Tubelessness bolloxnessness

Having owned a bike shop for a few years and for the bulk of that being the primary mechanic too, I don’t think it’s unreasonable or big-headed to say I’m a decent bike mechanic or at least I know what I’m talking about. Many happy customers over the years would testify to that.

I did employ a good mechanic too. Top Bloke 😉 #AyeAyeAstin!

Now, lets talk about tubeless. There was a time recently I was resting on my laurels because every tubeless conversion I had done either personally or for a customer was spot on. Even if there was an issue like air loss over time, which is not unusual, it was resolved quite easily. In fact I used to scoff at riders online bemoaning how hard it was for them to set up and I was even a little smug about it citing their poor technique for example.

Fast forward a few months and my smugness has bitten me right on the arse. This week nearly ended my relationship with tape, valves and sealant.

First up, I needed to replace my Schwalbe One TLE rear tyre due to a massive cut I’d picked up on a commute along a debris-laden temporary bike lane in Birmingham (thats a vent for another day!). The first set I fitted were really easy. Taped, valved, tyres supple enough to fit with my fingers, sealant in, pumped, popped, done. 10 minutes. Easy.

If it goes well there is no mess at all

So it’s not unreasonable to assume that a straight swap of exactly the same tyre on the same rim and same valve would go as easily. Oh no! Tyre on, sealant in, pumped and nothing apart from blowing half the sealant out of the tyre onto the floor. It just wouldn’t take. My colleague at work, tried for me amid my obvious frustration and it was the same for him. Once the tyre is on there isn’t much you can do technique wise, the key is getting the prep right. Taped well, valved properly but that hadn’t changed. Then at his 3rd attempt it just went up, popped and done. How? I asked. Not sure was the answer. My pride was a bit dented I have to say but no idea what the issue was. The only thing that changed was the tyre. Was it a manufacturing issue with the bead? Pffffff… dunno

On the whole, Stans is ok apart from the tape which is too brittle

Then this week a customer bought a bike and wanted a conversion there and then. OK, we usually leave them overnight to make sure they’re air tight but I was confident it would be fine. So the same drill. Tyres off, taped, valved, tyres on, sealant in, pumped, popped, done. Both up and ready to go. The customer came back the next day, both had gone down. Ok, these were big volume tyres on a full suspension MTB so I added a bit more sealant, pumped them up and air just pissed out the valve area. So tyres off, check the tape, valve etc. Nothing obvious. Back on, pumped, popped, air out the valve again. I sloshed the sealant about and it came pissing out the valve now. So tyre off again. I decided I’d start again so I emptied the sealant, horrible job, and cleaned up the wheel, removed and retaped it and tried a different valve. Tyre back on, pumped, popped, same problem. Now I was getting angry. I bit the bullet and gorilla taped a 3rd layer of tape wall to wall and tried that. Same.

I think if they were my wheels I would have thrown them through the window.

Stressed and depressed I just removed the lot, refitted tubes and gave the customer his money back. I still have no idea 1. why they went up and stayed up with no apparent air loss initially and 2. why it was so much worse second time round. I must have spent 3 hrs on them in the end. Pathetic. The only thing I see as the cause were they were Mavic rims which do specify only use Mavic UST tape but come on, someone must have converted them somewhere without this? Or was it just an issue with the Maxxis tyres or the two together? I’d changed everything else. You put your faith in manufacturers but I’m sure the tolerances or quality are not always as good as they’re supposed to be. Or is it just me being a shit at it? Fuck knows

Tired, stressed and fingers and thumbs wrecked I’ve come to a crossroads with tubeless now. One more issue and I’ll sack it off. Can’t be arsed to be honest.

It’s an expensive, potentially messy thing to do for little gain, for me, to be honest. My commuter rolls well but whether its worth the £50 a go tyres for just that marginal gain is questionable given how easy they appear to cut.


Vent over. Adios.

9 thoughts on “Tubelessness bolloxnessness

  1. Great write up Paul! Being a lot old school I’ve been a bit sceptical about tubeless, having said that can see the attraction for CX.
    Apart from mid winter freezing cold it’s not a big deal just to change an inner tube, and if you slit the side wall on tubeless then you need a tube to get back home as my understanding is that the solution doesn’t seal the tyre!
    Think I will stick to inner tubes!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Track pump to air tank to tyre. Pressurise the airtank to max….160psi, release the air into the ture and keep the pressure topped up (by pumping like fuck) with the track pump until they pop!! Good upper body work out!! I always do it dry and then inject sealant. Im still pro, just had the first cut (flint boulders in the snow) on Schwalbe. I might change my tune if that keeps happening. Fixing it was an arse, now I know what to do it might be easier next time. Propper trail side fixes are not easy!!

    Liked by 1 person

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