Most mountain bikers ride with tubeless tires. Taking the tube out of your tire tends to reduced the number of pinch flats you get and allows you to run a lower tire pressures. That’s nice because you have more tire in contact with the ground and you tend to get better traction when you are riding.
The drawback to tuebless tires is that you have to have a tire/rim combination that seals so that the air cannot escape (I still hear Dory’s voice with that word “Escape’ “). That means you need to have special rim tape that seals the spoke holes in the rim and most often you need to add a liquid sealant to the tire to get a good seal. The sealant also has the added benefit of sealing up punctures (also reducing the number of flat tires you might encounter).
I have two sets of rims for my mountain bike. One are made for tubless tires (Stan’s ZT Arch) and the others are made for tubed tires (Easton XC700). And when I got this bike I set the tubeless rims up with tubeless tires. But over the winter I wanted to make the tube rims tubeless.
Stan’s has been the “industry leader” in doing tubeless set-ups. They make a conversion kit that has all the pieces you need in it to do the conversion. But it’s kind of expensive, and being a tinkerer I wondered if you could do this on your own. Turn’s out you can.
If you use “the Google” and do a search you will find that people have come up with what they call “Ghetto” conversions.
Here is what you need:
Rim Tape…. well you can go and buy precut special rim tape to do that job. OR you can get yourself some Gorilla Tape. Gorilla Tape is like supper duct tape. Think Jeremiah Bishop versus me. I am pretty good, Jeremiah Bishop is so much better. As a bonus Gorilla tape comes in some precut widths. 1″ being one of those. Down to the local hardware store. One roll will last a lifetime (or can be used for other things and so is a multi-tasking purchase).
Sealant…. Stan’s sealant is a mixture of natural latex and some stuff to keep it liquid (latex wants to dry out, that’s why it makes a good sealant). They also put some other stuff in there to plug holes. But essentially it’s latex. When you go to the Google you will find recipes for homemade Stans. It is made up of 1 part latex molding liquid, 1 part green tire slime and 2 parts RV antifreeze (the stuff you would winterize the water system of an RV with). The molding liquid is the latex, the green slime helps to seal and has the little particles in it, and the RV antifreeze keeps the mixture from drying out. The molding liquid is the expensive part of this mixture. I used this stuff, because it was recommended, but there may be other options out there. Even given the expense on the molding latex, this was about 1/3 the cost of buying Stans.
Tubless Valves…. Here I bought official valves. I suspect that you could take a valve from an old tube and cut it out to use. But they were not too expensive, so a splurged.
So I mixed up the sealant, taped the rims and installed the valves.
The hardest part of the process was getting the tires to seat on the rims. The real problem with the rims not intended for tubeless tires is that there is a lot of space between the tire and rim. When you place a tube in there the air is contained by the tube which inflates and pushes the tire bead into the rim. With the tubeless set-up you need to have enough of a seal, and enough airflow to get the tire to seat so you can fill it up all the way.
That was tricky. I ended up painting a little bit of the sealant onto the rims and letting it dry just a little bit. That made the rim sticky. I was able to get enough of a seal that I could inflate the tires. I put them up to 60 psi. The sealant then comes out the little places that are not well sealed and like magic you get a tubeless rim/tire.
Once it set for a while I dropped the pressure down to 22 psi for riding.
The tires are holding air just fine. I’ve ridden them a little bit on dirt road without any problems. The trails should be cleared of snow today and so I am going to ride some singletrack for the first time this season tonight. Excited to see how the new tires (Kenda Honeybadgers) and the tubless conversion work.
Yeah, I could have taken my tires to the LBS to get this done. But it was a fun little project.