Thursday, June 07, 2012

State Of Tubelessness 2012

Over the years I have written several posts on the subject of going tubeless with your 29"er tires. My last missive on this subject can be found here. This time I don't think I will delve into all the manufacturing side of the issue.

Tubeless and digging it.
That's because the manufacturers are finally starting to get things narrowed down, as far as standards go, and there are a lot of tubeless products to choose from. Just be careful how you match things up is all. UST and Stan's are generally one combination that isn't very compatible, as an example. (I speak of tires and rims here, not sealant.)

No, I want to share some of my observations and experiences so far regarding tubelessness. In no particular order then....

  • I don't think much along the lines of, "I can tell these tires are not tubeless and they must be set up with tubes.", but I have thought, "These non-tubeless tires don't work very well tubeless."
  • I can't remember the last time I got a flat while riding mountain bike trails. It's been years ago. Chalk it up to tubeless tires and good sealant. 
  • I've gotten pretty good at setting up tires tubeless- both tubed type and tubeless. (Thanks to my buddy MG for much of this.)
  • Some tires are no big deal tubeless while other tires are downright amazing. Tubeless in and of itself isn't a guarantor of fast, awesome feeling tires. In fact, some tires, (as mentioned above), actually work better with tubes. (Almost always the tires in question are tube type tires.)
  • There are some awesome sealants on the market these days, but my absolute favorite is a home brew that is so cheap and simple it is ridiculous. It even out-performs the store bought sealants I've tried. 
  • I haven't necessarily found tubeless tires to guarantee being able to run lower tire pressures. In fact, some specific tubed set ups I've run can rival the lowest tubeless tire pressures I have used. (And I'm not talking about fat bikes here.) In some cases, tubeless set ups actually have to use higher pressures to get similar performance to tubed set ups. 
  • I also haven't found tubeless tires to typically be a weight saver. Most times it is a wash between tubed/tubeless, and in many cases tubeless tire set ups are actually heavier than tubed ones are. That's not always the case though.
So......what is the main attraction to running tubeless then? If you recall from above, I have pretty much eliminated flat tires as being an issue for me. That right there would be worth it to me, but it isn't the only reason I like tubeless tires.

When you get a good rim/tire match up, tubeless is hard to beat for traction, comfort, and speed. Sometimes you don't get all three of those things, but sometimes you do, and when you do, it beats a tubed tire hands down. Tubed set ups still have a place, and sometimes the tubed set ups actually work just fine, but more and more, tubeless is the way to go now. With all the choices coming out, it doesn't make any sense to stick with a tubed set up anymore for your mountain bike.

22 comments:

JYB said...

Recipe or link to recipe for your favorite tubeless goop???

Kevin said...

Blog foul! You can't tease the awesome yet cheap home-brew without sharing the recipe...

Gsoroos said...

I too, want to see your recipe. I've seen the thread on MTBR, but it seems very complicated. If yours is simple AND inexpensive, it would be something I'd be willing to try.

j.rider said...

I agree with Kevin. Please publish the recipe!!!

MG said...

The recipe is very simple. Two components. Everyone that thinks it's complicated or is using more than two components is making it unnecessarily complicated, period. Though I have experimented, my basic sealant recipe has not changed in more than eight years, because it doesn't need to be. As G-T stated, we don't deal with flat tires anymore. That is success. We run whatever tires we want, for the most part. I consider that success.

The recipe is 3oz windshield washer fluid mixed with 3 tsp of Mold Builder liquid latex (which you can purchase at Michael's craft stores). That will likely give you a little more than one 29er tire of sealant, but sometimes I'll just pour the whole thing in, since you do sometimes lose sealant as you bead the tire up.

There you go... Have fun.

Thanks for the shout out, Guitar Ted!

Cheers,
MG

Captain Bob said...

I have been using the MG Super Negtar for over a year. Pefrect results. I actually have an old water bottle and mix it up full to the top. Never did dry up after sitting (well shut) in the garage all summer. Helps when you want to add a little now and then, you don't have to mix it again. Thanks again MG and GT for keeping this Juice going....

D said...

Thanks for the secret sauce recipe, MG!

Dave said...

I use the secret sauce but add Slime for automotive tires. Auto slime has little rubber bits of varying sizes in my experience can do the job of clogging a bit better than just latex. IMHO

Guitar Ted said...

@Dave: I've done that too, but found it tends to make the resulting goo coagulate into slimy globs inside the tire after a while.

As for sealing, I find the MG sauce to be perfectly fine all alone. I just recently punctured a 1/4" size twig through a Bontrager 29"er tire and the sealant has sealed the hole up.

If anything, I could see something like finely chopped up fibers being added for that coagulation effect, but so far, I don't find that necessary with this sealant.

MG said...

Thanks guys, and D, you're welcome. I too have tried adding particulate to try to make it coagulate better, but overall, it just shortens the lifespan without appreciably increasing sealing performance. Back to basics... The latex is like blood... When air rushes past it, it is the coagulate. It doesn't need anything else, because as air continues to blow past, it dries/builds on itself.

