Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yes Tubes vs No Tubes: The Debate Continues

If you follow my scribing on Twenty Nine Inches much you know that I have been fooling around with tubeless systems for mountain bikes lately. Still am actually. You also may remember my rants on tubeless tires here in the past. Well, I thought I might as well give an update on what I think as of now about the whole slimy mess. (Yes, that's a hint!)

For the record, I have always been told by my mountain biking friends that the tubeless tire thing was over rated and "not worth the hassles" to use. They all went back to using tubed set ups within a short time of using tubeless. I had always shied away from tubeless stuff for this reason and the fact that up until recently, you had no real system meant for tubeless use on 29"ers.

Okay, so that's where I'm coming from. Now I have used the two legitimate tubeless ready systems and I am about to try the third and final available system for 29"ers to see how it stacks up. Right now, I'm in the "not so impressed" camp.

First of all, tubeless ready systems are expensive! You have special rims, or even complete wheels. Special tires, special valve stems, and you have that sealant you need to use to keep the tires air tight. Add it all up and you will be spending more than you would for a rim strip and tubed tire set up. So, tubeless is not an advantage in that way.

Then you have choice. Well, lack of choice, actually. While there are promises of new tires coming, they are seemingly unobtanium, and then you have few rim choices/wheel set choices too. With all the tubed tire choices, tubeless falls short again. That doesn't even take into consideration the rim choices for tubed tires. Especially so in the 29"er market.

Finally, you have performance. This is where the tubeless cognescenti say the advantages of tubeless will out weigh those previously mentioned negatives. Hmm.........oh really?! I'm not so sure about that one. First they say rolling resistance is better. Well, maybe it is, but I can't feel it. I have run one of my tubeless ready tires both ways, and I'll be danged if I can tell the difference. Next they say that the use of the sealant will help prevent flats. Uhhh.........not so much. At least not in my experience. One flat was a sidewall puncture and it wouldn't seal up. The second was a small slow leak that persisted in going flat for three days until I finally gave it another shot of sealant. It got better, but then it still wasn't holding air as it should and during a long ride it got tubed. Guess what? No problems since.

Which brings me to the whole flat changing morass which I'd rather not ever have to deal with. Really, what could be better than to be hot and sweaty, trying to hurry as your mates stand around waiting for you while you switch out a valve stem for a tube, all the while dealing with a goopy mess on your hands. Really, that's so appealing. Extra steps and mess not associated with tubed set ups. Hmm.........I know which I prefer!

To be fair, the anti-pinch flat abilities of tubeless is amazing. However; at pressures that low, the tire wants to flex in turns anyway, so I end up pressuring up a tad, and to be honest, it's enough that a tube set up wouldn't pinch flat either. So that's a wash so far in my mind.

I'm not giving up on tubeless yet. No-sirreee! I figure it's big business, so there must be something to it. I just haven't found what it is yet, but if it's there I will! I promise you that much.

To be continued at a later date...................

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