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Questions about switching to tubeless wheels & tires for the first time

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Questions about switching to tubeless wheels & tires for the first time

Old 04-26-21, 10:55 AM
  #1  
Squeeze
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Questions about switching to tubeless wheels & tires for the first time

My LBS will be building a tubeless-compatible wheelset for my Cross Check once the parts arrive. I have never tried tubeless but I needed to get my stock rear wheel trued and figured I'd quit thinking about "someday" and finally get some decent wheels.

I plan to start with 700x42 tubeless gravel tires that the LBS had in stock. It's a small shop and due to the pandemic, they only allow one customer in the store at a time, so I didn't hang around and ask a bunch of questions like I'm doing here.

What do I need to own at home and carry with me on rides?

Currently I carry a spare tube, a patch kit, tire levers, and a pump on rides. I assume I need to continue carrying all this in case of flats that the sealant won't fix, but what else?

A while back, someone posted a recommendation for a small puncture kit with plugs like automobile tire shops use to fix nail holes in car tires, but I've forgotten where I saw that.

Do I need to buy an air compressor? I have a decent floor pump and a couple of frame pumps already.

Does swapping tubeless tires (like knobbies to slicks and back again) make sense with tubeless, or is it a big hassle? I watched one YT video about it and it looked messy but easier than changing tires with tubes.

Also, do tubeless tires lose air between rides like tires with tubes do? I guess I'll find out, but as long as I'm asking questions...

I realize I can google all this but I thought maybe you guys might help put together a shopping list while I wait for my wheels and to benefit others who might see this thread also.

Thanks.
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Old 04-26-21, 11:17 AM
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If you plan on changing tires often but only have one wheelset do not go tubeless. Tubeless (especially for beginners) can be a hassle and messy and is not fun changing constantly.
I have been running tubeless for years on my mtb and now about 2 years tubeless on two wheelsets for the gravel bike. I just got an air compressor and wished i had gotten one years before but you don't need one. Before the air compressor I made my own compressor out of an old fire extinguisher and used it with a track pump.

Tubeless tires (for me) tend to lose more air between rides than having tubes (esp my trail tires). All of the characteristics of tubeless far out weigh the negatives for me: can run lower pressures if you want, seal small punctures while riding, feel faster, slightly less weight, etc.
For all rides, I carry a small pump, one tire lever, tube and tubeless plug kit.
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Old 04-26-21, 11:48 AM
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Thanks. I'm not really planning to swap tires often - just wondering and trying to think of all my questions at one time.
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Old 04-26-21, 12:02 PM
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All good advice and info. I’ll add that some tires are easier than others to get mounted. Counter intuitively- the ones that are hardest to get on the rim, are usually the easiest to inflate. If I have to use a tire jack to get them on the rim, a track pump is usually all it takes to get the tire inflated and seated. If they go on pretty easy by hand...an air compressor or some kind of “bottle” that allows for a fast, sharp blast is usually needed. Also, there is a learning curve with tubeless. It probably took me 3 or 4 set ups before I got it down to where I could confidently and quickly get a tire on. The last set I did was on a new bike a couple months ago...to my wife’s horror I did in the living room while watching Netflix...it took me 20 minutes for both wheels to be mounted, filled and aired up. 10 of that was jacking the tires onto the rim because the beads were tight.

Recommend getting a tire jack and at least one Crankbrothers Speedier Lever, hugely useful for mounting Tubeless ready tires, in my experience.
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Old 04-26-21, 02:32 PM
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​​​​​I have found that once some sealant has sloshed around, that it's not a problem to reinflate with a hand pump. Be careful with a mini frame pump, they can jack your valve weird angles and cause a secondary leak.

Get a 60ml syringe and tube to pump in sealant. Most jugs come with one. Get a nice aluminum valve core remover, don't mess around with weird plastic ones. Give your valve a kung fu grip before removing the core, even if this means pliers. You don't want to cause the core to spin.

For the initial install, I find a compressor to be indispensable. Others manage but for me, compressor all the way.

In addition to a spare tube, I like the Stan's plugs. They're not exactly like the car plugs but similar. They have a chance of sealing a small cut. I hope I don't find out.

When mounting, soap and water are your friend. It helps you get the tire on and it helps the bead to seat in the right place without wobbles.

