a tube in any tire without first checking it for foreign objects. It is just something ingrained in me from being a mechanic. I suggest that everyone do the same, especially since your scenario is entirely plausible.

Better to be careful/safe, than sorry!

kdoggett said...

Yes, I agree about checking the tire for foreign objects. When running a tube, one hopefully finds any foreign object when they fix a flat, and the hole in the tube gives a clue on where to look. When running tubeless, it seems like there could be multiple foreign objects by the time you finally flat and some of those could be hard to find, e.g. glass shards embedded down in the rubber... This is completely hypothetical and may not be a real concern. I've only been running tubeless a few months with no flats. Just wondering what others have experienced.