The tubeless tire world

by Brian Mullin on February 26, 2007

WHAT IS TUBELESS?

A tubeless tire system is the name implies, is running a tire without an inner tube. There are two methods of achieving this system.

The first method is UST or Universal Standard for Tubeless. The UST system was created by Mavic in a partnership with Hutchinson and Michelin and was launched in 1999. This system requires a specifically engineered UST rim, which basically has no internal spoke holes on the rim bed, a unique rim bead seat and a use’s UST compatible tires. This method does not require sealant, but it’s pretty universal to use sealant.

The second method is to convert a normal standard rim by adding a rubber rim strip. Let’s call this the ‘Tubeless Conversion Kit’ or ‘Ghetto’ method. The rim strip is basically an inner tube that’s about the width of the rim bed. This method usually requires some sort of rim/spoke tape to seal up the spoke holes, so that air won’t leak out when the tire is inflated. With this method, you can run either a standard or UST tire and rim, and this setup doesn’t require the use of sealant.

THE GOOD AND BAD SIDE OF TUBELESS

There are some benefits to running a tubeless system:

  1. No pinch flats (still can get a hole in the tire).
  2. Better control, feel and impact absorption.
  3. Reduced rotational weight. This only applies to Tubeless Conversion Kits.
    • Standard rims – No inner tube weight.
    • The weight of the rim’s strip plus sealant is less than an inner tube.
  4. Lower tire pressure is possible.

There are some deficits to running this system:

  1. Cost.
    • Method 1 – UST rims and tires are pricey.
    • Method 2 – Initial outlay for rims strips and ongoing sealant maintenance. The sealant cost can be offset considering you do not need to replace inner tubes anymore.
  2. Dealing with the sealant. Its messy.
  3. Backup method required. If something happens to the tire such as a tear or a puncture that the sealant cannot fill then its needs to be repaired. This would require a tubeless repair kit. Although some punctures can be repaired its just easier to carry a spare tube and then use a dollar bill or a library card to cover the inside of the tire by the damaged area.
  4. High pressure inflator required. In the case of UST, you can fill it with a floor pump. With the Tubeless Conversion Kit, it’s pretty difficult to be able to fill with a floor pump. IMHO an air compressor or a CO2 cartridge is needed.

EXPERIMENTS/TESTING/TRIALS AND ERRORS

I have run a pair of Mavic Crossmax SL UST rims for almost two years now. For most of the time, I ran UST tires with Stan’s sealant. I have used Maxxis 2.35 High Roller, Panaracer Fire XC 2.1 and Schwalbe Fat Albert 2.35 UST tires.

I decided to try Stan’s Olympic rim strips to be able to save weight and also be able to use more of a tire assortment then is offered in the UST tire realm. I have been running the Stan’s system with my Mavic Crossmax SL UST rims with Schwalbe Albert 2.25 tires for about four months and never had any issues, although one tire would lose a small amount of air over a couple of days.

Weight Specs:

  • Schwalbe Albert 2.25 UST 870 grams
  • Schwalbe Albert 2.25 650 grams
  • Stan’s rim strip 40 grams
  • Weight Savings = 180 grams

I currently have my Ibis Mojo stripped down to replace some parts and weigh all the parts and give it a good cleaning. Since I have the bike stripped down, I have been doing some tests with various tubeless systems.

Testing 4 different versions of the tubeless conversion kits:

  1. Stan’s Olympic rim strip, a rim strip with an attached presta valve
  2. Eclipse tubeless UST kit, this is really just a stick-on foam piece sort of like window insulation that fits in the rims groove along with a presta valve.
  3. Nothing
  4. Electrical tape
    • Test 1: I placed the Stan’s rim strip on my rim and put on the tire, and I aired it up with the compressor, and it just leaked; the bead would not pop up onto the rim edge. So I did the Stan’s method of using soapy water between the tire bead and the rim edge, and it popped right up when I used the compressor. So I deflated it added the sealant and re-inflated, and it has held air.
    • Test 2: On the other wheel, I placed the Eclipse rim foam tape into my rim’s bed along with the Eclipse presta valve and put on the tire, and I aired it up with the compressor, and it just leaked; the bead would not pop up onto the rim edge. So I did the Stan’s method of using soapy water between the tire bead and the rim edge, and it popped right up when I used the compressor. So I deflated it added the sealant and re-inflated, and it has held air.
    • Test 3: On the Test 1 wheel, I removed the tire and the Stan’s rim strip, installed an Eclipse presta valve and then put the tire back on. Even with the soapy solution the tire would not pop up onto the sidewall.
    • Test 4: On the Test 3 wheel, I removed the tire and taped the rim with electrical tape and using the soapy solution, I could pop on the tire without any problem. So I deflated it added the sealant and re-inflated and it has held air. It has held air for a couple of days now.

CONCLUSIONS In my four months of riding with the Stan’s rim strip I never had an issue with the tire burping on me, so do I really need a rim strip with a UST rim? Not sure I can really answer that one. Using electrical tape is cheap and doesn’t weigh anything. The tape only method does seem to work, but I would gather that if your tire burped badly that it would not help pop the tire back onto the rim? Or would it? Does Stan’s rim strip on my Mavic UST rims really help if the tire burped badly? Not sure? Would using Stan’s yellow tape be better, I would assume it sticks better than electrical tape? I need to go ride on the tape version and see how it works. Stan’s does a test for burping by using a C Clamp on the tire, guess I could test that?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

cstuttle May 17, 2007 at 10:36 pm

I want to try doing a tubeless conversion using packing tape and electrical tape, and have a few questions regarding your electrical tape conversion:

What type of valve stem did you use when you did the tubeless conversion using electrical tape?

Were any rim modifications necessary?

Any tips you can offer doing this conversion would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks – Craig Tuttle

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