Road Tubeless Fail

Road tubeless is something that I decided to give a go last August, on my winter bike, a Kinesis 4sd. I like it a great deal despite the weight, and I ended up riding through to July this year before breaking out the thoroughbred. In this case this was non winter tyre of Schwalbe Pro-One on Hunt Four Season Disk - with the heavier weight Stans race sealant.

As long as you have sealant - life is good. Those smaller flats you just do not notice. Factual. The first thing you know about it is when you are cleaning the bike, and some mud on the seat tube just will not budge. You notice that its actually mud stuck to rubber, and you realise a flat has occurred, sealed, and you didn't know. The bigger type obviously there is the hissing, spewing of white fluids, and complaints from those behind you. If not stopping, spinning the wheel, failing that sitting the puncture at the bottom of the wheel and wait while it asphyxiates in its own froth.

Thus far tubeless has been a learning experience. Firstly - much lower tyre pressures. Where I would run 100 and 90 on 25C on a summer bike - at 28C (apparently twice the air volume of 23C!) will run just fine on 70 and 60psi even for a fat boy like me at 90kg. The lack of road buzz makes the world a really nice place to be (more so on an aluminium frame). Furthermore - at lower pressures - the sealing seems to work better - anything over 80psi and sitting back on the bike (for me) appears to cause it to punch out the plug of rubber and continue to hiss angrily. Lower pressure - less buzz - more sealing - happy days.

Secondly - changing tyres is a pain. The Schwalbes do not last for long in comparison to say Continental 4000S II's. Fitting a new one is a learning curve.... and in this tale of woe can cause its own issues. Having dodged that bullet the first time after getting quite angry with the whole thing - this time around I NEED to do this myself.


Now with the benefit of hindsight, I can now see what the issue was, and it was not the tyre. You live you learn.

Trying to fit a new tyre has some challenges. Firstly they are flat things when they arrive in a box, not a U or C shape they are flat rubber with beads down both sides. The key here is to fit it first with an inner tube. Thus making the tyre  'tyre shaped' a day or so later when you come back to it.

If the tyre is not seating equally - or POPPING into the rim as intended with or without the inner tube then soapy water is a godsend.

WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS SOONER?! I had always had issues with getting the bead to seat properly with Continental Gatorskins* or FourSeasons. No more do you get the rubber seeming to seat, then a spin showing it being eggshaped, and no amount of persuasion while inflating causing anything other than the bead to sit unequally around the edge. SOAPY WATER - brushed on around the rim - and straight into place. Face. Palm.

So - here I am - pre-charge pump, and hiss in, and hiss out.

Let down the front one, charge with new sealant, and reinflate. Hiss, pop, seated, perfect.

Rear - hisssssssssssss - nothing. The tyre doesn't even make an effort to move. Denied.

As my hair went grey(er), and my nature increasingly snappy - I noticed the KEY point here.

So if you have been messaging mates, searching endless YouTube articles on how to seat troublesome tyres... open your eyes and check the rim tape.

It is now apparent that my issue was the rim tape - which had degraded, as you can see here.

Moreover, as it delaminated, its strength went. The flats I had been getting may indeed have been to a non-sealing hole, but equally, they could have been to air finding a way around the tape.

Then while turning the wheen the final bits of the jigsaw fitted into place. Inflating with the inner tube had caused actual pressure on the tape at the spoke holes - and HELLO TO YOU:

So the air was leaving as fast as it was going in.

New tape. New tyre. Soap. Pump. Purge tank. Hisss. Pop. Done.

Well, that caused more grief than you can imagine - but I am super pleased it is done - and that I did it.



*Gatorskins: I stopped using these for two reasons - their bead was horrifically hard to get over the rim. You never tend to get winter flats around the house - so you are usually in the dark, rain, sub zero, trying to fix the things.... battering your hands (have you any idea how much thumping a cold hand hurts?) is something best avoided if you can. Secondly - they appear to be devoid of grip in the wet. Out of the saddle climbing the wheel will slip around with the application of too-many-beans - even with a fat boy over the wheel... or the experience of lighter friends doing the no-hands-dismount while cornering. Less than ideal. Resolved in the Continental 4season - which has grip, and has the upside of not being a completely lifeless tyre. Yay. Go team. Etc..

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