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  1. #1
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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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    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.

  3. #3
    Zoom zoom zoom zoom bonk znomit's Avatar
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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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    Because I thought I could ks1g's Avatar
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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.

  5. #5
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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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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    Senior Member Steamer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Octopus View Post
    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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    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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    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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    Senior Member Commodus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    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

  10. #10
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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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!

  11. #11
    7-speed doomsday prepper ThermionicScott's Avatar
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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.
    Last edited by ThermionicScott; 09-20-12 at 12:40 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by chandltp View Post
    There's no such thing as too far.. just lack of time
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThermionicScott View Post
    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.

    pierced-fat-albert.jpg

  13. #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.
    Last edited by LWaB; 09-22-12 at 10:18 PM.

  14. #14
    pmt
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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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    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?

  16. #16
    rhm
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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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    Quote Originally Posted by rhm View Post
    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.

  18. #18
    pmt
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    Quote Originally Posted by anotherbrian View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by anotherbrian View Post
    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.

    Quote Originally Posted by anotherbrian View Post
    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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