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Long Distance Competition/Ultracycling, Randonneuring and Endurance Cycling Do you enjoy centuries, double centuries, brevets, randonnees, and 24-hour time trials? Share ride reports, and exchange training, equipment, and nutrition information specific to long distance cycling. This isn't for tours, this is for endurance events cycling

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Old 09-20-12, 12:52 AM   #1
anotherbrian
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Tubeless for Long Distance? Ready for prime time?

There are hundreds and hundreds of posts on tubeless tires in the Road and Racing forums, but the only thread I could find here with any significant (5 replies) discussion was from late '08/early '09. The thread here mentioned them being pointless/unreliable/potentially life threatening, but I'm wondering with the several years on the market since those posts if any of those opinions have actually proven out to be true?

I'm doing my LD riding (mostly organized double centuries) on a recumbent; for years I was doing it with a 20" wheel (406) on the front, 700 on the back and had to deal with the hassle of carrying multiple sizes of tubes, and potentially carrying multiple tubes as backup (certainly for a rando I'd need to carry my own to be self sufficient, but on an organized ride there couldn't be any expectation a sag wagon would have a 406 tube either). I've recently switched to a bike with 700's front and rear, and with the hopes of increased reliability and all the praise I'd read for it elsewhere, bought tubeless tires. I'm using DT Swiss RR465 rims and taped them up to be air tight, rather than buy tubeless-specific rims.

So far (350mi on the rear tire, 30mi on the front), so good. My first double with the setup will be this weekend, and I don't see any reason to worry. I wonder though if that is being foolishly optimistic.

Are Long Distance riders using tubeless now? Is it ready for prime time? I'm using Hutchinson Intensive tires (700x25, cost ~$60/tire, though I've read they may soon offer 700x28) and from a size perspective they're fine for the riding I do, and from a cost perspective they aren't any more than the Conti's (Gatorskin and 4000s) that I have on my other bikes.
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Old 09-20-12, 05:01 AM   #2
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How do you feel about changing a flat at the side of the road? Seems to me a clincher is a lot easier than tubeless. There are reasons that people ride tubeless, but it is my understanding that it is not common for long distance because of the flat changing problem - and if you ride long distance, you WILL get a flat in the middle of nowhere at some point in time.
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Old 09-20-12, 05:32 AM   #3
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My understanding is when filled with slime they are more puncture resistant than regular tyres. And you can always throw a tube in. So if you're carrying a spare tyre and a couple of tubes anyway maybe they make sense.
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Old 09-20-12, 07:28 AM   #4
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No 1st hand experience (or even 2nd), just stuff I've read. If I recall correctly, the advantage for tubeless in the MTB world is you can run much lower tire pressure (good for loose surfaces) and not worry about pinch flats. That isn't a requirement for road bikes. Maybe better puncture resistance, which would be helpful anywhere. On pavement, I've read that the advantage is better ride quality (slightly lower tire pressure) closer to that of tubulars, without the problems of gluing rims and fixing a flat when you do have one. Perhaps less rolling resistance and lighter tire+tube weight (possibly offset by need for sealant/slime and a stronger rim). I've also read that since what professional cyclists in particular and competitive riders in general use drives a lot (most?) of recreational marketing, while the MTB community went tubless because it gives them competitive benefits, the same may not true for road - the pros at least have a team car with spare tubular wheels right at hand and mechanics to handle the glue jobs.

IMO, if you can fit 25s or wider, I think you can get most if not all of the ride quality benefit without pinch flat concerns. But tubeless road tires are intriguing, and if it simplifies what you need to carry on self-supported rides (and who wants to wait for the SAG to show up on a supported ride?), it could be a good idea for you. If the Hutchisons work comparbly as well for you tubeless as the Contis with tubes, you get fewer flats, can carry one less spare tube, etc; e.g, makes your riding better, then have at it. Good luck on your upcoming double.
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Old 09-20-12, 07:39 AM   #5
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I did a 200k on a pursuit bike running tubular tires. It didn't make a lot of sense, but it was fun to take that bike out and light up a long ride.

