I have been riding tubeless for 800 some odd miles now and loving it. I had my first “sealant-fail” puncture over the weekend and thought I would share some lessons learned.
First of all, why tubeless? You’ll get a faster, softer ride due to lower rolling resistance and lower air pressure required – also a small weight difference that could possibly be offset by the sealant in a tire without the tubes. You can run softer more comfortable tires that would flat frequently with a tube. Combine all that with a tire that is virtually flat-proof since it self repairs while riding and you have a winner. I counted at least 5 or 6 other tire punctures that would have put me on the side of the road changing a tube with these tires that self-repaired with the sealant.
But what happens when the puncture doesn’t seal? The answer is pretty easy – that spare tube you carry, yeah, I carry one as well.
But won’t that sealant be a mess? I thought that too, but nope it wasn’t an issue at all. The tire came off, the valve removed and the spare tube inserted – easy peasy. Hit it with some air and back in business.
Here are some things I learned during the puncture and when I pulled it all apart to repair the tire and return it to tubeless operation.
#1 There’s still life in a punctured tire
Even if the puncture won’t hold air at high pressure there’s a good chance it will hold enough air for you to limp back to your home, car, or wherever if you don’t want to mess with the spare tube or linger on the side of the road for a repair. I estimate probably about 40psi remained in the tire and I was NOT riding the rim.
#2 A tube repair is easy
Inserting the spare tube is no more difficult than if you had punctured a tube in a regular tire setup. The sealant is a non-issue – in fact, it most likely blew out all over the wheel sucker on your six. (Side benefit!) It probably left enough behind to help with a bacon repair attempt (see #3).
#3 Carry some bacon and extra air
It is helpful to carry a second CO2 cartridge PLUS a side of bacon. No, not the kind you eat – which would be nice too, but instead the tire plugs. Specifically, the Genuine Innovations Tubeless Plug Patch Kit. If you are familiar with how to fix a nail or screw puncture in a car tire this is exactly the same only much, much smaller. You insert a plug into the needle like tool and punch it through and pull it back to plug the hole. Hopefully there is enough sealant left to fill the gap and finish the ride or get back home. Use the first CO2 cartridge to attempt the repair and reserve the second for your spare tube.
#4 Right tools make any job easier
It’s not that difficult to pull the tube and return the tire to tubeless setup. You just need the right tools on hand (or a bike shop close by). You will need the valve core you removed when you inserted the tube, some new sealant (3-4 ounces), and a method that works for you to reseat the tire on the rim. I ride tubeless specific tires and rims. Once I get my tire seated it requires no air to keep it that way. So for me I pulled the valve core and used an air compressor at about 80-90psi and an air compressor blow gun to blast air into the tire. This took a few tries but once it catches you will know. This took me a while since I tried many different methods and hacks before I found something that worked for me.
So what didn’t work? I initially thought it would be smart to use a tube to seat one side of the tire. Mistake. With one side seated and the other loose the air is never caught and escapes easily. I also tried building an Internet-hack air chamber from a 2 liter soda bottle – fail. Unless blasting a Mountain Dew bottle 30 feet into the woods at light speed velocity was your desired result. At this point I decided this was a safety glasses operation – and it was fun so I did try again with a Pepsi bottle. This time I covered it with a Rubbermaid bin and cement block – it lifted it off the ground when it decided it had had enough. I also tried blasting the tire with a CO2 cartridge but after a couple fails I thought that could get expensive. In fairness, these were all attempted with one side of the tire already seated SO any of them could have actually been successful with the right conditions and a properly positioned tire.
One thing I didn’t try but if you have, please comment below and let us know how it works. Topeak makes a tubeless specific air chamber style floor pump designed to deliver that blast of air required to seat a tubeless tire. It is Topeak Joe Blow Booster Floor Pump and looks very promising.
#5 You can repair that tire!
Vulcanizing patches made for tubes work great on the inside of a tire to seal up that puncture and repair the tire. Just follow the same procedure you would to repair a tube (scuff the surface, apply the glue and let it dry, then apply the patch). Of course, a large gash in a tire would be problematic but that would be the case with or without a tube and result in a new tire.
#6 Sealant fountains may be pretty but are wasteful
After the tire is seated on the rim, when adding the sealant through the open valve (core removed) position the valve at about 4 o’clock. With the valve at the bottom of the tire the sealant had no where to go when the tire was full at the bottom except back through the valve. Use the small 2oz bottles of Stan’s sealant since the squeeze cap fits nicely over the valve and the sealant just runs into the tire. If you feel like it is warranted go ahead and buy a larger jug of Stan’s but keep that small 2oz bottle as a transfer tool for the sealant. They also offer this cool sealant injector if the large jug is to your liking.
Bottom line? A sealant and a tubeless setup isn’t for everyone, but if you like to roll faster and smoother and don’t like punctures that cost you money in new tubes and time on the side of the road you might want to give it a try.