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Zipp 404 Firecrest Clinchers + Road Tubeless conversion

Road Cycling ďIt is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.Ē -- Ernest Hemingway

Zipp 404 Firecrest Clinchers + Road Tubeless conversion

Old 08-06-12, 12:09 AM
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neospazzy
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Zipp 404 Firecrest Clinchers + Road Tubeless conversion

So I have been reading all about road tubeless for about a year now and after flatting both my tires at GMR, Iíd thought it would be a good time to make the jump. So I hopped onto eBay and notubes.com and got myself Stans 25mm yellow rim tape (due to the wider rim), couple of road valves and extenders, Stanís sealant, and a pair of Hutchinson Fusion 3ís. I got all the items fairly quickly and by last Tuesday, I had all the items to convert my 404ís to tubeless. I have now ridden it for four days and here are my thoughts:

Installation
I attempted to convert one of the wheels. I removed the old tire, tube, and rim strip from my rear wheel. I cleaned off any residue of Zipps factory rim strip with Scotch-Brite and some alcohol wipes. Putting on the rim tape seems pretty straight forward from Stanís road tubeless video (so I thought Ö more on that later). I was more concerned with the tire installation. Surprisingly, the tire install went pretty straight forward! I proceeded to put soapy water all around the bead and rim and attempted to do the initial inflation. After trying with both the floor pump and a couple of CO2 cartridges, it didnít work. I could see air bubbles forming all around the rim as well as a few spoke nipples. I knew then that air was leaking under the tape. Thus I ended up giving all the parts to my LBS the next morning. They did numerous tubeless conversions so I felt comfortable having the pros do it. They were done the same day!

The Ride
They say that going tubeless decreases rolling resistance. To me it felt no different than my Conti GP4000s with tubes in terms of rolling resistance. It didnít feel any faster but it didnít feel any slower either. I guess that is a good thing. Then again I am not that fast to begin with. One thing I did notice is the suppleness of riding lower pressures! I used to run 120PSI on my Contiís. I am now running 100PSI on my tubeless and let me tell you Ö it is WONDERFUL! I rode down Laguna Canyon Road (aka 133) from Irvine to Laguna Beach and towards the bottom half, the road becomes a bit rough on the bike lane. I remember that it was a bit of a teeth-chattering ride with my Contiís. But now with tubeless Ö SMOOTH! I even ran over some manhole covers and while it didnít quell the road bumps, it was definitely a lot smoother and more muted going over it than ever before. It definitely put a smile on my face!

Flat Protection
This is the main reason why I chose to go tubeless. Iíve seen videos of people riding their bikes through thumbtacks (intentional of course) and losing only a miniscule amount of air before the sealant kicks in. I fully know that going tubeless will NOT make the system 100% flat-proof and that I can still pinch the tires (though the impact must be pretty hard to puncture through the all those tire layers) and that the sealant may not seal punctures and gashes that are a bit larger than normal. That said, the added protection should reduce the occurrence of simple pinch flats and punctures. Any time saved than swapping out a tube during a group ride is fine in my book! On another note, I was going to purchase the Hutchinson RepíAir Tubeless Patch kit, but my LBS told me that the Park Tool VP-1 patch kit will work just as well for patching up the inner walls of the tire. Basically the vulcanizing glue is virtually the same on both products and the patches seem no different. The major difference, of course, was the price. The RepíAir was about $15 and the Park Tool VP-1 was less than $4. I guess it is worth a shot in case of a tire gash. Just like auto insurance, it is one of those things I hope I never get to use. If worse comes to worse, I can always throw in a tube and a tire boot like my old setup.

Final Thoughts
Going tubeless wasnít cheap, especially since I had to pay my LBS to do the initial conversion. I got the tires from eBay for $117 for a pair shipped, and I felt that wasn't too bad since my pair of Conti's retails for more. As tubeless gets more popular, the prices should only go down from here on out. Maintenance shouldnít be too bad though dealing with sealant and air compressors may turn off some people. I assume since my LBS installed the rim tape correctly, inflating the tire after removal (during a tire change or repair in the future) should be a bit easier, theoretically.

