I've just gone road tubeless - a lot of ups and downs but is it a steep learning curve?

Discussion in 'Bicycle Mechanics and Repairs' started by mikeymustard, 25 Mar 2019.

  1. mikeymustard

    mikeymustard Veteran

    Well, I'll answer my own question - yes, yes it is a steep learning curve (sorry about the bad pun btw) and there were a lot more downs than ups!

    In case anyone else is thinking about going down the road tubeless route, I'll go through some of the pitfalls I encountered, and if I can be arsed, I might even update it with first impressions of ride too!

    Tubeless rims are Ambrosio P20 with 20mm internal width. Tyres are 25mm Continental GP5000TL. I wanted 28mm but wasn't sure if a 28mm tyre on a 20mm rim would be too wide for my Equilibrium. Turns out they would've been fine.

    I also bought valves, Jobsworth [planet x own brand] rim tape and OKO Magic Milk sealant at the same time as the wheels.

    I checked out all the youtube vids on how to do this setup (only one of which shows someone struggling), and, with tools laid out in a nice warm dining room (for the ease of taping and tyre fitting you understand, not 'cos I'm a wimp ;)) I set about fitting the tape.

    My first problem: the Jobsworth tape just wouldn't go on the rims smoothly; it crinkled and wouldn't smooth down into the groove in the middle. I decided to carry on anyway, gave it two layers and went to fit the valve and tyre.

    Problem no. 2: the tyre was impossible to fit without levers. I've since learned that the P20 rim is particularly hard to fit ordinary tyres to, nevermind tubeless, and I was also advised (by Malcolm Borg of Cycle Clinic) that "As a rule of thumb if it can be mounted by hand it's probably too easy". No matter how many times I chased the tyres into the groove in the middle I always ended up with about 6 inches of tyre that would not budge! With painful hands I resorted to cable ties, silicone cream (I didn't want to use soapy water in the dining room) and tyre levers and finally got the tyre on.

    The thing that many people find to be a problem is getting the tyre to seal against the rim. I'm glad to say I had no issues with this, they literally just popped on with a few puffs from a track pump. I pumped them up, (the bead seated fully with a pop at about 80psi), deflated then added about 60ml of the Magic Milk, shook /spun the wheels for ages, reinflated and they went down very quickly.

    I then spent two days trying to get it to hold air - with absolutely no success! A dunk in the bath showed the water coming out of the valve, so I tried reseating it, tightened it some more, made sure there was some sealant around it etc. but then read that badly fitted tape could also manifest as valve hole leak.

    In the end I scooped out the goop (with a teaspoon) and removed the tyre. I ripped the suspect tape off both wheels (unfortunately I had become impatient and taped up the rear too), and spent another couple of hours cleaning the rim of adhesive, using Isopropyl alcohol [IPA] and a washing up scourer.

    Rims back to their original virgin silver, I started again. This time using Tesa 4289 21mm. Well, what a difference! The Tesa is altogether softer and deformable which means it sits beautifully in the well in the middle of the rim. Various advice differs in whether the tape should go all the way across the width of the rim. the 21mm sits in the well with maybe a couple of mm left to the edge. Because the tape sits nicely, and sticks so well I decided to try just one layer. Also, given how tight the tyres were, I felt a double layer might just add to my misery!

    Tyre back on (it doesn't seem to be getting any easier but new IRC tyre levers helped), air in (reseats instantly, with a satisfying pop at about 80 again), no sealant yet. A dunk in the bath showed air seeping through the tyre wall as well as a bit through the valve. This is odd, because I was led to believe that properly tubeless tyres could be run without sealant (why you would I don't know, but the point is, you should be able to). I don't think I tested it for leaks before sealant previously, but no matter. I added sealant, about 70 or 80ml this time, probably overkill but I figured I could transfer some to the other wheel if it proved too much. I gave the wheel a good shake, spun it vertically, horizontally and at various angles, and it held air!

    A couple of things I have learned about sealant: according to Malcolm again, the best sealant for road tyres is an artificial latex type. Oko's magic milk is what I used (it's a happy accident that magic milk is an ersatz latex, I didn't know that's what I needed when I bought it, and I couldn't say if it's any good yet). Put the sealant in with the valve pointing about 45 degrees up from the floor so the goop can drain to the bottom, and then shake and spin the wheel thoroughly to make sure the inside of the tyre is covered. I also found out it's a very stupid idea to let the wheel sit with the valve at the bottom and then try to let air out! Let's just say I now realise that magic milk is a euphemism for erm.. something else. Lets move on. Quite quickly.

