A few months ago, I reviewed the Shand Stoater bike that I’d bought as a problem-free commuter bike / tourer / winter bike – it’s equipped with a Rohloff hub gear and a Gates carbondrive belt rather than derailleur gears and a chain. Since then, I’ve used the bike a couple of times a week as a commuter (the rest of the rides to work are on a tandem), and out twice a weekend for club runs and the like. In that time, the only mechanical problem I’ve had has been a repeated puncture caused by a tiny black thorn in the rear tyre – so small and black my ageing eyes couldn’t spot it. Other than that, it’s been great fun to ride – and even dealing with a rear wheel puncture has been a lot less messy than with a chain.
Since one aim for this bike was to be as maintenance-free as possible, I then started thinking about setting it up with tubeless tyres. Now, I don’t usually buy in to the hype around new bike innovations, but one does hear quite a bit of good press around how tubeless tyres with sealant are resistant to minor punctures, which afterall all the majority of punctures I get. Whether a tubeless tyre with sealant has significantly better rolling resistance than conventional tubed tyres seems moot.
Accordingly, I obtained some requisites:
- Three bottles of Schwalbe Doc Blue tubeless sealant (one as spare)
- One 10m roll of Schwalbe tubeless rim tape – I guessed 21mm width would be fine
- A pack of two Effetto Mariposa tubeless Presta valves – these look pretty smart with their red anodised alloy dust caps.
I selected the Schwalbe sealant and rim tape partly because they were available from the squiggly web retailer, and partly because I was using Schwalbe tyres.
I knew the Hope 25Ten rims were tubeless ready, and I thought the Schwalbe G-one tyres I had were similarly tubeless ready. Unfortunately, the range descriptions are a bit confusing (to me at least), and before I set about re-installing them without tubes, I realised they weren’t actually suitable for tubeless use (these were the RaceGuard version). I then obtained a pair of G-one tyres that were explicitly marked as Tubeless-Easy (described as Schwalbe G-One Allround Tubeless Easy HS473 Folding Tyre 622-35). These seemed hard to find online, but I got a pair on next day delivery from SJSC,
This was to be the first time I’d tried tubeless tyres (to be fair, I don’t generally suffer too badly from punctures – at least with sensible tyre choice) and I’d browsed a few websites to see how to set this up. The only major point of variation seemed to be how to get the sealent in.
I began by cleaned up the internal face of the front wheel’s rim and installed the rim tape. Not a tricky task. The valve fitted pretty easily through the rim tape and was fixed by tightening the nut to firm finger tightness.
The tyre wasn’t as hard to mount as I had expected – the Schwalbe instructions indicated using some kind of mounting fluid, but I didn’t have any to hand. I had anticipated a bit of hassle pumping the tyre up, but a regular track pump worked fine – the tyre made an alarming series of loud cracks and pops as it seated into the rim, and I’m glad I knew that would happen! After checking the tyre was seated properly, I deflated it to get the sealant in.
It appeared from instructions on various websites that you either remove the valve core and squirt the sealant in through the valve into the mounted tyre, or you unseat part of the tyre bead and pour it in before re-seating the tyre. The latter seemed likely to create some mess, and anyway, the Schwalbe sealant came in bottles designed to squirt through the valve. Plus, having got the tyre seated properly, I wasn’t keen to go through that vigorous pumping again with the likelihood of sealant leaking out. The sealant comes with a tool to remove valve core. Getting the sealant in was pretty much mess-free. Once the valve core was back in place, pumping the tyre is quick and easy since the tyre is well seated to the rim.
You’d have thought the rear tyre would have been just as easy. No. I had real difficulties getting it to inflate and seat onto the rim. Eventually, it dawned on me that the problem lay with the dodgy pump chuck which wasn’t making an air tight seal. Once I exchanged pump chucks, things went exactly as they had done for the front wheel.
So, up and away for some road-testing…
And after 40.5 miles, everything went well. The rear tyre lost a little air at first – I’m led to believe from my reading that this is to be expected for the first few hours after fitting. But all is so far good.
Next week sees the return to time trialling for 2019, either the regular season opener in Wales (a 25 mile 2-up), or my club’s opening event in the TT league. The uncertainty relates to whether I can actually get to Wales.