Overall I got a much smoother and compliant ride along with added flat protection. Pair that up with some aero goodness of deep dish carbon, like the 404, and I think this is a winning combination. Only a long term test will tell. So far, I am very happy with going tubeless. Peace out!

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Old 08-06-12, 05:40 AM
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How much do you weigh? You are running really high pressures
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Old 08-06-12, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by brian416 View Post
How much do you weigh? You are running really high pressures
185. According to the Hutchinson's pressure guide, I should be running 109 PSI. I will try lowering the front to 90 PSI and see how that goes.
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Old 08-06-12, 09:47 AM
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Which LBS did you go to if I may ask? Sounds awesome. The bottom half of laguna canyon can definitely be rough. I find myself wanting to sneak onto the smoother road but the traffic whizzing by reminds me that I would die haha.
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Old 08-06-12, 09:52 AM
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Well... I am glad to finally hear of a brave soul trying out tubeless on a carbon fiber clincher! That is the only report I have seen, and its good to hear that it went well! Once disc brakes catch on, I may have to plan for a set of Zipp's...
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Old 08-06-12, 09:59 AM
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You were riding way too high of a pressure on your tubed setup. You will find a supple ride at lower pressure with tubes as well.

Tubeless on road....sure....it will happen. Right now - I am not impressed.

They keep trying tubeless for cross as well....that is a train wreck. Air volume is too low for the extremely low pressures to keep the system from burping.
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Old 08-06-12, 10:09 AM
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Originally Posted by neo****zy View Post
185. According to the Hutchinson's pressure guide, I should be running 109 PSI. I will try lowering the front to 90 PSI and see how that goes.
According to Stan's NoTubes guys...lower PSI than what Hutchinson recommends means your tire will last longer. With supposedly no performance decrease. I've been running my front and rear around 90-95. Love how it feels, and it does increase tire life. I weigh about 186.

Originally Posted by garciawork View Post
Well... I am glad to finally hear of a brave soul trying out tubeless on a carbon fiber clincher! That is the only report I have seen, and its good to hear that it went well! Once disc brakes catch on, I may have to plan for a set of Zipp's...
According to what I've read, tubeless on all-carbon wheels is not recommended unless the wheel is specifically designed for road tubeless. If you have an aluminum brake track, that's probably safe enough. What can happen would happen on long descents with hard or continual braking. The carbon can heat to the point that the rim slightly deforms. Which means the tire can instantly lose its seal, causing an instant flat. Not something you want to happen on a descent.

At least that's what I remember reading about it. Call Zipp to make sure. I'm all for road tubeless, but would certainly exercise much caution in the above. You'll probably be ok if it's mostly on flats. And it might be a legal CYA thing, but there's probably something to it.
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Old 08-06-12, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by MrTuner1970 View Post

According to what I've read, tubeless on all-carbon wheels is not recommended unless the wheel is specifically designed for road tubeless. If you have an aluminum brake track, that's probably safe enough. What can happen would happen on long descents with hard or continual braking. The carbon can heat to the point that the rim slightly deforms. Which means the tire can instantly lose its seal, causing an instant flat. Not something you want to happen on a descent.

