Thursday, November 18, 2021

A Skinflint's Guide To Tubeless Products

Setting up tires tubeless soon? (Image courtesy of Grannygear)
 I saw someone Tweeting the other day about how tubeless rim tape is a 'rip-off' when cheaper tapes exist and can be used to 'get the job done'. This subject is something I find near and dear to my heart, because I have several years of tubeless usage under my belt, have set up hundreds of tires tubeless, and I have used just about every combination of components imaginable. 

I also like cheap, well performing solutions. I do not like cheap, poor performing solutions when more expensive, readily available solutions exist. To my way of thinking, there is 'cheap for the sake of being cheap', and then there is 'being smart cheap'. I prefer to be found in the latter category. 

And I will say right up front here that not everything I am going to suggest today is "the cheapest solution" because just spending the least amount of money is not the goal here. You can always find 'cheaper', but cheaper and smarter, and better? That's more than just being cheap. That counts for more than spending the least amount possible. 

So, keep your, "But this is cheaper here" comments to yourself. I'm talking about something completely different here. Less money spent is good, but it has to also be readily available, easy to use, and work as well as, or better than, what is offered in retail bicycle channels. Okay? 


Tubeless Tapes: Let's start with tubeless tape. Right off the bat I'm going to nix any fabric based tape solution off this list, and yes, that includes Gorilla Tape. That stuff I have tried, and I know its failure modes well, and I also know it is a complete pain in the butt to remove from a rim. So, it isn't smarter, and it isn't better, and it is not easier. Not when it comes to failures and maintenance. So, no..... No fabric based tapes. There are a LOT better ways to go. 

The best tape is polypropylene
"Real" tubeless rim tapes that are really good which have been adopted by the bicycle industry are made from polypropylene. They have a rubberized adhesive back which sticks to metal. They have stretching characteristics, and they have a high tensile strength. These types of tapes are resistant to sealants, come off easily, and require little to no clean up after being pulled from a rim. 

The bicycle industry did not develop their own tape when they came up with tubeless tape. So, where did they get it from? Find that out and you will have saved yourself a bit of money buying essentially the same product and cutting out the bicycle industry. This is smarter, better, and easier than futzing with fabric based tapes that aren't as good. (Even though they may be cheaper.) 

It's pretty widely known that the most commonly seen 'yellow tape' used on many wheels is Tessa model 4289 tape. In fact, some wholesale sites which sell this tape tout its being the same thing as the bicycle industry uses. So, there ya go. 

Another alternative I've seen mentioned which looks similar to some tubeless tapes I've seen and used, (in particular, a brand with the color name "orange" in it) is this tape here. I cannot say it is the exact stuff, or even close to the same, but I have heard about it being used as an alternative to Tessa 4289 tape. In my opinion, it looks like that Kapton tape is really similar to what the bicycle industry uses and in my opinion it isn't quite as good as the yellow stuff, but you know- maybe it'll work for ya. 

Another thing or two I've heard about- Electrical tape. Seems iffy to me. Not very smart, probably prone to failure due to the adhesive, and probably a mess to clean up. I've used this solution as a rim strip for tubed set ups with some success, but electrical tape gets moved around easily and scarred by tire levers. But hey.... I've also heard people use this tape under Gorilla Tape. Seems like a way to make the already too thick Gorrilla Tape even thicker. Again- I think it isn't a smart way to go. 

Sealants: Okay, here you go folks. This is a solution I was turned on to by my brother MG down Lincoln, Nebraska way. He came up with this formula and the ingredients on his own. I've used this with great success for over a decade now. It is modifiable, adjustable in consistency, and does as well as any sealant I've ever tested, and I've tested them all, pretty much. 

So, get this Latex Mold Builder from a craft store.  Get this wind shield washer solvent, (or anything based on this, really) and a container to seal up your mixture in that won't leak through the lid. (Recycle something here, cost little to nothing) Now you are in a 20 spot total, but you have the makings for a tubeless tire solution which can make enough for several sets of 29"er wheels. Mix three heaping table spoons of the mold builder with around 4 ounces of wind shield washer solvent, shake vigorously until well mixed in a closed container, and you are done. 

You can store this stuff relatively indefinitely. You can 'thin it out' or 'thicken it up' accordingly. Just adjust the viscosity with the washer solvent amount. You can add glitter to seal bigger holes, or granular acrylic beads would work too, (but that would cost more). Anyway, rock on with that sealant. It's cheaper and it works. 

When it dries up, it does so in a 'skin', much like its orange colored retail counterpart. It's way easy to clean up, and it typically does not clog up valves. Again- I have years of experiences using this formula and MG has been using it longer than I have. Do I use other traditional bicycle sealants? Yes. Are any of these 'better' than this? A couple are, a little bit maybe, but this stuff is as good than the most popular sealants and a lot better than many I have tried. 

Other Stuff: You will notice that injector image from Grannygear above. Those are nice and you can score a really well made one from KOM Cycling here. I mean, you can probably find something cheaper, but is it any better? I don't know. Here I would just spend the slightly less than 20 bucks and get the KOM injector. Especially since you get a quality valve core tool with it. I suppose you could go with this knock-off from Amazon and save a few bucks. 

Tubeless valve stems are all over Amazon for between 10 and 15 bucks, some come with valve core removal tools. See a bunch of that here. Need an extra boost of air to set up your tires but you don't have an air compressor? This MilKit system has been tested by and works pretty well. It's far cheaper than an air compressor. You can probably find something similar for cheaper, but the MilKit works. Other options? Unknown...

Okay, that's a wrap. Got any questions or quality suggestions? Hit me up in the comments. 


Phillip Cowan said...

I'm pretty sure the blue stuff that Velocity sells is 3M #8902. If it isn't then it's a very close match. I've used the 8902 with good success. The only real reason to buy the tape Velocity sells is that it's already the perfect width for their rims, no trimming required.

Guitar Ted said...

@Phillip Cowan - Thanks! I've had pretty good luck with that tape in the past too.

MG said...

Great info, Brother! Cheers!!

Guitar Ted said...

@MG - Cheers to you as well, Brother. Hope all is well.

NY Roll said...

I have had no issues with using gorilla tape. The only advice I have is when you tape
Your rim, ensure you are covering wall to wall.

AddisonRambler said...

I love the DIY approach to bike maintenance. So much cheaper. Skinflints unite.