Thursday, March 17, 2016

WW4M: Tubeless Tire Tips- Questions Answered

 Okay, ya'all should know the drill now. "WW4M" stands for "What Works For Me". NOTE- It may not work for you. Consider everything here carefully. Think it through, and if it makes sense, it may work for you as well. may not! 

How do you know when your sealant is dried up?
Yesterday I posted some knowledge on tubeless tires I have garnered over the course of a decade and asked if anyone had any further questions. In fact, a reader from South Dakota did, so today I am posting this follow up, because many folks do not read the comments section. I figured it would be better off to make it a stand alone post that others could get some use out of. Again- If you have any specific questions regarding tubeless set ups, I'd be glad to answer them, if I can, and maybe your questions will be answered in their own blog post here. Who knows?

So, here's the first question: "Is there a "normal" amount of leakage over time?"

In my opinion, a "good" tubeless tire and tubeless set up should not leak down faster than your typical tubed set up, and a really good tubeless set up will actually be better than a tubed set up in this regard. So, if your tubed set up leaks down 10psi in the course of a few days to a week, you should expect your tubeless set up to do exactly the same thing. I recommend checking air pressure before every ride, and monitoring the results as you go to get a feel for how your tires, sealant, and over-all set up is performing, because when you notice a change, it may be time to add more sealant.

 "How do you know when you need to add sealant? Any tips for doing so?" Well, as I have just stated, a change in your air pressure readings from your previous check which shows a lower pressure than normal is a clue. When sealant gets dry, it begins to be less capable of keeping air from escaping the tire's casing, not to mention the ability to seal punctures goes out the window. So, it is critical to understand when to add sealant. Keeping tabs on air pressures is one way to do that. However; there may be mitigating factors which might change when you would want to check your sealant. Things like extreme heat, a hot, dry storage area, a puncture which caused a loss of some sealant, or just the passing of time, all of which may point to a different time to check that sealant than normal.

Many sealants are coming packaged in such a way that you could bring it with you on a ride now.
Hot, dry weather, or a hot, dry storage area will dry up sealant faster than if you lived in a more humid, wetter, cooler area. I find that here in Iowa, sealants based on latex formulas typically go around three months before they dry up. People living in the Southwest may experience a drying up of sealant in less time than that, and some folks get half a year or more out of their sealants. How can you know when yours is dried up, besides using air pressure as a monitor?

You can use the auditory method. Take you wheel off the bike, hold it vertically, so that any sealant pools in the bottom of the tire's circumference, and shake the tire. Listen for any sloshing noises. If you cannot hear anything, it may indicate a dry, or nearly so, sealant situation. There is also the "dipstick" method. You can use this method with the wheels on the bike. Park the bike for a period of at least an hour or more to allow the sealant to settle in the bottom of the tire. Also- It works best if you have the valve stems at the six o'clock position. After the bike has sat awhile, take out the valve cores, allowing all the air to escape. Then, using a toothpick, or similarly thin, long-ish object, dip the toothpick into the valve stem and use it like a dipstick in a crankcase of a motor to see if you have wet sealant at the bottom of the tire. This may not be preferable if the tires you are using have a looser fit, because letting the air out may break the bead seal, and that might be a headache, but usually it is not an issue.

Getting more sealant in a tire is usually pretty easy. Again, you typically will have to remove the valve core, and the proper tool for that job, or the appropriate sized spoke wrench will remove that core easily. Then you can use a small length of plastic tubing, or buy a Caffelatex Injector, (my absolute favorite tubeless tire tool), or a used Stan's single serving bottle, if you don't buy the aforementioned injector, and add in about two to three ounces of new sealant, depending upon how big your tire is. (More for bigger mountain bike tires) While that may seem like a lot, I'd rather have extra than "just barely enough". Your mileage may vary. By the way, Caffelatex has a great tubeless tire table concerning this which you can find HERE.

Sometimes it is best to remove a tire and do some "Spring cleaning"!
There are times when removal of a tire and a thorough cleaning are necessary. Stan's users know this all too well. They tend to get a "bouncing, rumbling, tumbling" sensation inside their tires, which is the indication that the Stan's sealant has dried up. Their are several names for this phenomenon, and "Stanimal", "Stan's Booger", or other such names based on Stan's are common for describing this. The problem is that Stan's dries up in such a way that it forms a large, solid, strangely shaped chunk of latex which ends up bouncing around in the casing of the tire. It can only be removed by breaking down the tire from the rim and getting that "booger" out of there.

