So, moving on from there, I wanted to get more in to what I have experienced personally within the last several years in terms of tubeless tire usage. I am pretty much "tube free" when it comes to gravel bikes. I cannot remember the last time I rolled tubed tires on gravel. It's been a couple of years at least. Mountain bikes are generally tubeless for me, but a couple of my single speeds have been reverted back to tubed set ups just because they get ridden so rarely anymore. Fat bikes are all tubed here, and my utilitarian bikes are tubed for the most part, with the exception of my Surly 1X1.
|Despite the casing failure, we were able to limp the bike back to Emporia!|
So it was that at the DK200 I was on a pre-ride and the casing gave up the ghost. (See image to the left) Well, you can read all about it here, but the point was that tires were needed ASAP and I found some Teravail Sparwoods that would fit the bill, but maybe not my rims! The mechanic couldn't get the tires to fit on the Stan's dimension rims because the Sparwoods must have been made closer to a UST dimension. I ended up having to lever both tires on myself, and I knew that if I cut one on the flint the next day during my own ride, I was going to be dead in the water because there was no field servicing that set up!
Fortunately I was able to complete that ride and I actually left those Sparwoods on until last year when I replaced the tires for some Terrene test tires I had to review. At that point the Sparwoods came off, but they required a pair of tire levers and some muscle to dismount.
|The Teravail Sparwood and Black Flag wheel combo was almost a no-go as far as fit went.|
Of these tires, there is one common thread- they all had some sort of puncture protection layer or an anti-stretch bead technology. This made the airing up/bead seating process very difficult, if not impossible. The sidewalls of the tires didn't want to be moved by air blasts from compressors, and therefore a temporary seal was hard to get initiated, which is critical for a successful tubeless tire installation.
Another critical feature is the valve stem. Tubeless valve stems are one of the biggest reasons tubeless installations are difficult or why tubeless set ups sometimes fail. There are good stems and really bad ones. Then the valve hole is another possibility for failure. If the stem cannot effectively seal at the hole it passes through, you will have a headache on your hands. Also worth noting is that after a time tubeless valve stems get corroded by sealant, and this mainly where the core seats into the outer portion of the stem. Replacing cores often will help with this.
Sealants are another ongoing development in the tubeless marketplace. There are basically two kinds of sealant. You either use a glycol based sealant, like the trucking, ag, and industrial industries use, or a latex based sealant like most bicycle sealants have used since Stan's developed his basic latex formula back in the 90's. Glycol based sealants have also been used in bicycle tires. You may know Slime, and that is a glycol based sealant that typically doesn't dry up in tires. Latex works faster and is lighter, (usually) than glycol based sealants for the same volume, but these sealants dry out faster.
|These carbon rims made by Irwin Cycling are so precisely made they make going tubeless a breeze.|
So, you can see how so many standards, choices, and ways of doing things can add up to situations that could be awesome or somewhat less than satisfying. In my opinion, if you stick to a system- using true tubeless components, and/or a one brand solution, (tire/rim) the issues can be put to rest. For instance, a WTB TCS set up is pretty bomber. So is the Bontrager one. There are others.
I have also noted that many rim and tire manufacturers are really stepping up their game in regard to precision molding techniques which have really made things fit and seal so much better than before. I think the trend is toward more uniformity, but it has been a slow road.
You'd think by now we'd have it figured out!
That's it for this "State Of Tubelessness" series. Hit me with any questions in the comments.