    For the first 24 hours I tried the tyre at various pressures, from 120psi (yes I know I shouldn't but it was only for a few seconds) and down to about 40psi. I found it held air fine above 70 but was losing air below 50. This seemed to right itself as the sealant seeped into the gaps - I guess.

    The second wheel, with my newly acquired expertise, was taped, valved and then tyred in literally minutes!

    I left them both for a couple of days just to make sure they weren't dropping pressure before swapping the cassette over from the old wheels and putting them on my bike.

    So there you have it, things I have learned on my journey from "tubeless curious" to full-blown (geddit?) "expert" are:

    • be patient
    • learn as much as you can before you start
    • Jobsworth tape: it may be fine if you've had some experience, but I won't be using it again in a hurry - Tesa 4289 for me from now on
    • take your time taping, do it somewhere warm, and keep pulling it taut. I tried various tools to push the air bubbles to a spoke hole, but my thumb turned out to be the best shape. A lot of folks recommend cleaning the rim with IPA, and even roughening the surface a little
    • use soapy water (or silicone cream/spray/furniture polish) to lubricate the tyre when you fit it, but be prepared for a fight. Also, don't be frightened to use levers, thin ones seem to work better
    • it gets easier. I reckon I could prepare a set of wheels in about half an hour now.
    Since starting to write this thread I've had the chance to ride the new setup a couple of times and I can tell you this: while I'm not yet completely sold on the idea of tubeless, I think I'm getting there! One thing I'm trying to get my head around is the idea of running lower pressure than I'm used to. I'm not a "pump'em to the max" sort by any means - on a 25mm I normally run about 85-90psi, which is probably a little on the low side for a guy of my size. On the tubeless - also 25mm - I've tried 90 (way too high) all the way down to about 50 (just felt a bit weird, but still wasn't squirming), and have for the moment settled on about 70psi. This seems to give a very smooth ride - on my ride this morning (which may have been run with a little less than 70psi due to wanting to get going) I found myself going over manhole covers and rough bits of road that I would normally avoid; I also felt very confident when cornering fairly hard. It was all ridden quite slowly but for now I'll put that down to a headwind, my lack of fitness and the bike still being in full winter mode, including guards and large carradice (with support), and not the silly low pressure causing high rolling resistance.
  2. I’ve used MTB tubeless for years, with no particular issues, and found them to be a superb idea. Then a couple of years ago I tried road tubeless, using modified clincher rims, and Schwalbe tubeless tyres. They were an unmitigated disaster. They took a lot of effort to seal, punctured for fun, burped, and ( most dangerously) de rimmed in a corner. Sorting any punctures that defeated the worms was a messy nightmare, so I gave up, and went back to tubed clinchers / tubulars, depending on the rim / bike. However, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try the Mavic UST tubeless clincher wheels and tyres. They have managed to sort out pretty much all the issues I had with the original attempts, and now live up to expectations / the hype. I would advise anyone thinking about it, to make sure they have actual dedicated tubeless wheels, and tubeless tyres, not tubeless ready tyres and rims. There’s a big difference. Dedicated tubeless tyres have a Butyl layer inside them, which means they can be run without sealant ( although I still would use sealant just in case ) the wheels have a solid metal ‘track’ over the spoke holes, with a channel in it, in case you have to revert to using an inner tube. This means the tubeless tyre will actually re seat, with an emergency tube in place, unlike the ‘tubeless ready’ set up, where you have thick rubbery rim tape over the spoke holes, which makes reseating the tyre more difficult, if you have to fit an inner tube. You have to be careful with your choice of sealant as well. A Latex sealant will react with Carbon dioxide, if you use a CO2 inflator, which isn’t good. I’ve found the dedicated Mavic tubeless tyres to be very nice handling, and durable. I’ve only had to use a worm once, and it held pressure, which is the point.
    Last edited: 25 Mar 2019
    the_mikey, lane, SpokeyDokey and 2 others like this.
  3. Nebulous

    Nebulous Veteran

    Thanks very much for that. I have a Genesis Equilibrium, and it has begun to make a bit of noise. I'm not sure if it is the freehub, or the spokes, or both. I'm lined up for several very long rides, with quite a bit of overnight riding, so I have just pulled the trigger on a set of Hunt wheels with a dynamo.

