Just gone tubeless – first ride and everything I’ve learnt along the way

I’ve just made the jump to tubeless on my mountain bike and I thought I’d collate everything I’ve found out along the way into a single post.

Firstly thanks to everyone who has answered my questions in posts on STW, the help has been much appriciated.

I’ve just been out for my first ride on the new set up and first impressions are extremely +ve. I went over to the dragons tail section of the marin first off as this has been a real pinch flat hotspot of mine, I had 2 there the other day within 20 metres. I rode it as hard as I could and came out the other end with full tyres. I then went over to the top of the final descent and pootled down that. I had a snakebite there last week 2. Again no punctures but what was noticable was how much grip I had. being able to run the tyres at about 2 bar give unbelivable amounts of grip in the corners, it was like having dh tyres on.

If your thinking of going tubeless here’s what I’ve found out, where I found it and what I’ve done on my bike.

Original set up

Tyres: Maxxis High Rollers 2.35 single ply
Tubes: Maxxis down hill 2.3/2.5 (heavy as hell and the only way I’ve previously been able to keep snakebite within acceptable bounds)
Rims: 819 front, 719 rear.

For a great how to do it guide look at this http://www.allankelly.info/als_half_tubes.html
http://www.justridingalong.co.uk check out the links on the right of the page for rim/tyre/kit info. Also supplies all sorts of various tubeless bits
http://www.xcracer.com/content.php?pid=2249 info written by Jon from JRA
http://www.tubelesskit.com/2005/ENGLISH.html Manufactuter of DT swiss tubless kits. Hace a look at the video, link in menu on left
http://www.notubes.com manufacturer

Ok then here’s what I’ve done.

I have 2 different rims, my front one is an mavic 819 (ust) rim so didn’t need converting, the rear is a 719 so needed a kit of some sort. I decided to go down the homemade ‘ghetto’ route just because of cost. I needed a bmx inner tube with a presta valve, ideally with a removable core as it would make putting sealant into the wheel easier and less messy. Apparently you can get bmx tubes with presta valves from Decathlon. I found them on Wiggle and they DO have removable cores – Schwalbe Inner Tube Presta 20×1 1/8-1.50 COOL!!

For my rear wheel I then went through the process as described and photographed by Allan Kelly on his website except I was able to put the sealant in via the valve because the valve has a removable core.

TOP TIP: make sure your knife is sharp, it will need to be. If it is its easy.

The front rim didn’t need any faffing with

I brought the sealant from http://www.justridingalong.co.uk their wheel milk. I brought 2 bottles, 1 small which I’ve used as measurer and applicator through the valves, and 1 x 500ml which is apparently enough for about 8 wheels/refills. As well as being used as an applicator the small bottle can be used for sucking up the sealant when changing tyres. This reduces wastage and mess.

Another TOP TIP: be ready to be able to access an air compressor when the time comes to inflate the tyres, a track pump just doesn’t get the air in anywhere quick enough.

I inflated the tyres first without sealant to seat them properly (air was coming out all over the place blowing bubbles with the soapy water, several old thorn punctures were obvious too) then deflated them, put the sealant, in via the valve and then blew them up again to about 40 psi. I put about 70/80ml of sealant in as it was the first time the tyre had been sealed I thought I’d err on the side of caution. I had a schrader adaptor that had come with the mavic 819 when I had it fitted. I don’t know where you’d get one from I’m afraid as its not something I’ve had to do yet.

The white sealant bubbles out anywhere where the seal is poor. Various places around the rim and any old puncture sites. I’d watched the video on the Eclipse site and used the same method as the guy in that to distribute the sealant around the wheel. Spinning the wheel did mean sealant did flick up my front a bit
I then held the wheel in front of me, one hand on each side holding the tyre and flicked the tyre backwards and forwards to distribute the sealant around. You can hear the stuff moving around in the tyre. I then turned the wheel 30 degrees and did it again and again until I’d done it for the whole tyre circumference.

The sealant works quite quickly and all bubbling and gurgling had stopped within 60 seconds, even the old punctures. It was like some sort of magic unfolding before me.

That was it, job done. All I had to do was trim the excess off the inner tube as described by bedmaker and go for a ride.

Things I need to do

I’ve got a couple of valve core tools ordered. I didn’t get one with my ust rim and they would make removing valve cores easier, with pliers its a bit of a faff.

I need to give this set up a bit of time and see how it goes. I’ve heard that tubeless set ups can lose air and need checking/topping ride on ride. This might be a faff.
I need to see how long the ‘milk’ lasts before drying out. This could also be a faff.

I’m off to the Alps next weekend which will be the ultimate test for them. I’m not sure how I’m going to tackle packing it to go on the plane. I don’t want to end up with a wheel bag covered in sealant. I’d also need to find a garage with an airline to inflate them if a let them down which is all just a bit of extra faff.

Conclusion: you need tubeless in your life. Though this is a bit early to be making such sweeping statements it does seem that you can have your cake and eat it. With the bmx inner tube set up its pretty cheap (about 4 to 5 quid a wheel), you eliminate punctures almost completely, you can run your tyres at a lower pressure which improves cornering grip unbelievably while also lessening rolling resistance and makes the bike more comfy (could help on the hardtails). You may even save some weight if your running heavy inner tubes, All up I’ve saved about a pound in rotating weight.


It makes faffing with your tyres a bit messier and adds a cost to it as you have to add more sealant. I’ve been in the habit of changing my tyres around as I use dual ply dh specific tyres for uplift days and dh racing and single ply tyres for everything else.

You need to use a tyre with a pretty robust sidewall. Not nessasarilly UST but some will just be too thin. Check out the JRA website for info.

If I do cut a sidewall or they ‘burp’ or puncture its going to be a bit messy and faffy to sort out on the trail

One of the useful things I’ve learn’t is that in the future I won’t fork out for a ust rim, if i bend the 819 I’ll replace it with a 719 and a cut up innertube. The UST rims are more expensive and more difficult for the wheel builder to make up due to the way the spokes work. Thats as long as the homemade approach works as well as it seems to be at the moment

Total cost of converting a non ust rim and suitable tyre

1 x Inner tube from wiggle £3.99 – any discount
1 x 100ml JRA Wheel milk £2.90

So about 5 quid a wheel. I’ve also brought this 1 x 500ml JRA Wheel milk £9.25 to get me going

Once again thanks to all those who have posted to the various threads along the way, much appriciated.

I hope you find this info useful


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