At least that's what I remember reading about it. Call Zipp to make sure. I'm all for road tubeless, but would certainly exercise much caution in the above. You'll probably be ok if it's mostly on flats. And it might be a legal CYA thing, but there's probably something to it.
That's why I will be waiting for disc brakes. I already won't touch a rim brake carbon wheel period, and if Fulcrum had a disc 2-way fit road wheel, I'd have it for sure. Not that rim brakes on an aluminum wheel don't do the job, I just feel better on disc brakes. Once they are here, no more flats (or so seldom they are barely worth thinking about) and no real brake fade worries, I will be VERY happy.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by garciawork View Post
That's why I will be waiting for disc brakes. I already won't touch a rim brake carbon wheel period, and if Fulcrum had a disc 2-way fit road wheel, I'd have it for sure. Not that rim brakes on an aluminum wheel don't do the job, I just feel better on disc brakes. Once they are here, no more flats (or so seldom they are barely worth thinking about) and no real brake fade worries, I will be VERY happy.
Agreed. I've never ridden disc brakes, but the concept is superior. Not as convenient, but then neither is tubeless. And I use tubeless.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:23 AM
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Originally Posted by MrTuner1970 View Post
According to what I've read, tubeless on all-carbon wheels is not recommended unless the wheel is specifically designed for road tubeless. If you have an aluminum brake track, that's probably safe enough. What can happen would happen on long descents with hard or continual braking. The carbon can heat to the point that the rim slightly deforms. Which means the tire can instantly lose its seal, causing an instant flat. Not something you want to happen on a descent.
What you describe would also be a problem for a normal tire/tube as a tube bulging past the rim edge will blowout instantly as well. Don't think I've ever seen that issue reported for a Zipp carbon clincher so their high temp composites and special brake pads must work like they say they do.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
You were riding way too high of a pressure on your tubed setup. You will find a supple ride at lower pressure with tubes as well.

Tubeless on road....sure....it will happen. Right now - I am not impressed.

They keep trying tubeless for cross as well....that is a train wreck. Air volume is too low for the extremely low pressures to keep the system from burping.
I used road tubeless on Shimano tubless rims for about 6 months and switched back to tubes. They were an enormous pain. That was in 2006, and now, 6 years later, there are still only 2 or 3 tire choices. My theory is if the pro's won't use something, it'll never do well. Electric shifting -- check, road disk brakes -- check (if UCI ever approves them) Road tubeless -- fail.
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Old 08-06-12, 11:55 AM
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Originally Posted by nhluhr View Post
What you describe would also be a problem for a normal tire/tube as a tube bulging past the rim edge will blowout instantly as well. Don't think I've ever seen that issue reported for a Zipp carbon clincher so their high temp composites and special brake pads must work like they say they do.
Right. As I recall, Zipp's material is the best at resisting deformation. Perhaps not the early carbon wheels, though. I'd still call them to hear what they say.

Corima makes carbon road tubeless. Much too expensive for me, not to mention I can't ride fast enough yet to really benefit from a deeper wheel.
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Old 08-06-12, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Psimet2001 View Post
They keep trying tubeless for cross as well....that is a train wreck. Air volume is too low for the extremely low pressures to keep the system from burping.
Having tried this, I completely agree.
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Old 08-06-12, 12:48 PM
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Originally Posted by bikepro View Post
I used road tubeless on Shimano tubless rims for about 6 months and switched back to tubes. They were an enormous pain. That was in 2006, and now, 6 years later, there are still only 2 or 3 tire choices. My theory is if the pro's won't use something, it'll never do well. Electric shifting -- check, road disk brakes -- check (if UCI ever approves them) Road tubeless -- fail.
Honestly not sure what "pain" tubeless is bringing up with people. I have had a grand total of one issue since 2008, which was also the last year I owned inner tubes. Since Campy nailed 2-way fit, I can't see myself using anything else for the time being. But if the conversion works on Zipp's... that would certainly be fun on my steel bike
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Old 08-06-12, 04:15 PM
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I'm 190 after my cracked pelvis, and haven't gone over 105psi in my normal tubed tires with no issues. I'm running 25c with specialized turbo pro tires and Belgium C2 rims from hed(23mm wide) and normal specialized tubes, not one flat in the last 2 years. and i consistently ride on dirt roads. Knocking on every piece of wood now.

The only real reason I would go tubeless is if i wanted to consistently run below 80PSI.... or mountain bikes, but your experience may vary, I just cant justify the cost considering I can get the same ride quality with out the cost.
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Old 08-06-12, 04:38 PM
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I am 180 to 185 and I run the Fusion 3's at 80/85 front and 90/95 rear. The comfort is to me the biggest benefit since I did not flat all that much with tubes. I have Dura Ace C24 TLs, and I am not any faster tubeless than I was on Ultegra 6600s with Vredestein Fortezza SEs.
I have been on tubeless for 1 and 1/2 years and have had zero flats. I did have one slow leak and fixed it with a forte patch and glue.