    They come taped for tubeless with a set of valves, so it should be more painless than your experience. I use 28mm tyres and currently use gp4000s so moving to 5000s and tubeless would seem a natural progression. I'm glad to see you say that you think 28s would fit. I have guards as a permanent fixture. The one nagging worry I have is having to deal with a puncture somewhere remote and cold. At the moment it is whack in a new tube and carry on. Dealing with sealant and difficult to remove tyres could be a different story, even though it is less likely to happen.
    mikeymustard likes this.
  4. iandg

    iandg Legendary Member

    20mm internal width is a big rim for 25c tyres, isn't it? I'm using 19mm with 43c on the Cross-Check and 17mm with 35c on the Trucker
    mikeymustard likes this.
  5. iandg

    iandg Legendary Member

    I ditched the 'proper rim tapes' and used 2 layers of the narrow Gorilla Tape on my Cross-Check - Exal SP19 rims (currently running 43c Panaracer Gravel King SK).

    Edit - I'm thinking of getting some Marathon Supremes for the Trucker and running tubeless so I'm interested in others experience running tubeless on the road.
  6. fossyant

    fossyant Ride It Like You Stole It!

    South Manchester

    I've heard too many issues to risk doing tubeless in a house, or even the garage, just in-case you don't fancy cleaning sealant off everything.
    the_mikey and mikeymustard like this.
  7. No, you’ve got ‘tubeless ready’ adapted clinchers, that’s exactly what caused all the grief I had.

    If you go for the GP5000, make sure they are the actual tubeless versions, or you’ll probably experience the other nightmares I did.

    With the ‘tubeless ready’ wheel set up you have, fitting a tube if you need to will be tricky. If you’re using proper tubeless tyres, they have a butyl layer inside ( a bit like having an ‘open’ inner tube if you like) so you won’t need sealant ( but it’s a good idea to use it just in case) get a tubeless repair kit like this.


    And unless you’re very unlucky, you shouldn’t need to struggle with an inner tube.
  8. OP

    mikeymustard Veteran

    I was a little worried about that, but they seem fine. They actually come out the same (a shade over 27mm) as my conti grand prix on 17mm rims
    iandg likes this.
  9. Pale Rider

    Pale Rider Guru

    My Alex MD 40 rims arrived taped for tubeless.

    The lad in the bike shop - who has been doing tubeless installations for 10 years or so - opted to replace the rim tape with two wraps of Gorilla tape.

    The front tyre has performed well, holding pressure almost as well as when it had an inner tube.

    The rear not so well, although I've finally got it to hold pressure after clagging in nearly a full bottle of extra sealant.

    Previously, I was getting the occasional puncture.

    I've not had one that's stopped a ride since going tubeless, so that's good.

    Topping up faff and cost of sealant is a consideration.

    To keep plenty in, looks like I will use a £10-£15 bottle every six months.

    Quite expensive given that a £5 inner tube and 99p repair kit would last me years.
    the_mikey likes this.
  10. wonderloaf

    wonderloaf Über Member

    I'm just trying out 'ghetto' tubeless on my bike, seeing as I've got all the parts around me and being inquisitive thought why not?

    I'm using 700c 40mm Schwalbe G-Ones onto Mavic Aksiums and used electrical tape (3 layers) on the rim and valves cut out of old inner tubes. To be honest I'm surprised how easy it was to get it work, the first wheel was a bit of a learning curve and I found using the soapy water trick worked for affecting a temporary seal to inflate the bead against the rim. Once that was in place the sealant took over and I haven't had any leaks so far. I used a homemade tubeless inflator using 2 litre drinks bottle, worked like a dream!

    I also had a bit of a problem getting one valve to seal but then found out how important it is to shake the sealant around, I found by holding the wheel downwards with the valve at the bottom and shaking the wheel the sealant did it's stuff and sealed around the valve nicely.

    Apart from that not had any problems, I run mine at about 50 psi and have now done ~100 miles with no problems, The benefits of tubeless became apparent yesterday as I picked up 2 punctures at once (think it may have been broken glass) and there was a kind of ticking noise from the front wheel which was the tyre puncturing, but the holes quickly sealed and I just carried on cycling. I did lose some pressure but a quick top up with the pump and I was good to go for the rest of trip.

    I've really only done this as an experiment and will probably carry on for a while and decide whether to go for a proper tubeless setup, it was so nice yesterday not have to stop to fix the punctures, but will have to weigh up the pro's and con's!
    simon.r likes this.
  11. OP

    mikeymustard Veteran

    unfortunately being less likely to happen doesn't mean it won't!
    While I've invested in a set of "worms" I don't think I'll leave the spare tube out of my kit just yet :eek: though I now feel fairly confident I could get the tyre off in an emergency, I don't go far these days so I know I can rely on the SRS to come get me (Spouse Recovery Service).
    @Racing roadkill I think you might be being overly cautious about tubeless "ready" rims, I realise it's a choice informed by experience, and from what I've discovered there are still a few unworkable combinations of rim/tyre but I'm glad I took the plunge, for my own knowledge as much as anything.
    lane and Nebulous like this.
  12. YukonBoy

    YukonBoy The Monch

    Inside my skull
    It is, ETRO recommend at least a 28mm width tyre for an internal rim width of 20mm.
    lane likes this.
  13. lane

    lane Über Member

    Just into the third week of tubeless using H Plus Sons Hydra rims and GP5000 tubeless. My experience so far:

    First thing to note is that I am not generally very good mechanically and also not the most patient.