That said, I carried an extra tire and two flats would have ended my ride. You'll find most LD riders feel that tubular tires have little place in the sport due to the quality of clinchers today plus the lack of follow/team vehicles to assist with immediate wheel changes.
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Old 09-20-12, 08:11 AM   #6
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I did a 200k on a pursuit bike running tubular tires. It didn't make a lot of sense, but it was fun to take that bike out and light up a long ride.

That said, I carried an extra tire and two flats would have ended my ride. You'll find most LD riders feel that tubular tires have little place in the sport due to the quality of clinchers today plus the lack of follow/team vehicles to assist with immediate wheel changes.
They're taling tubeless, not tubular/sew-up.

How easy (or difficult) would it be to put a tube in a tubeless tire should you puncture on a brevet? Aren't the tubeless tires (purposefully) real buggers to get off the rim? Can this realistically be done on the side of the road?
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Old 09-20-12, 08:19 AM   #7
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tubeless ready rims are a little harder to mount a tire on, but not much. I keep hearing people talking about switching for road, but I don't see much discussion of people with experience. I think you still need to carry at least one tube, and maybe more since the tire is full of slime and it's going to be hard to patch a slimed-up tube.
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Old 09-20-12, 09:39 AM   #8
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My single fear about tubeless on my setup is getting the tire back off the rim on the road. I don't know if it is the RR465 rims with their eyelets that protrude into the center channel, or if even the tubeless-specific rims are as hard, but it was unbelievably hard to get the first one on by hand, and I waited until I got a Kool Stop bead jack to try the other (I also got a "VAR Tyre Lever", which is a much lighter weight version of a bead jack). I didn't have the finesse for the bead jack and resorted to putting the second tire on by hand. I've read that they're much easier to remove/install after they've been mounted once, and I'll count on that being the (back to my foolishly optimistic comment).

The tubeless tire I used (Hutchinson Intensive 700x25, the heaviest they sell, advertised ~320g) ended up weighing a little more than the GP 4000s + standard tube it replaced. Ignoring the rotating weight aspect, the weight could be easily offset by not carrying as many tubes as I might otherwise.

I'd gone thousands of miles without flatting until earlier this year, then got a bunch of successive flats on successive days. All the flats were from thin wires/small shards, things tubeless+sealant should easily handle. I've read that for holes that the sealant fails to close, that you can use super glue from the outside (pucker up the hole, dab super glue, it seals), and only when you get a very large tear is it necessary to dismount the tire and patch it from the inside, or boot it and install a tube. For tubes, my experience with Slime-brand sealant on a beater bike is that at least when it is inside a tube, it's impossible to patch it from the outside ... I think it would be worth figuring out if a tube exposed to Stan's sealant (what I'm using) could be cleaned well enough for a patch to hold.

I've read they do have a much more compliant ride than clinchers, and are closer to tubulars. I don't have any experience on tubulars so can't compare, but at 85psi (~220# bike+rider weight), the tubeless feel pretty plush, though I haven't hit anything hard enough to know if that is too low psi.
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Old 09-20-12, 09:43 AM   #9
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tubeless ready rims are a little harder to mount a tire on, but not much. I keep hearing people talking about switching for road, but I don't see much discussion of people with experience. I think you still need to carry at least one tube, and maybe more since the tire is full of slime and it's going to be hard to patch a slimed-up tube.
Yea, this. Too hard to get the tires on and off (even a little harder is too much!), and too slimey! eww
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Old 09-20-12, 12:12 PM   #10
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Interesting thread! I have a set of UST rims. I have also been fantasizing about buying a fast road tire (Pasela non TG??) and make it tubeless for long distance riding (rando/touring.) A caveat is that tires would need to be 1.5" (37mm) or wider for these rims which actually makes sense for long-distance comfort.

BTW, I ran these rims w/ UST-specific tires for years on my MTB without a single flat in thorny and rocky AZ. Actually, I did get ONE flat once riding down Mt. Hood in OR. A pointy root caused a 1 inch gap with a hole in the middle. It wasn't difficult to remove the tire, although it was a little messy with the white Stans sealant, but a small rag worked fine. A tube was good enough to get me back down to the trailhead. I remember the Stans sealant kit was pricey, but I haven't checked lately.