I bought my first set on eBay for about the same price as you. The next time you need tubeless tires try xxcycle, they are in France. Best price I have seen. I recently purchased 3 tires at around $42 each and the tires came in about a week so no issues with delivery.
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Old 08-06-12, 05:25 PM
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It's an interesting topic for sure. I wouldn't trust a tubeless conversion at 80psi coming around hairpin corners at high speeds just yet, but I bet it's not a total disaster. I run tubeless on my MTB, but I use stans rims which were designed for it.

So, what did the LBS do to seal up the rim tape? You skipped over that part.
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Old 08-06-12, 08:22 PM
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Where can I get the miracle tubes that hold a tire on the rim. Tubless tires stay on the rim even dead flat. One guy had a front flat and wouldn't have known it except for the sealant flying everywhere. The only problem I have had is the sealant goes bad after a year and you get slow leaks. I haven't had to fix a flat yet. No flats in a year is good in New Mexico, the home of the goathead. We use bike lanes to store broken beer bottles.
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Old 08-06-12, 08:52 PM
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Originally Posted by mrardo View Post
Where can I get the miracle tubes that hold a tire on the rim. Tubless tires stay on the rim even dead flat. One guy had a front flat and wouldn't have known it except for the sealant flying everywhere. The only problem I have had is the sealant goes bad after a year and you get slow leaks. I haven't had to fix a flat yet. No flats in a year is good in New Mexico, the home of the goathead. We use bike lanes to store broken beer bottles.
The issue isn't when a tire goes flat, its that people run tubeless often to get lower pressures.

People burp air all the time in mountain biking when running lower PSI on "conversions" rather than a proper UST or Stans setup. I understand 80psi is not 25psi, but I personally wouldn't do road tubeless unless it was on a proper rim designed for it or there's thousands of people on converted 404's with no issue. I wouldn't have a problem doing tubeless on some stans alphas. It's just my personal feelings...the 404 conversion may be 100% perfectly safe, but I'm not willing to ride it quite yet.

Last edited by jmX; 08-06-12 at 09:07 PM.
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Old 08-07-12, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by sosojeffcc View Post
Which LBS did you go to if I may ask?
Irvine Bicycles on Sand Canyon. Brian did the tubeless conversion for me.

Originally Posted by MrTuner1970 View Post
According to what I've read, tubeless on all-carbon wheels is not recommended unless the wheel is specifically designed for road tubeless. If you have an aluminum brake track, that's probably safe enough. What can happen would happen on long descents with hard or continual braking. The carbon can heat to the point that the rim slightly deforms. Which means the tire can instantly lose its seal, causing an instant flat. Not something you want to happen on a descent.
As others have said, the new Zipp Firecrest clinchers were built to not only withstand heat better than other all-carbon rims, but also to withstand very high pressures ... over 400PSI according to Zipp. At that pressure, you are more likely to blow the kevlar bead off the tire before bursting the rims (Yes ... I got this info from watching Zipp's "Firecrest Revolution" video). You also have to remember that Hutchinson RT1 (aka rebadged Corima Aero Tubeless) is an all-carbon tubeless wheelset. I can bet the Zipps have a better heat resistant brake track than the Hutchinson RT1/Corima Aero. I think being able to modulate braking between both wheels during a long descent is key to keeping the temps down regardless of having an all-carbon or aluminum brake track ... tubed or tubeless.

Originally Posted by jmX View Post
So, what did the LBS do to seal up the rim tape? You skipped over that part.
They had to redo the yellow rim tape on the one that I attempted. Whether they used new tape or not, I didn't ask.

Originally Posted by Old_Roadie View Post
The next time you need tubeless tires try xxcycle, they are in France. Best price I have seen. I recently purchased 3 tires at around $42 each and the tires came in about a week so no issues with delivery.
Will do! If tubeless works well for me in the long term, I may just buy a few sets from xxcycle and make the other bike tubeless as well. The prices are great! Thanks for the info!