Other sealants form a dried layer, or a "skin", which can either be washed off with mild, soapy water solutions, or peeled off like a Sunburned layer of human skin. It is good to do this from time to time to keep the layers from building up and adding unnecessary weight to your tires. Sometimes layers of dried sealant coagulate around the valve stem area, and can impede the inflow of air when you are trying to inflate a tire. This should be cleared off if that happens. Beads of tires and bead seats of rims are also places where you may need to clear off excess dried sealant at times.

How often you break down a tire and clean it up is not a hard and fast rule, but I would suggest at least doing that once a year and more often if you use Stan's as a sealant. Obviously, switching out tires presents a perfect time to clean up the rim and inspect your rim tape as well. Don't forget to clean up those removable valve cores from time to time also.

Hopefully this additional info was helpful. Again- Please ask any questions in the comments section.


Stefan Mettler said...

Hi. Thanks for this series on tubeless, it's really informative. Fat bikes - everyone I know runs ghetto tubeless. Are fat bikes a totally different species, or is it that their tubeless time has yet to arrive? Thanks.

Guitar Ted said...

@Stefan Mettler - Great question! I would say that, while tubeless systems and products exist for fat bikes, they are more rare, and many folks have invested already in stuff that wasn't designed for tubeless which hasn't gone through its lifespan yet.

People that think regular bike tubeless stuff is expensive should look at fat bike tires and rims! The expense of the component pieces holds back many from doing fat bike tubeless the proper way, and this high cost perpetuates the "garage tech" solutions like split tubeless.

Craig Groseth said...

Thanks, Mark! This here is an example of the old investigative adage that, when you don't know enough to ask a specific question, ask a general one. You never know what direction the answer may lead. Checking tubeless sealant life by "auditory" and "dipstick" methods? Whodathunkit? Thanks for your continuing service to the cycling community. As my tubeless experiment goes on, I'm sure to have more specific questions. Looking forward to the next time we share some gravel. Craig.

josh said...

GT - I've been following your blog for a few years now and appreciate your experiences and willingness to share!

Tubeless question - As I understand it, there are basically two, largely incompatible systems, the Stan's system and the UST system. Stan's is built around typical "non-tubeless" tires and UST is built around "true tubeless" tires. Where do "tubeless ready" tires fit in?

I've been using Maxxis tires on Stan's Arch rims on my mountain bike for the last couple of years. The "tubeless ready" tires were tight to get on, but sealed up well. A couple of non-"tubeless ready" tires (Ignitors) were easy to get on, but a bear to seal up. Recently I got Stan's wheels for my (disc) road bike and got some "tubeless ready" Schwalbe One's. Again, tight fit but sealed up great. Does "tubeless ready" mean it's designed for Stan's-type rims?

WTB rims and tires are based on UST, right? So that means WTB rims with tubeless-ready tires OR WTB tires with Stan's rims are a no-go (or very-difficult-to-go). What about Velocity rims? Are they more like UST or Stan's?


Guitar Ted said...

@josh: In my first posting on this subject, you may remember that I stated that tire and rim manufacturers that didn't make complete systems, (tires AND rims under one roof), typically are pretty coy about what they are doing with standards, or if they are even using one at all.

For instance, I was told by a rep years ago that they "couldn't afford to alienate the market" by committing to a UST type tire design. So, what he was trying to say, in not so many words, was that the company he rep'ed for was "shooting down the middle", with specificationm/design, so to speak, hoping that their tires would work with most offerings. You can bet that there would be almost no way of knowing, even for that company and others doing these things, which tires would go on which rims and be safe, or fairly trouble free.

The end game is that which you are doing/describing- the consumer is the guinea pig. Which is why, when you can know, you should try to stick with a system that is a known quantity. If consumers start showing that they are demanding systemic, safe, easy to use tires and rims that are tubeless by buying only the ones that are known to be a system or have been proven by the companies to be viable, then other companies will have no choice but to comply. That is probably a pipe dream at best.

So, you have to dig and test for yourself, and many times that doesn't work the best. Fortunately, the internet can help here.

To answer your last questions, I don't think Velocity is doing a UST spec, but it sure isn't Stan's. (Almost no one else does a Stan's BST type rim besides Sun/Ringle', who manufacture/manufactured some Stans's stuff, and Am Classic)But not many use true UST spec either. WTB is doing that, and a few others. Most are doing the "shoot up the middle" spec and hoping for the best.

Remember- We're talking minute differences here, which is why things can work together from different sources- sort of. It isn't ideal, but it is what we've got.

wayno said...

You just talked me out of a conversion :)

josh said...

Thanks for the clarification, GT! I'm thinking of building a mid-fat wheelset for my old mountain bike, so I've been thinking tires and rims lately. I'll have to do some digging to see if the combinations I'm considering play well together.