    I purchased the tyres, valves, Stans tape and Stans No Tubes Race Sealant. The stans race sealant I found out is not recommended by Malcolm because it is latex and he doesn't recommend latex and also because it has to be poured into the tyre and can't be put through the valve. It is also very expensive. So that was my first mistake although not caused any problems other than being messy as Malcolm says it would be.

    So I removed the old rim tape, didn't bother cleaning the rim (which is definitely not recommended) and probably didn't do the best job of applying two layers of stans tape. All in all probably a bit of a bodge.

    I then managed to fit the tyre by hand - although really only just it was bloody hard and tightest I can ever remember fitting - and at the same time poured some sealant ( well quite a lot really) into the tyre.

    Then used my track pump to inflate and the tyre went up quickly with the popping sound as it seated.

    So far so good. I didn't get a chance to ride for week but kept checking pressure which held very well on the back and quite well on the front. I gave the wheel a good number of turns put a bit more air in the front and then seemed to lose about 10 to 15 psi in a week which I was very happy with.

    So having managed to carry out the exercise of going tubeless and it being really quite easy, I turned my attention to the issues of how I would deal with punctures. I already know that Malcom does not recommend fitting tubes but using worms. Research indicated that while Malcolm says this is problem free about 50% of people on the web seem to report issues. Malcolm attributes this to them using the wrong size worms. However I also noticed that people who didn't manage with the worms reported 100% success using dynaplug so that is what I purchased.

    Another thing that is very interesting is Malcolm's information about tubeless / tubeless ready rims. He says they are not all equal and not all ones he would be happy to use himself. This is because some do and some don't have a bump or slope on the upper shelf in the rim to stop a deflated tyre unseating. Malcolm's advice seems to be that if you have a rim where the tyre unseats you may have a problem and need to carry a tube because you may not - on the road - be able to re seat the tyre without one. I investigated the Hydra rim profile and it did not conform to Malcolm's recommendation. I therefore conducted a test and deflated my tyre and sure enough it unseated and sealant escaped out of the rim. So a potential problem. However I always carry a full size pump with me and when I tried this the tyre inflated and re seated. So on the road this should not be a problem. If you have tubeless I would give this a try because if the tyre unseats and you can't re seat it with what you have on the road you may need to carry a tube.

    I still have some little concerns regarding the tyre coming off the rim because it could be fitted without tyre levers and the rim profile may not be the best for tubeless.

    So quite a bit of time, money and research required for me to go tubeless. Although that be said I enjoyed the whole process including all the research and finding out all I could about tubeless tyres.

    The reason I wanted to go tubeless in the first place was to run faster less puncture resistant tyres knowing that most punctures would seal.

    So far about 150km on the tyres and they are faster then what I had previously and more comfortable. In fact I am really pleased with them and they are all I hoped for. I am using 32mm tyres on my 25mm hydra rims. I am running at 60 to 65psi which should give more chance for punctures to seal.

    The things I still don't know is how many punctures will I have to deal with and how easy will that be. Also general robustness of the tyres and side walls because I am running them on gravelly lanes and also some stony / gravelly bike paths and lanes which they probably are not really intended for. Time will tell. But so far most certainly so good.
    SpokeyDokey likes this.
  14. YukonBoy

    YukonBoy The Monch

    Inside my skull
    I have been running tubeless for 5 years without any punctures. Hutchinson Sectors are tough old things but not super heavy like Marathon plus either. In 32mm they run fast enough an an average speed of 17mph is just fine for me. Front I run 55 psi, and rear 65 psi.
    Racing roadkill and lane like this.
  15. And that’s a good point as well. If you run too high a pressure, you don’t get the full effect / advantage of the tubeless set up. I run my front and rear at about 60 psi, and the comfort is noticeably much better than a tubed clincher of the same size, at the higher pressures required to prevent pinch flats. When I was bedding the new Mavics in, the rear burped slightly, and I was riding with about 30 psi, in a 25mm 700c tyre, but I managed to ride the last 20 miles without any incidents.
    mikeymustard likes this.
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