Monday, November 16, 2015

Another Tubeless Journey

Maxxis Rambler 40's- Another new tubeless gravel tire offering.
Tubeless bicycle tires are not a new idea. I think there probably are some really old attempts at it, but as far as I can remember, the first I'd heard of that idea was back in the late 1990's. That's when some bloke by the name of Stan was cruising the NORBA pits and trying to show riders how to ditch their 26 inch tubes and use his system to go tubeless.

Since that time, many riders have been doing garage set ups, using different tires, rims, and sealants, and having varying degrees of success. Intrestingly, just when the 26 inch stuff got dialed, everyone started moving over to 29"ers. Then once 29"ers settled out into the Stan's vs UST camps, the roadies tried getting in on the action. That still hasn't worked out, but now it is the gravel road riders looking for the tubeless "nirvana". Guess what? We've got a long, long way to go. (Oh- and let's not forget fat bikers.)

There are challenges for road bikers which, maybe, someday, they will overcome. Higher pressures by a factor of 3-4 times that of where mountain bike pressures are at will challenge any engineer. The gravel scene wants pressures somewhere in between there, and fortunately, many of the lessons learned in the past are being applied to some gravel tires. Things like a systemic approach seem to get this right out of the box. Design a tire, rim, and the accouterments that go along with running a tubeless tire system, then things seem to go well. Take the WTB Nano 40 TCS tires, TCS rims, and their tape and sealant, as an example. That is pretty much bomb proof and I consider this set up as the benchmark for gravel tubeless tire and rim fit.

With the plethora of tire companies coming out with "tubeless gravel tire" products, one has to wonder for what rims are they meant for? Rim companies are making tubeless compatible rims, but which tires work with them?  We were left asking a lot of questions similar to the above back in 2007 about 29"er tires, rims, and tubeless, and here we are again with gravel road tires and rims to go with that.

The journey has begun again........

2 comments:

Unknown said...

I'm pretty confused myself.

I have a Tamland with the original Kmax pro rims. Love it so much I want to upgrade it. Toured in Italy on it and ride lots of mixed rides in Norcal. But I've pinch flatted several times now, so I want to go tubeless. I want to be able to run 28-32mm tubeless tires at 65-70psi and 38-42mm wide tubeless "gravel" tires in the mid 30s. I weigh 160 lbs.

(I am assuming that going tubeless on the stock Weinmann K-Max Pro rims would be a risky idea. Correct?)

Assuming such, I narrowed my rim choices down to Panceti SL25, Stans Grail Team, and Velocity Aileron. Then I started reading more about tires... and realized I do not know enough to know if these rims with the quickly growing list of tubeless tires will fulfill my wishes.

If the only guarantee is to use a manufacture's system, Panceti, Stans, and Velocity are out? Should I really just go with WTB KOM i23 TCS rims and only use their Cross Boss and Nano?

One thing about WTB that I don't understand, they claim their rims can take up to 72 psi irrespective of the tire used. 72 psi is likely enough for me, but it makes me uncomfortable since I don't understand how they can make this claim. It would seem different sized tires with different air volumes would create disparate forces on a rim. Can you clear up some confusion and help me move forward with my decision?

Guitar Ted said...

@Unknown: One thing you can easily do is separate out Stan's products from other tubeless systems. Stan's primary purpose is for conversion of non-tubeless tires to tubeless. If you are going with a tubeless rated tire, it won't be designed around a Stan's rim.

Then you have to just trust that the manufacturers are going to do due diligence and try mounting other products with theirs. I know Maxxis is doing this,and I would assume others are as well.

Finally, are you going to run a 28mm tire tubeless? I'm pretty skeptical, at this point, that anything sub-35mm is very reasonably reliant as a tubeless tire. I just am not comfortable with what I am seeing out there in that regard. If it were me, I would run tubes when I went with sub-35mm tires and go tubeless on bigger tires, and personally- I wouldn't bother running anything under 35mm, even on the road. I'm not racing, so why? Tubeless tires with bigger volumes are coming in at sub 500 gram weights and the recently released Maxxis Rambler and Fuse tires are really light.

Otherwise, if lightweight and skinny are must haves, consider tubulars. The Effetto Mariposa Carongna Tape is reputedly great stuff and eliminates gluing, so doing tubulars isn't the nightmare it used to be, and you pretty much eliminate pinch flats.