The final thing I'd add is that I use Skinny Strippers (google that at work) for all my tubeless tires. Not necessary but so clean and they really really take a lot of the finickiness out of the tubeless tire business.
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Old 04-26-21, 02:57 PM
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Let the tires warm up in the direct sun for a while if you can, before trying to mount. Be patient, be careful and the tire will eventually mount. I've luckily not had to use a lever and instead use the palm-massage method to getting the tires installed. But if you feel more comfortable using a lever, I suggest this type.

Breathe. Relax, take your time.

If you don't have access to a compressor, there is a method for pre-seating half of the bead on either side that I found to be extremely helpful and have been able to use just a track pump so far. (also see below)

From the video below I learned how to partially seat the bead on both sides and as a result didn't require a compressor. Note that they pour the sealant before the tire is completely installed and seated - I did not follow that portion and waited until I guaranteed the bead was fully seated, then injected the sealant through the valve core.


I use a tubeless repair kit like this one - I like that it has two different plug sizes for different sized punctures and it takes up very little space. I also throw a pair of nitrile gloves in my pack so things don't get any messier than it has to be. The gloves can be used to wrap around metal things like the tubeless repair kit, to help minimize rattling.
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Old 04-26-21, 03:45 PM
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I wouldn't want to have to change tires often, but once you learn the little nuances and tricks to mounting tubeless it's not too hard. In my experience, some tires lose a lot of air between rides while others have held air longer than a tubed clincher would.
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Old 04-27-21, 09:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Squeeze View Post
My LBS will be building a tubeless-compatible wheelset for my Cross Check once the parts arrive. I have never tried tubeless but I needed to get my stock rear wheel trued and figured I'd quit thinking about "someday" and finally get some decent wheels.

I plan to start with 700x42 tubeless gravel tires that the LBS had in stock. It's a small shop and due to the pandemic, they only allow one customer in the store at a time, so I didn't hang around and ask a bunch of questions like I'm doing here.

What do I need to own at home and carry with me on rides?

Currently I carry a spare tube, a patch kit, tire levers, and a pump on rides. I assume I need to continue carrying all this in case of flats that the sealant won't fix, but what else?

A while back, someone posted a recommendation for a small puncture kit with plugs like automobile tire shops use to fix nail holes in car tires, but I've forgotten where I saw that.

Do I need to buy an air compressor? I have a decent floor pump and a couple of frame pumps already.

Does swapping tubeless tires (like knobbies to slicks and back again) make sense with tubeless, or is it a big hassle? I watched one YT video about it and it looked messy but easier than changing tires with tubes.

Also, do tubeless tires lose air between rides like tires with tubes do? I guess I'll find out, but as long as I'm asking questions...

I realize I can google all this but I thought maybe you guys might help put together a shopping list while I wait for my wheels and to benefit others who might see this thread also.

Thanks.
Some good advice in here already. I'll just chime in with my own experience and process. Last year I finally decided to try out tubeless for the first time, and there is a bit of a learning curve:
  1. Check your rim tape job and plan to replace it frequently. It's fairly easy to do this and will save headaches later.
  2. There is some equipment that makes the installation process easier:
    1. Removable valve cores (you'll need tubeless valve stems anyway, so be sure to buy a version that has removable cores). You'll also need a little tool to unscrew the valve core. These are cheap and often free with a bundle of cores.
    2. A compressor is the easiest way to seat a tubeless tire, but a much cheaper alternative is a dump-tank. I have an "airshot" that can be aired up to 110psi, and this allows a huge volume of air to be dumped into the tire at once, and is usually more than enough to pop the tire onto the rim.
    3. Sealant and syringe. The syringes are nothing fancy, they're just a basic plastic syringe with a little hose. This allows you to add sealant through the valve core after you've got the tire on the rim and seated.
  3. The process I've found that works best for tubeless tire install is:
    1. Let the tires warm up in the sun, then install. You'll need tire levers and patience, but keep working the tire and eventually you'll be able to muscle it onto the rim. Be sure you're placing the bead in the center channel of the rim during this process.
    2. Air up the dump-tank.
    3. Spray tire bead with soapy water (this can also be used in step 1 to make a stubborn tire bead a little more slippery to get it over the rim hook.
    4. Remove the valve core, screw dump tank hose onto open valve stem and let er rip. This should "pop" the tire bead onto the rim and seat it. You can keep the floor pump attached to the tank and simultaneously pump "through" the tank into the tire if you need more air.
    5. Unscrew the dump tank hose. This will let all the air out of the tire, but it should stay seated on the rim hooks.
    6. Add sealant with syringe through open valve stem
    7. Screw valve core on and spin tire a few times, flipping it over to get the sealant distributed throughout the tire
    8. Using floor pump, air up to normal PSI
    9. Clean up
  4. Your tubeless tires should hold air for several days at a minimum. If they're leaking or going flat after just 24 hours, they probably need more sealant added. I've found that new tubeless tires do "soak up" more sealant than you'd expect. Normally I add 20-30ml at install, then end up adding another 15-20ml a day or two later. My current TL tires were going flat after a day or two at first, but are now holding air for weeks.
  5. My flat kit consists of:
    1. Spare tube and patch kit (debatable if this is needed, but I carry out of habit)
    2. 3 tire levers
    3. 2 C02 canisters plus head
    4. Tubeless plug kit - I bought one from Dynaplug that includes small and large plugs in a little canister. Theoretically this would allow a small puncture to be plugged without removing the tire from the rim. In practice I have no idea if this actually works or not, but I would certainly try it before going for the tube.
After the first install it was such a pain that I nearly gave up. But after doing a few more installs I'm much more confident and think I've got it figured out. Switching tires is still more of a pain than it is with tubed setups, but not impossible. It's more like a 45-60 minute process than 10-15 minutes.

