|You're set up tubeless? Great. Do you know about maintenance for tubeless?|
Of course, just having your tires set up tubeless isn't the end of your concerns for your tires. Tubeless set ups require a sealant to seal the tires and to ward off any puncture issues, (hopefully) from sharp objects like bits of glass, thorns, or goat heads, for instance. That said, you can still get a tubeless tire to fail in any number of ways, (Which, by the way, would slay most any tubed tire anyway, so going tubeless doesn't get you a "get out of jail" card, so to speak)
I'm not going to give you the reasons to go tubeless, this article assumes you already have been over that road. No, this is going to give you some ideas on why, and then how, maintenance is done of tubeless bicycle tires. This mostly has to do with sealant, so let's talk about that briefly.
Bicycle tires could be made so they do not need sealant. I've tried those, and, for the sake of brevity, I'll just say you really don't want to go there! Why? Weight. Nuff said.
So, tubeless bicycle tires need sealant. This is typically from two major families of sealant products. There are the latex based sealants and the glycol based sealants. Examples of both would be Stan's and Slime, respectively. The carrier in a latex based sealant is typically ammonia, but in a glycol based sealant it is, well.....glycol, which is a liquid from the same family as your automobile coolants. Glycol based sealants for bicycle use aren't common, and they act differently than the latex sealants do. Since latex is, by far and away, the most commonly used bicycle sealant, I will be focusing on maintenance for that type of sealant.
|Tools needed: A valve core remover and a cable tie, (or Orange Seal dipstick, as shown)|
- Tools: First you'll need to have a small width cable tie at least 4" long, a valve core remover, and your air inflation device. (See image above for a visual on the core remover and cable tie/dip stick)
|Valve stem at the "six o'clock" position.|
Once the time has expired, we can safely assume any sealant has migrated to the bottom of the tire underneath the valve stem. then you should open the valve, release as much air as you can- but do not squeeze or touch the tire at all! This and having no weight on the tires is VERY IMPORTANT so you do not break the seal on the bead/rim interface.
Once the air is mostly out, remove the valve core. I like the Park Tools VC-1 since if the valve core is tight, or gummed up with sealant, you can use a 10mm box end wrench to turn the tool without handling the tire. Hopefully you don't need to do that, but just in case, a tool like the Park one that allows for extra leverage of some sort could be helpful. Bonus: The Park tool also removes Schrader valve cores as well. So if you are running tubeless with those valves, the Park tool will work there as well.
Once you get the valve core out, examine it carefully. As stated, most latex sealants use ammonia as a carrier which is corrosive to rubber and metal. Also, there are two places on a Presta valve core which must seal correctly to make the valve air tight. If your valve core is corroded, or if those rubber, (or in some cases, plastic) seals are damaged, or look "collapsed", then just pitch them and put in a new one. Valve issues are a big reason for tubeless problems and you don't want to be chasing down a leak-down issue and find out it was your valve core. Valve cores can typically be purchased at most good bike shops, or on-line. Get some and make sure you do not re-use a corroded core, or one with used up seals. It isn't worth it. One more thing- Obviously the rest of the valve can get corroded and nasty looking at some point as well, but it is much more common to see a bad core first.
|Once I cleared off the old sealant from this core, I found it to be okay. Note the white plastic seal.|
|I used the Orange Seal "dip stick" to check my fat bike tires.|
- Three heaping table spoons of Latex Mold Builder
- Four ounces of Purple Power windshield washer solvent.
- Mix THOROUGHLY
- Makes enough for two 29" X 2.4" tires.
- Adjust for smaller/larger tires to taste.
The Resolutes were set up at the end of May and I found that they still had about a 1/4" sealant pooled at the bottom of each tire. That bike was ridden pretty consistently through June and July but then it was in the cool, dark storage for the month of August.
Again- your mileage may vary. I just give you my examples as a data point to chew on.
|Despite running quite a bit in hot weather for a couple of months, the Resolutes didn't need sealant.|
That pretty much covers your maintenance issues with tubeless that will be the most common, recurring ones. You might, after some time, need to replace the valves. Depending upon your frequency in changing tires, you may need to re-tape your rims. But those things are far less commonly needed.
Once again, I know I may have missed something you think I should have covered. Maybe I am not as clear as I could be on some points. Perhaps you just have a question you'd like answered. Well, if any of those are true for you, please hit me with a comment here or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Okay, I hope that helped someone out there. Thanks again for reading.