Friday, October 01, 2010

State Of Tubelessness

I've been through about everything you can think of when it comes to what to think about running a tubeless tire set up on a mountain bike. From downright distrust to frustrations, and finally acceptance, I can now say that I have not only come to terms with tubelessness, I actually am at peace with it.

Much of my earlier trials were due to having no real system, no designed-for-tubelessness tire and rim when I began this ordeal. Bontrager had yet to come out with its system, and Stan's was the only game in town for 29"er freaks like myself. Of course, Stan's was a total crap shoot, and tires for 29"ers, not to mention the rims, were so random in terms of tolerance that you had a better chance of surviving Russian Roulette than you did a "ghetto", or Stan's type, "Rube Goldberg" deal.

That all changed in a big way with Bontrager's TLR system and that was awesome, but still, there were so few tires at first. Then others came on board, and tolerances tightened up enough that Stan's actually could be a reliable big wheeled set up. Now days, the tubeless choices have really expanded to just about obliterate any resistance one may think of to converting to tubelessness.

So what has changed? Well, two things happened, and are still happening, that will soon make running a tube in a 29"er about as odd as running top mount shifters on a 29'er. Those two things are UST bead spec and Stan's sharing technology with other companies.

Probably the perfect example of this in one wheel/tire system is the upcoming WTB "TCS" tubeless wheels and tires. WTB is making a UST bead spec tire and will mate that with what is basically a Stan's tape and sealant to come up with their version of big wheeled tubelessness. Some others have gone this route as well. Sun Ringle' did with their excellent Charger Pro and Black Flag wheels. Specialized did a fine Stan's impression with their rim tape as well. Bead seats are gravitating towards the UST standards, and this is good to see. Not only are WTB headed in this direction, but so are Continental and Schwalbe. Maxxis is said to be looking at introducing a tubeless ready tire line, and others surely won't be far behind. Like I said a few years ago: Why introduce a new tire or rim and not have it be tubeless ready? Seems as though the tire and rim companies are agreeing with that now.

Of course, not everyone is doing the tubelessness two step in concert. Easton and a few others have adopted UST rim well styles into their wheels, and I hear that full on UST 29"er tires are on the radar from at least one company. I can live with the UST rims, but UST tires? Look- why have a tire that weighs waaaay too much just so you don't have to use sealant? (When 90% of the people buying the UST tires run sealant anyway) The tired saying that they are "tougher" isn't going to cut it. A "tougher" tire needs to be a true AM/DH tire if we're going to go with 1000+ gram weight, (which is where a lot of these UST tires will end up weighing in a 2.2"+ width), and I wouldn't do a UST tire for DH, I would do a true 2 ply tire. We don't need UST in 29"er tires.

Want a tougher, reasonably light tire? Look no further than the example set by Schwalbe with their "Snake Skin" side walls and with a UST spec bead coming soon, you can use a little sealant, (cause you will anyway), and have that "tougher" tire with waaaay less weight than a full on UST tire. Again, we do not need UST, we need better tire side wall technologies that allow us to keep the weight down, run tubeless, and have that tire that will hold up in tougher trails situations up to AM/DH use, but not into that territory. There you need the full on burly tire, like a Dissent, only with a better purposed carcass.

So, with tubelessness getting sorted out, and tire technologies used in 26"er tires starting to float over to 29"ers, I see no reasons not to go tubeless in 2011. Start your planning now. You won't ever go back.

It's the weekend folks. Full on Fall riding is here for a short time. Get yerself some!


dicky said...

You forgot to mention that Sun Ringle' is using a Stan's rim (with eyelets) and that Specialized's "fine impression" currently has them under a lawsuit from Stan after they tried to buy him out and then allegedly copied his design anyways. Any idea how it turned out? Last I heard was this:

Guitar Ted said...

@dicky: Yep. I knew that was a Stan's rim, well.....because Sun Ringle makes Stan's stuff. ;)

Specialized is still making that "blue tape' and as far as I know, there is no end in sight to their doing so.

Scott Cole said...

Speaking of Specialized, the 2Bliss S-works & Control tires are some of the easiest to get mounted and they don't weigh a ton. They are actually pretty light for tubeless. The blue tape has served me well also with sealing up the spoke holes. With the Renegade, Fast Trak SLK/LK and Captain you have a tire for just about any type of terrain that's thrown at you, especially in the Midwest.

dicky said...

I knew you knew.

I thought the lawsuit was over the shape of the Spec rims? It's the tape??

Courtney said...

I switch this spring and after 2k on tubeless 29rs I have only had one flat and that was a 3" long cut from a rock at Bonebender, and you really can't hope for any recovery there. I did buy ust tubes tires from specialized and I hate them they are so heavy I like my exiwolfs, but I might try wolverines after reading your review of them.