I am going to be doing the Tour De Lake Arrowhead (metric century) in a few weeks with 6700ft of climbing. I think that is also a good test for my tubeless setup. Will let you guys know how that turns out.
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Old 08-07-12, 12:10 PM
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Originally Posted by jmX View Post
The issue isn't when a tire goes flat, its that people run tubeless often to get lower pressures.

People burp air all the time in mountain biking when running lower PSI on "conversions" rather than a proper UST or Stans setup. I understand 80psi is not 25psi, but I personally wouldn't do road tubeless unless it was on a proper rim designed for it or there's thousands of people on converted 404's with no issue. I wouldn't have a problem doing tubeless on some stans alphas. It's just my personal feelings...the 404 conversion may be 100% perfectly safe, but I'm not willing to ride it quite yet.
Mountain bike tubeless is not a good example for road tubless. Tubeless road rims have the same bead as regular rims they just come with sealed spoke holes. Stans notubes rim tape does a very good job if you follow the instructions unlike the OP. You have to tube them to seat the rim tape before you can go tubeless. There is so little clearance between the rim, tire and valve you have to install the valve loosely then seat the tire then tighten the valve which almost acts as a rim lock. The tubeless tires are different they have heavy non stretch bead. The sealant kind of glues the tire on a little. It is somewhat harder to mount and dismount tubeless tires. If you get a flat you just boot the tire and install a tube you have to boot because if it was not a big cut you wouldn't flat.You wouldn't make it 1 ride on a mountain bike here without tubeless and sealant. I have seen mountain bikes with 1000s of goatheads and thorns in them.
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Old 08-07-12, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mrardo View Post
Mountain bike tubeless is not a good example for road tubless. Tubeless road rims have the same bead as regular rims they just come with sealed spoke holes. Stans notubes rim tape does a very good job if you follow the instructions unlike the OP. You have to tube them to seat the rim tape before you can go tubeless. There is so little clearance between the rim, tire and valve you have to install the valve loosely then seat the tire then tighten the valve which almost acts as a rim lock. The tubeless tires are different they have heavy non stretch bead. The sealant kind of glues the tire on a little. It is somewhat harder to mount and dismount tubeless tires. If you get a flat you just boot the tire and install a tube you have to boot because if it was not a big cut you wouldn't flat.You wouldn't make it 1 ride on a mountain bike here without tubeless and sealant. I have seen mountain bikes with 1000s of goatheads and thorns in them.
You may be right about the bead with a tubeless conversion, but Campy/Fulcrum 2-way fit wheels inflate just fine to 100psi without sealant in my experience (not that I would ever actually ride without sealant). I remember a guy on roadbikereview a couple years ago ran his Dura ace tubeless wheels without sealant all the time, and just threw a tube in if he got a flat. I don't see the point in that case, guess he liked the lower weight and ride quality.
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Old 08-07-12, 12:39 PM
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Some of the older Hutchinson tires needed sealant to hold air as they had some slight defects where air would escape throught he sidewall. Haven't seen that on the new ones.

I run Fusion 3s with sealant on 50mm carbon clinchers. They are a perfect blend for my needs. In 1K miles I had one puncture that I know of that shot some sealant on my leg and sealed right up with almost no loss. Couldn't find the hole when I got home as it had dried.

The new tubeless tires coming out this fall are going to be awesome. Atom glactik, New Fusion 3, Bontrager R3 25c. I alos want to try the IRC formula pro lite but my Fusion 3s won't die!
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Old 08-07-12, 07:38 PM
  #24  
MrTuner1970
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Originally Posted by mrardo View Post
Tubeless road rims.... You have to tube them to seat the rim tape before you can go tubeless.
I didn't do that on the only Stan's conversion tubeless setup that I've done so far. It wasn't in the current install video on Stan's site--wondering if that was an old way? Or maybe I forgot that step.

Have ridden several hundred miles on those wheels with no problem...at least yet.
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Old 08-07-12, 07:46 PM
  #25  
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^ I have NEVER used a tube to set rim tape on the Mavic rims I converted, the Neuvation wheels I converted, or the Stan's wheels. Never had an issue.
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