Tubeless, it now seems is a big deal in the 700c world, there are a million threads and lots of advice. One of the big ones seems to be to buy the correct stuff. I have had a look and the Stan’s CX/Gravel kit comes in at £70. I am going to show you how to make that kit for £15.
So what did I use?
Tire wise, I decided to go with a tubeless compatible tire. Generally, as the bead of the tire is designed for tubeless use it will make this conversion easy.The bead has to properly grab onto the hook of your rim so as to keep the tire on and make sealing easy.
I knew I wanted an all-around file tread pattern for my tires, so I went for the Specialized Trigger Pro 2Bliss Ready. I am a sucker for a pun and I have to admit that I have always found Specialized tires to be pretty good, I know as a grumpy niche cyclist I am supposed to talk down on them but the tires work and that is all there is to it.
So basically I will be carrying this change out on the stock wheels of the Marin Nicasio SS. As you can imagine on a bike with a £500 RRP, they are nothing fancy, dependable would be the word I would use.
The first step is to remove the old tire, tube and rim tape from the wheel.
After you have removed the old rim tape, give the rim a good clean. Either soapy water, followed by a good dry or use some alcohol, also do this to your new tires. We need to make sure that there is nothing on the rim that can stop the tape gripping the rim, puncture the tape or allow air to escape.
As you can see in the photo above, the rim has a little channel, we want to use the insulation tape to fill the channel and make the surface of the rim all the same height. This will help the bead of the tire to grip the hook of the rim.
When putting the tape on I always start a little bit over from the valve hole, basically before the next spoke hole. It helps to have a way that you will always do this, it makes it easier to find where you may have gone wrong in the future. The inner width of my rim is 19mm and insulation tape also comes in 19mm, so that also helps when fitting the tape.
Now find the valve hole, ideally push a small Allen key through the hole so as to press against the tape. You do not want to push it through as this will lift the tape. You should be able to see a dot on the tape from the top. Take a Stanley knife and cut a little X into the tape.
You can now push your tubeless valve through.
Now you want to use the valve washer to secure the valve. As you can see the Specialized valves have a square piece of rubber at the end, tightening the washer too much will cause that to move off being straight and make it harder to fit the tire. The Specialized valves also came with flat washers, I ditched them and ran the washers that were on my old tubes. They have a little lip which fits into the hole in the rim.
The next bit is the fun bit. You have to fit the tire. A tubeless compatible tire, will not go on easy. This should help to reassure you that it will work. Do not use metal tire levers, no matter how tempting, you may damage your rim and no one wants a damaged rim. It will be good practice to learn how to do this using your hands, that can become a great skill to have out in the wilds.
Once the tire is on, make sure you tighten the valve washer. The tighter you can get this, the less likelihood there is of air escaping from this area.
When inflating your tire, take it to the max pressure, it may take a bit with a good quality pump or you could use one of those tubeless bottles. On this setup, I just used a pump as the fit was so tight. Your wheel may also pop and crack if it is new, this is just everything getting settled in, so do not worry.
Now, I have moved outside after inflating the tire. The reason being that I do not want to get sealant spilled inside the house.I have once before made a mistake doing this and the cleaning up is not fun.
There are two ways to get your sealant in. One is to let the pressure out and lift part of the tire off the rim and pour the sealant in. I do not particularly like this method, especially just given the big fight I had to put the tire on and now that it has bedded into the rim I am loathed to remove it.
I prefer to remove the valve core. It makes it all a lot easier. Plus if you use Stan’s 2-ounce bottle you just remove the top and fit it into the valve core. You can use a valve core removal tool to remove the core or a small adjustable spanner.
The best way to put the sealant in is to make sure you have the valve at the top of the wheel and put the bottle lid into it, then turn the wheel round and let the contents drain in. In the picture above I did not do that and you can see where I lost some of the sealant.
Now put the core back in and get pumping. Both my wheels stayed up straight away, this does not always happen and may require some swearing. But by using tubeless ready tires and making sure you create a level surface with the tape, you are making it easy for yourself.
Once you have inflated the tire, give the wheel a roll around to help move the sealant around. Then fix it back on the bike and have a short ride, this will help the sealant find its way into all the nooks and crannies.
You may also lose pressure slowly over the next night, few days. Do not despair and just pump your tires up. Generally, after a few days it should be stable, if not something has gone wrong somewhere. The easiest bet would be to add more sealant and see if that helps. If it does not, it is time to start again but if you take your time this should not happen.
A little note, if you want to use 90psi or other high pressures I would not use a non-tubeless ready rim. I also probably would not go tubeless at that kind of pressure anyway. I am running 48psi front and 50psi at the back.
Comfort not speed.