Hmmm... Got me thinking!
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Old 09-20-12, 12:37 PM   #11
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At the risk of not adding anything useful to the discussion, it seems like wider rims would offer most of the benefits of tubeless -- slightly more air volume for cush, and the ability to run slightly lower pressures without incurring more pinch flats -- without the mess.

In theory, tubeless still has the rolling-resistance advantage, though.
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Old 09-20-12, 03:05 PM   #12
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At the risk of not adding anything useful to the discussion, it seems like wider rims would offer most of the benefits of tubeless -- slightly more air volume for cush, and the ability to run slightly lower pressures without incurring more pinch flats -- without the mess.
Oh no, I was counting on puncture resistance as the major benefit. I've been using UST tubeless on my MTB's since 2005 and am completely satisfied. Yes tubeless allows you to run lower pressures on MTB's to avoid pinch flats, but I found with my full suspension bikes lower pressure wasn't all that necessary, especially with wide tires and tended to run them all at 35psi.

Here is a pic of a brand new Schwalbe Fat Albert tire (I think it was 2.35") that got pierced by a Manzanita branch. Unsure how long it was in the tire on the trail, but it survived another 6mi on pavement as shown. I don't think the Stan's in the tire would have plugged it if it came out while riding, but it was fixed easily enough at home with a Rema tubeless patch (which look just like tube patches) on the inside and Barge Cement on the outside.

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Old 09-22-12, 10:12 PM   #13
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The Audax UK rider that has done most brevets this year is listed at http://www.aukweb.net/results/detail/this/r10000/ AUK totals the 'points' ridden in calendar and permanent brevets (3 = 300km, minimum = 2). He did them all on Hutchy tubeless with no flats all the way down to the cords. Apparently the rims wear through fairly quickly. Not surprising seeing at who they are aimed at currently.

I'm inclined to wait until somebody other than Hutchy makes them (never had a good tyre from them in over 2 decades) and they are available in something a shade wider and heavier. Tubeless is pretty close to primetime IMHO.

Zinn recently had a Velonews piece on tubeless tyres, noting that he'd never ride a tubeless conversion on the road again (fine with it offroad), due to the disengagement of tubeless bead with rim during a flat.

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Old 09-23-12, 06:38 PM   #14
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I've done tens of thousands of kilometers on Road Tubeless, including many brevets and perms on Intensive, Fusion2 and Fusion3. It's easy to handle flats once you understand it; most people just stick 'em on and don't understand how to handle a flat, and then get frustrated. Just like anything else, you have to practice in the garage before dealing with it at the side of the road.

There's plenty of details in the other forums; STF for more info. I've easily fixed a flat (that the sealant didn't catch) by simply unmounting part of the bead, quickly rubbing a small cloth with some acetone on it on the punctured area, then slapping on a glueless patch. Remount, CO2, back on the road in a jiffy. I've done that on a fast 200k with a couple other guys.

A big advantage is that the tires are nearly run-flat; if you do lose some pressure but not all, you can just ride it in to the control and fix it there rather than on the side of the road. Plus, they're extremely unlikely to ever roll off the rim, even when completely flat. That adds a large safety buffer.
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Old 09-25-12, 10:22 AM   #15
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I've considered going to road tubeless myself. We get a lot of flats in New Mexico from goatheads, cactus spines, etc. on the roads. Slimetubes help but they are heavy rotating weight (plus carrying spares). One thing I don't see much written about is the weight advantage (?) of going to tubeless. So...you can lower tire pressures, get less flats but what about the rotating weight?
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Old 10-01-12, 06:49 AM   #16
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I want to try tubeless, but don't have an air compressor at home! And as I understand it, a hand pump will keep a tubeless tire topped up, but you absolutely need an air compressor to inflate the tubeless tire the first time. Has anyone been able to inflate a tubeless tire, for the first time, with Co2?

As for less flats, stuff sticks to softer tires more easily than to harder tires; so if you're running lower pressure you will get more chunks of glass and wire and thorns and whatever sticking to the tire, with a greater likelihood it works its way through to cause a puncture, which the sealant will close up before you lose too much pressure. But if your pressure drops out on the road, you have to pump it up pretty soon, no? Again, I'd be concerned about what you can do with a hand pump, as opposed to a compressor.
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Old 10-01-12, 10:28 PM   #17
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I want to try tubeless, but don't have an air compressor at home! And as I understand it, a hand pump will keep a tubeless tire topped up, but you absolutely need an air compressor to inflate the tubeless tire the first time. Has anyone been able to inflate a tubeless tire, for the first time, with Co2?
I've seen posts from people saying they initially seated their tires with a floor pump. That may have been on the tubeless-by-design rims like the new Dura-Ace and Ultegra wheelsets.

