Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Musings On Tubeless Tires

In the past, I've been rather skeptical of the whole tubeless tire thing. I realize that some of you swear by the systems out there, that you couldn't ride without it because of flats, etc. I always was hesitant to jump in the tubeless thing though. It just didn't seem worth it for my riding style and terrain.

Now I've tried it for awhile. Here's my take on tubeless now after having run the Bontrager Tubeless Ready system.

The system I ran was using some "stupid light" race tires and wheels. I know that in the setting I was using them last weekend, the system was being pushed over it's limits. That's exactly what I wanted though, to see where I could and couldn't ride this stuff. Now to say tubeless tires as a whole were a bad idea based upon this, well........that's just wrong! However; I can report a few bugs that I experienced that I think cross lines of discipline here.

First of all, the sealant is sketchy. I've seen Stan's work and not work so well, and the Super Juice seems about the same. It's great when it works......when it works! If it doesn't work, then your back in the tubed world anyway, plus you've got slimy goo to deal with. Not fun! Flats already suck bad enough without some Nickleodeon spooge all over the place.

Secondly, the tires fit so tight on Bontragers system that I though I was going to permanently damage my thumbs whilst mounting them. I know it's better that way, but still.......it hurt! Granted, when my inevitable puncture came that the sealant couldn't deal with, the tire came off the bead surprisingly easily. Hmm.......that's okay in the field, but did the bead stretch? My guess is that it did. Makes you wonder just a bit.

Then there's that pesky valve thingy that's great when you're running tubeless and a pain to keep track of when you're not. Yes, I lost mine after removing it to install a tube! My fault, but when you run tubes all the time, this isn't an issue, since your valve is tethered to this humongous rubber hoop.

Minor gripes, maybe. But mostly non-issues when running tubes. I suppose I could adapt to this tubeless thing, but I've got some suggestions for improvements for those product designers out there. How about making a tire mounting machine, like automobiles use, so we can save our digits from permanent damage and avoid the temptation to use tire levers and even worse, curse at inanimate objects! Next, that sealant. Couldn't it double up as mosquito repellant, hand cream, or something nutritional to give us energy to catch back up to those that passed us in a race? And finally, that pesky loose valve stem. How about a handy place to snap it into a tire lever, since we're eventually going to have to use one anyway.

Well, maybe I'm a bit of a luddite, but this tubeless thing has a ways to go before you can color me impressed!

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