For road tire sizes, I'm not sure tubeless is "worth it". I have 32mm tubeless road tires and they're pretty sweet, but only marginally better than a tubed setup. I rarely flatted on the tubed setup, and have never flatted on tubeless, so maybe there's some benefit from that aspect. For 33mm and larger sizes, tubeless benefits are much more noticeable in terms of ride quality and pressures. I can run lower pressures and the tires feel a lot more supple and cushy.

Good luck!
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Old 04-27-21, 09:18 AM
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OP here again. Thanks to all for the advice! Much appreciated.
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Old 05-03-21, 09:03 PM
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Tubeless for gravel is the way to go for sure. I started using something called Fatty Stripper for my tubeless fat bike, and there is a Skinny Stripper for gravel. It's a thin latex band that goes around the rim and over the edges, giving a really good seal at the bead, and avoiding sealant leaks around the rim strip. Also makes inflating a lot easier. Well worth the $5 or $6 they cost.
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Old 05-04-21, 10:05 AM
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Tubeless for me has meant no problems at all. I have thought about getting the Stan's DART plugs since I use Stan's sealant. But I haven't had any kind of cut in my tire that would require such a thing, and I carry a tube if it happens.
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Old 05-04-21, 10:11 AM
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I swapped my tubeless tires over the weekend and I think each time I do it, it gets a little easier.

I have never had a flat with tubeless, but do kind of dread the day that it happens. I carry a spare tube, but it requires a bit of force to get tubeless tires on/off my rims, so on a cold wet day doing this on the side of a road might be a nightmare.
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Old 05-04-21, 10:36 AM
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Originally Posted by unterhausen;[url=tel:22044205
22044205[/url]]Tubeless for me has meant no problems at all. I have thought about getting the Stan's DART plugs since I use Stan's sealant. But I haven't had any kind of cut in my tire that would require such a thing, and I carry a tube if it happens.
I've had good experience with the Stan's Dart tool, including patching a friend's tire that had a hole in the sidewall. I happen also to use Stan's sealant, but I'm sure the Dart plugs work with other types of sealant too.

When bikepacking, I also carry a piece of Tyvek (cut from a old USPS priority mail envelope) to use as a tire boot, plus a curved needle, some upholstery thread, and a (titanium!) thimble, so I can at least attempt to repair a sidewall cut. Fortunately I haven't had to do it IRL yet.

Do check your sealant level regularly - say, at least every 3 months - and refill as needed. This is much easier to do if you have valves that are wide enough at the bottom to fit the plastic tube of a sealant syringe through to the bottom of the tire. Orange Seal valves are wide enough; Stan's valves are not.
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Old 05-04-21, 07:01 PM
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My opinions:

Currently I carry a spare tube, a patch kit, tire levers, and a pump on rides. I assume I need to continue carrying all this in case of flats that the sealant won't fix - likely, yes

but what else? - I carry a Stan's Dart in a jersey pocket.