Oh, and the latex balls don't really hurt anything... All sealants do something like that. You should see the dried foam CaffeLatex makes in your tires when it dries! You'll never complain about the "balls" again after peeling that stuff away... But I digress. And CaffeLatex is good sealant, don't get me wrong. I'm not talking trash. Just making a comparison I have direct experience with...

JYB said...

MG and GT, thanks for your sealant wizardry. I've used both Stan's and Caffelatex, both with success. I do not, however, like how the Caffelatex eventually "clogs" up my valve cores. It can also be a real pain to let air out once you've been riding, due to the foaming action. I've found that both of the aforementioned sealants have their pros and cons. I'm looking forward to trying your recipe.

Johann Rissik said...

@MG Thanks very much for sharing that info. Like you, I've tried various sealants, so far coming back to Stans most times. Do you by any chance know what the windshield washer fluid is? Some kind of detergent? I'd like to trace the correct stuff here in South Africa. Thanks again

Guitar Ted said...

@Johann Rissik: Here in the States we can buy windshield washer solvent for automobiles at any convenience store. I can't imagine what South African autos use is any different, so try that. My personal favorite to use in MG's sauce is a brand called "Purple Power", but again, I think any of the washer solvents for windshields on autos would suffice.

Unknown said...

FYI for those of you worried about using the right kind of windshield washer fluid, the "Purple Power" fluid metioned by GT is:

34% methanol
3% ethylene glycol
63% other: water, surfactants, dyes

The blue washer fluid commonly available will typically only contain methanol and water, and that's ok. The liquid latex is typically only suspended in water, and adding another solvent with a lower boiling point is what helps the suspended latex set faster. As the air rushes past the escaped liquid, the constant flux of air helps keep the vapor pressure very high to encourage rapid evaporation.

MG, have you experimented with a more volatile solvent, such as acetone or an ether?

Unknown said...

FYI for those of you worried about using the right kind of windshield washer fluid, the "Purple Power" fluid metioned by GT is:

34% methanol
3% ethylene glycol
63% other: water, surfactants, dyes

The blue washer fluid commonly available will typically only contain methanol and water, and that's ok.

A little science: liquid latex is typically only suspended in water, and adding a more volatile solvent is what helps the suspended latex set faster than it would on its own (in just water) by raising the vapor pressure (liquids with a lower boiling point typically have higher vapor pressures, meaning they will more rapidly evaporate). The air rushing past any escaped liquid will keep the vapor pressure high by sweeping away any liquid that has already evaporated. The higher you can get the vapor pressure, the faster it will evaporate - especially since the decompression of the air inside the tire is a endothermic process (which means that the temperature of the liquid will be lower than its surroundings, which slows the evaporation process).

MG, have you experimented with a more volatile solvent, such as acetone or an ether?

MG said...

Sorry, I just saw this... No, I haven't had the need to use anything less inert than ww fluid. I'm not sure why you'd want to do that, when ww fluid does what it needs to do, and won't explode if exposed to flame.

ahead said...

MG and GT- I am trying your tubeless brew and had a quick question. Any issue using winter deicing WWF? I think that's what the Purple Power is, but just wanted to check. I put some in my tire last night and it basically seemed to spread out and "dry" out pretty quickly (the tube previously had stans in it)- Kinda hard to measure the Mold Builder in teaspoons, so it's possible I added too much latex. Thoughts?

Guitar Ted said...

@ahead: Deicing WW solvent shouldn't be a big deal. As you say, I believe Purple Power is that, but I can not say it has made a difference one way or the other, since I am now using a "standard" washer solvent right at the moment.

Measuring: You can vary the consistency somewhat by adding/subtracting latex mold builder, but you should probably strive for a bit more of a fluid-like consistency, not unlike Stan's- for most tires. Stubborn, hard to seal up tires work better with a slightly thicker than Stan's solution.

ahead said...

Thanks. I put in 12 oz of WW fluid in a water bottle and then 12 heaping tsp (teaspoons, correct, not tablespoons?) of Mold Builder. Hard to tell, because I can't get all of it out of the measuring spoon. Appears about the same consistency as Stan's, but, like I said, it seems to be drying out on the inside of the tire too quickly. Is that likely due to too much latex?

Guitar Ted said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Guitar Ted said...

@ahead: Deleted the last comment- it had a mistake.

@ahead: Here's what I do: 4oz of Washer Solvent to three TABLESPOONS (heaping) of mold builder. Shaken vigorously until frothy.

Sometimes I thin that out a shade, sometimes I thicken it a hair. That's enough to easily do two big 29"er tires. I usually put in about 50-60 milliliters in each tire, but you can put more in if you want too.

Mine will stay liquified for three to six months, depending upon the heat, and usage of the bike. I've never had it solidify in less time than that, unless I used very little in each tire.

5:35 PM

ahead said...

Awesome- Tablespoons (tbsp) very different than Teaspoons (tsp). I will try the 4oz wwf + 3 TBSP of mold builder. Thanks a million for your responses. I followed the lengthy thread on mtbr and don't have interest in all the other nonsense, especially if this works :).