Stan's instructions have you use a tube the first time you mount the tubeless tire. I know part of that is to help the yellow tape form to the rim cavity, but assumed it was also to help the tubeless tire take its shape. There was no way I was going to get a tube into my initial mounting of my Hutchinson Intensive tire though, so I seated the yellow tape with a traditional tube/tire, and then mounted the Intensive later.

I couldn't get the Intensive to mount on the wheel using the compressor initially (partially might have been because I was using a small diam hose and not getting a lot of airflow), but I then wrapped a webbing strap around the circumference of the tire which caused the tire to get pushed more uniformly around the rim, and it finally seated.

I did the double century on the tubeless tires last week with no drama, so am pleased. In the coming week or two I'm going to try dismounting the tire and see if it is any easier than the initial install. I'm assuming that if I flatted on the road enough that Stan's didn't fix it, that I'd insert a tube to continue on, and would then re-seat the tire at home with the compressor. From what I've read though (and posts in this thread), it'd be reasonable to expect that you could patch and re-seat the tire on the road, though I don't know if that is with a hand pump or CO2.

If I were doing it again (and the ease of getting the tire off and back on the rim will dictate that), I might have a shop do the initial install just to save my fingers. If things work out well for the dismount/remount, I have a set of Velocity Aerohead wheels I'll probably tape up to try, and I'll be hopeful they're easier to mount than the DT465 rims I'm using now.
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Old 10-02-12, 07:06 AM   #18
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I've seen posts from people saying they initially seated their tires with a floor pump. That may have been on the tubeless-by-design rims like the new Dura-Ace and Ultegra wheelsets.
Nah, none of mine are DA or such. All are taped with Stan's tape, and I use a Zefal Double-Shot floor pump to easily inflate them. Compressor is simply not needed. 99% of the time I just put them on dry and inflate without any problem; the only ones I've had trouble with are Fusion3, and using soap like Stan sez makes that work fine.

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From what I've read though (and posts in this thread), it'd be reasonable to expect that you could patch and re-seat the tire on the road, though I don't know if that is with a hand pump or CO2.
CO2 easily does it to a previously mounted tire for sure. I've fixed them on the road and never failed to inflate with CO2.

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I have a set of Velocity Aerohead wheels I'll probably tape up to try, and I'll be hopeful they're easier to mount than the DT465 rims I'm using now.
Sure, that's an easy one.
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Old 04-03-16, 10:35 AM   #19
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I'm reactivating this thread. Anyone have more to add since it started 3 1/2 years ago? I'm trying to decide about tubes or tubeless on Velocity A23 rims (already taped for tubeless) and Grand Bois Hetres. This thread appears to confirm the tubeless direction: Tubeless convert
Still that was the commuting forum. What about here?
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Old 04-03-16, 04:16 PM   #20
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I'm reactivating this thread. Anyone have more to add since it started 3 1/2 years ago? I'm trying to decide about tubes or tubeless on Velocity A23 rims (already taped for tubeless) and Grand Bois Hetres. This thread appears to confirm the tubeless direction: Tubeless convert
Still that was the commuting forum. What about here?
As far as I can tell, the whole 'field service' issue has not changed significantly.
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Old 04-04-16, 03:44 AM   #21
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As far as I can tell, the whole 'field service' issue has not changed significantly.
If by that you mean the difficulty of swapping tires by the road side after a puncture without access to a compressor, the common way to deal with that is to install a tube inside the tire, which is no more difficult than a puncture repair with a conventional (inner tube + clincher) setup on the same rims.

I am also considering going tubeless on my Compass BSP ELs on Synergy Blunt SL tubeless-ready rims. Though Compass don't certify the BSP for tubeless use, some people report having had good results. The critical factor seems to be the rim more than the tire.
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Old 04-04-16, 05:35 AM   #22
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I've got a set of tubeless ready rims on order, and some Schwalbe One Pro tires that just arrived... so in a month or so, if not sooner, I'll have a go with them... I hope.

