Tubeless tyres are the latest innovation in the endless fight of the cyclist against punctures.
When the wheels on my second best training, commuting and pub visiting bike looked like they needed replacement I decided to take the opportunity to build up some wheels suitable for tubeless
Getting all the bits and pieces involved was quite a job. I got parts from Star bike in Germany, http://www.starbike.co.uk, Spa Cycles in Harrogate http://www.spacycles.co.uk, AllTricks in France http://www.acycles.co.uk and High on Bikes of Southport http://www.highonbikes.com
I got all of the bits delivered to work which lead to my first problem, getting the rims back home
The rims are Son H Plus Archetypes These rims have a good reputation for being strong, they are only moderately expensive and quite pretty. The only downside I can see now they are on the bike is that the braking surface is andonised and doesn’t seem as effective at brake gripping as a machined surface.
For the rear I bought a new Ultegra Hub. The old 105 hub has a few miles left in in but has seen better days.
Once the rear was built I was having a go at fitting the tubeless tyres. The system is quite different to the tyres I’ve used before. There is no inner tube just a tight fitting outer tyre, air tight tape and sealant
The tape goes across the top of the holes for the spoke attachments. To clean the inside of the rim to ensure good adhesion Isoproyl alcohol is used.
The tyres I was using were Hutchinson Intensive and the tape and sealant is a kit made by Stan’s Tubeless. Both of these are market leaders in tubeless. There isn’t so much choice in tubeless tyres as in clinchers but the Hutchinson Intensive seem the best choice for winter riding and lots of miles. When they are fitted they are actually narrower than 25mm. Even on the wide 23mm rims they measure 24mm.
Fitting the tyre is not easy, as the super strong bead to prevent air leaking is difficult to slip over the rim
I got a special tool to assist with this tyre fitting ,challenge, a Kool Stop “Tyre Mate” which is a type of “bead jack”
After the tyre is fully mounted the next difficulty is to inflate it. Normally with clinchers the inflating step is easy with a track pump. However, with tubeless it’s necessary to spray the tyre with soap solution so that the bead can slip into position easier and to use either a compressor or a CO2 cartridge to suddenly supply a massive amount of pressure to pop the tyre into place.
Before doing this it is necessary to remove the valve core and to add some sealant, which is a latex based rubber solution. On the rear wheel this was easy, I used the official Stan’s injector.
I am reusing the front hub. It is a Shimano generator hub and in good condition.
After I’d built the front wheel, it was time to fit another tubeless tyre. This time inserting the sealant was not as straight forward. The valve core appeared to clog with the sealant, the injector sprayed it all over the wheel building stand and eventually I had to remove part of the tyre to get the sealant in
At this point I have two new wheels with tubeless rim tape and tubeless tyres installed. Both wheels also have sealant in them.
I was aiming to get the 25mm tyres inflated to a modest 90 psi (6 bar). They were not initially too successful at holding this pressure. Overnight the pressure would drop to 40 psi. However, I did use them for a couple of short trips.
So I tried to address the problem of getting the tyres to hold a workable pressure. The tyres are rated at over 100 psi but are only managing to hold less than half of that pressure
I tried adding some more sealant to the rear tyre. It had approximately double the recommended amount in it. This did not work but when the tyres were pumped up to over 90 psi, sealant could be seen leaking from the nipples. This indicated that the tape covering the holes inside was not working correctly. Fortunately I had a spare reel of wide (21mm) tape. I’d bought this half thinking I might need to add more. But not having done this before….Anyway, I added two more layers of the wider tape and it worked. Overnight the pressure holds at 80psi+. It’s a usable bike again.
Some people have suggested to me that it was a mistake not using a “tubeless specific” rim. But the Son HPlus Archetype is said to be “tubeless friendly”. It is a wide 23mm external width rim and as you can see from the picture a similar profile to the leading Stan’s rim.
I would guess that the Stan’s rim is easier to mount tubeless tyres on but once the tyre is mounted it’s the same
The only real problem I had was with the Stan’s conversion kit and the so called “universal” tape. This is only 12mm wide and I would guess it would work fine with some rims. Or if it was layered in a slightly different way. I did apply it to the wheels “by the book” ( or by the youtube video to be more exact!) I suppose there is no incentive for Stan’s to sell conversion kits with accurate advice on what to do with different rim types as they sell their own rims. If people believe that Stan’s Alpha Rims “work best” with tubeless then they will sell more of them.
My experience is, for Son H Plus Archetypes, don’t use the 12mm universal tape. Get some 21mm tape instead.
Other lessons learnt: I wish I’d built a compressor with a plastic 1 litre Coke bottle (google it if you are interested) as I used up most of my stock of CO2 cartridges
Look forward to using the nice new wheels on some long rides soon!