Do I need to buy an air compressor? I have a decent floor pump and a couple of frame pumps already. - likely no unless you have a bunch of bikes that you plan on setting up and maintaining as tubeless. I will say that if you reach the point that you're considering spending $100+ on one of those "tubeless air chamber" pumps to mount tires, don't bother. Get a compressor and good inflator instead. In my experience, a 6 gal compressor with a Prestaflator Pro makes mounting tubeless tires child's play.

Does swapping tubeless tires (like knobbies to slicks and back again) make sense with tubeless, or is it a big hassle? I watched one YT video about it and it looked messy but easier than changing tires with tubes.- I wouldn't personally recommend this. Tubed setups are much easier to deal with if you like swapping tires around frequently. If you want to both go tubeless and swap tires around (which is certainly possible),definitely get a compressor.

Also, do tubeless tires lose air between rides like tires with tubes do? I guess I'll find out, but as long as I'm asking questions...- yes. Pro tip: the most frequent place for a leak is at the valve stem, make sure the nut is tight if you lose pressure frequently.
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Old 05-05-21, 03:37 AM
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The big takeaway from all these posts should be “it depends.” What your tubeless experience will look like depends on your rim tire combo. It also depends on your tools, your experience level, and whether you go by the book or like jimmying sh*t around.

My advice would be to gear up if it’s financially possible. Get a 5-6gal compressor, get a good inflator head like the Park Pro, get some good tire levers like Pedro’s or a bead jack like the Kool Stop, get an extra roll of tubeless tape in the correct width, get a large bottle of good sealant like Panaracer SealSmart, and get a clamp style bike stand like the Bike Hand CyclePro or even better, a wheel holder like the Park WH1.

If you’re thinking that’s basically a pro shop setup, yeah, it kind of is, but speaking as someone who has been through the good and the bad with a variety of road tubeless rims and tires for about eight years and currently has five pairs on the road, I find having the right tools for the job essential to completing the job without driving myself crazy with frustration.

My other piece of advice based on my experience trying various methods is to forgo trying to inject sealant through the valve stem, and to just break and pull 1/3 of the bead, pour the stuff in, reseat and reinflate the tire. Sealants have gotten more dense and more chunky— which is good for cut sealing— and it’s easy to get a syringe which is too small an either inadequate to give a good mix of particulate and fluid, or to get jammed up and not work at all. I’ve not seen a good syringe at all, to be honest, and those weird, filler mcgizmos on Orange Seal bottles have been useless to me as well. I avoided pouring sealant across the bead because it was hard to work with— I didn’t have a wheel holder— and because it was hard to inflate— I had a lousy inflator head, and an old, noisy compressor…before it broke and I dinked around with dump tanks before buying a nice, ultraquiet compressor. In the case of sealant, having the right tools not only makes the job easier, it improves performance because I’m getting better mixed sealant in the tire.

Try the methods which others outlined upthread and see what works for you. I’ e never sun-warmed my tires, bit hey, who knows what Earthly delights I’ve been missing out on?
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Old 05-05-21, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
I find having the right tools for the job essential to completing the job without driving myself crazy with frustration.
There are a lot of valuable words in that post, but this gem is what it really comes down to. Long ago I stopped just making things work, and started buying the right tools, and when weighing them against the costs of paying someone to do the jobs, typically after 3-4 times each tool was "paid off," sometimes after just 1 time. And then other things, like a good stand, are simply priceless.
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Old 05-14-21, 09:49 AM
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Very cool you're getting your Cross Check set up tubeless. I currently can't afford new tubeless rim brake wheels to convert mine, so still running tubes in it. That said, I did the trick of putting some sealant inside the tubes---it is either working or I've just been really lucky lately 'cause I use it like a mountain bike - have not flatted since, but admittedly I mostly ride my 650B tubeless gravel rig. I can't run the insanely low psi in the CC that I can on the other rig.

I did my first tire swap on the tubeless rig recently and one thing I learned is, if you're new to it, try mounting the tires w/o sealant for starters. I had a very finicky set of new tires that wouldn't mount (even w compressor). The issue was they weren't readily relaxing from being folded in the packaging. There was always one section that wouldn't seal. The solution was to put a tube in and let them sit that way for a while (actually waited a couple days), then they seated fine. Would have been a mess if I had put the sealant in at the get-go.
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