Not competitive racing, but I could use all the help I can get when doing long century+ rides, so I'm looking forward to trying low rolling resistance tires on more efficient wheels (hopefully). Of course, most of the ratings are at high speeds.

Thinking of flats, I think I can separate then into urban, rural shoulder riding, rural no shoulder riding.

I don't think I pick up hardly anything when riding in the driving lane on low traffic rural roads. If only that was more of my riding. But, for my longer rides, a large chunk of them are on very low impact roads.
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Old 04-04-16, 05:46 AM   #23
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In last year's Transcontinental Race (TCR), a 4200 km long non-stop, unsupported ride across Europe, several people used tubeless tires (many of them on the 25 or 28 mm wide version of the Shwalbe The One). None of those people reported regretting their decision. For the 2016 edition, a lot more people are planning to ride tubeless tires.

As well as the race distance, the road surfaces are also of variable quality, particularly in southeastern Europe, with many unexpected hazards that can be hard to avoid. Plus, most people occasionally end up on the hard shoulder of a major highway that is full of debris. Punctures are therefore probable rather than possible during the event, and always cost significant time, so doing anything to avoid them is a wise decision.

The 2015 TCR route was particularly suited to tubeless tires because there was a mandatory 40km-long section of dirt road in the Italian Alps that was a lot rougher than everyone expected. At least half of the people who had tubes in their tires got pinch flats, with several getting more than four in the 40 km section (generally because after making the first repair, their puny hand pumps could not achieve a sufficient level of pressure to avoid future problems); I think 10 was the record! Most of the people using tubes who didn't puncture had pumped their tires up super hard (e.g., 120 psi) before the section started, making it very uncomfortable. Those riding tubeless tires were able to drop the air pressure for the section (60-70 psi was common) to increase comfort and traction and generally didn't suffer any flats (although marks on the rims of more than one bike with tubeless tires that didn't flat show that they bottomed out pretty hard occasionally).

On this year's TCR route, there are no mandatory unpaved sections, but I'd still recommend people to use tubeless tires because the chance of multiple punctures is still high on the rest of the route.

As mentioned already, if a problem does occur with a tubeless tire that doesn't fix itself with the sealant then it's normally no more difficult to repair it by putting an inner tube in than it is with a regular tire and tube. There are a few road tubeless rims that make getting tires on or off a problem, but read the reviews to know if this is an issue for the rim that you are considering, because there are models that don't have this problem, and with good technique, it's always possible to wrestle the tire on/off in the end.

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Old 04-04-16, 10:26 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by Chris_W View Post
As mentioned already, if a problem does occur with a tubeless tire that doesn't fix itself with the sealant then it's normally no more difficult to repair it by putting an inner tube in than it is with a regular tire and tube. There are a few road tubeless rims that make getting tires on or off a problem, but read the reviews to know if this is an issue for the rim that you are considering, because there are models that don't have this problem, and with good technique, it's always possible to wrestle the tire on/off in the end.
As a relatively long-time tubeless user. The main source of tubeless issues is failure to keep sealant topped up (since it dries up). Especially for long-distance riding, it seems vastly preferable. Top up the sealant before you start (maybe add a little extra), and you should be good for a month or ~5 flats.

I run Schwalbe Ones with Shimano C24 rims (one of the difficult combinations). I've had to install a tube on the side of the road. It was a bear, but I got it done with two standard levers, it just took longer. It took me about 15min to fix, so its not like it was impossible or even that unreasonable.

To me the tubeless proved it's worth. While on a century ride, at mile 84, near the top of a 12% grade, my riding buddy heard my tire making noise. A few minutes later, I finished the climb, looked at the tire, and there was a sploch of sealant, but the tire was holding air fine and didn't lose a noticeable amount of pressure. Tubeless was the difference between changing a tire on a long ride, and finishing the ride without a second thought.
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Old 04-04-16, 10:46 AM   #25
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I get the pinch flat thing, but as for flats caused by penetrating items, how is tubeless better than a conventional setup? You can put sealants in tubes too.
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