Tubeless is great for a variety of reasons, with the forerunner in my opinion being flat protection. For me, it’s not about weight or ride characteristics, it’s flat protection.
So 90% of my wheeled vehicles are set up as tubeless. However, one of my long term battles has been with my 36ers. They are without a doubt, the hardest wheels I have to set up tubeless. At one point I was able to set up a Nightrider tubeless using Stans tape, but it involved seating a bead using a tube, and a lot of BS for an unreliable setup were you to lose a bead out during a ride.
However, I have found a solution. I am writing this for myself, so that in the future when I’m about to destroy my coker, I can look back and remember what the hell I did. If it helps anyone else out, awesome. Tubes suck balls.
Get a 36er and remove the wheel.
Take your tire off of the wheel. This will only work on the Nightrider. Don’t even think about trying to get a Coker tire tubeless.
Get yourself a 29er tube with a Schrader valve that will fit your rim. I had to wrap mine in electrical tape because for some Godforsaken reason UDC sells the Titan with a valve hole that’s like twice the size of a regular bicycle Schrader valve.
Split the tube down the back with scissors or a razor blade. There’s a seam running down the back so it’s like cutting a long the dotted line in grade school.
Wipe the powder out and be careful not to track it everywhere.
Stretch the tube over the stock rim strip. This will take some muscle but it is important so get over it. Go around the split tube and center it over the rim, making sure you have an equal flap on each side (more or less).
Put your tire on like normal. It may require a bit more force than before but is doable without tire levers. Do not use tire levers with the split tube. It can split the tube where you DON’T want it split.
Remove the valve core and mentally prepare yourself for what’s about to happen. This is vital, I couldn’t get it to inflate with the valve core in.
Do NOT put sealant in yet. Do NOT put sealant in yet. Do NOT put sealant in yet.
Try and inflate the tire. I use a compressor and it aired up like it had a tube in it. I can’t guarantee anything with a hand pump. Inflate it until it feels fairly firm (about 25 or 30 psi) and then let the air out. At this point sealant should NOT be spraying everywhere, because you have NOT added it yet, right?
Break a bead or pour sealant in through your valve hole. I use 6 oz. because it tends to dry up quicker in the summer months and I like the sloshy sound it makes.
Put your bead back and go around the tire pulling on both sides of the split tube to make it tight to the bead of the tire. My theory is that it gives any bigger gaps between tire and rim a fighting chance to seal if you can close the gap a bit by pulling the tube tighter. When done, rotate the valve anywhere but 6 o’clock so you don’t shoot Stans out of the valve hole.
With the valve core STILL removed, inflate the tire. Once it takes air and get’s firm, hold a finger over the valve and quickly screw the valve core in.
I then inflate to the highest psi I feel comfortable with on a tubeless setup, that’s 40 pounds. This is to make sure the beads seat but don’t blow off.
Now do the Stans dance and shake your wheel all over. I hold the wheel at an angle and wiggle it back and forth while rotating it. Once one side is done, flip over and repeat. If you really want you can lay it flat on each side for half an hour, but I never have.
Let sit for a day. Get some sleep and pat yourself on the back, you’re almost done.
Next day: Is your tire still holding air? Yes? Congratulations! Now it’s time to circumcise the split tubes. Pull the tube away from the sidewall and take a razor blade and run it along the top of the rim. The tube will pull away leaving a nearly indiscernible strip of rubber between the tire and rim. Be careful, sometimes I get awful close to my tire with the razor and it freaks me out.
Check your pressure over the next few days and add as needed. Once you get a ride or two on the setup, it should stop seeping quite as fast and act more like a tubed setup.
Brag about how much weight you saved on your already ridiculously heavy wheel set.
Ride through fields of sticker weeds and laugh.
Like I said, this is more for my future reference, but feel free to borrow my process.
I’m new to unicycling, but I’ll comment on this as I run tubeless on most my bikes (with exception of the carbon wheels for the triathlon bike) and on my mountainboard. My big piece of advice I didn’t see, is: Mount the tire with a tube for at least a few days/ride. This helps it take what it’s final shape will be, without folds/creases from shipping, or any imperfections in shape, and have it be fully seated as it will be as a finished product. This may not be necessary in all cases, but I know it’s helped a ton when I’ve done it in the past and had trouble mounting new tires, especially those with certain beads. Soapy water can also be a help when seating things.
It’s a hotly-contested subject on these (and 2-wheeler) forums - those who successfully convert to it are madly in love with it, others see it as ‘too much effort’, not worth it, etc.
Benefits, if you manage to get it to work for you - less weight (while a skinny 24" tube doesn’t weigh much, a 36" one does!), less punctures (you put sealant in the tyre and it seals holes within reason), no pinch-flats (no tube to pinch!), less maintenance (all you have to do is occasionally top the sealant up, as it dries out after a few months), and (though this is subjective), a better-feeling tyre. Tubeless tyres flex better, and can be ran at lower pressures without feeling baggy and floppy.
HUGE downside - the initial setup is bloody difficult, and with tubeless, it either works perfectly or it doesn’t work at all, there’s no ‘ehh, it sort of works’. I’ve tried Killian’s method on my 36er and it was a total failure, but I’ve had partial success with the gorilla-tape and weather strip method - I may yet try it again, I just need a proper valve. The one I cut from the mutilated 29er tube from my first attempt was FAR too narrow and wiggled about a lot, causing sealant/air to squirt out of the gaps, and (as Killian noted), my rim’s valve hole is like 2x the size of a normal valve, so it was hard to find a washer to go on it so I could tighten the whole thing up.
I’m really fascinated by the tubeless thing, but I’ve never gotten it to work. I love the idea of never getting thorn-punctures again, and I REALLY love the idea of not having to spend up on expensive 36er tubes, and I REALLY REALLY love the idea of losing a serious amount of weight from the 36er. But I also really love the idea of not having to spend a week unable to ride, because my uni is sitting in the corner covered in sealant with a flat tyre while I wait for a delivery of things to try the next hair-brained method.
Piece Maker, from what I remember you were trying to do a TA right? Totally different beast, much like the Coker tires.
This tutorial is strictly for the Nightrider and maybe the Todd (thinner casings).
To say that it’s a hotly debated topic among bike riders (mtb anyway) is a bit of an over exaggeration in my opinion. Around here, it’s pretty much tubeless or nothing. With road biking, tubes are still dominant but tubeless is coming around.
There’s also a difference between cutting a valve out of a tube and sticking it down with tape, and using a split tube. If you cut the valve out, you are going to have make a complete round of tape around the rim over top of the valve, and then make a small hole for the air to get in. If you are just trying to stick it on with a 6" piece of tape, good luck.
I would also say that setup isn’t a HUGE downside because on most wheels it’s not difficult at all. 36ers are anomalies that are abnormally obnoxious. My other smaller wheels have all setup in a cinch using split tube. (Stans tape is a different story).
Brad, I would say that if at all possible, tubeless is the way to go. Flat protection is in my opinion the biggest benefit. I’ve never pinch flatted a tube and my tubeless setups aren’t necessarily lighter and I can’t say I feel a difference in how the tire rolls.
As a guy who has been on both sides of this debate and experienced the frustration of a difficult setup, I can say that it is worth it if you can get a reliable method.
I ride tubeless mostly for the lower PSI option (to avoid snake-bite punctures) and because of the goatheads/puncture vines around here, meaning I can go through a ton of tubes sometimes. The nicest part of tubeless is it’s easy to throw a tube in to go back (like for a midride flat when you let sealant dry out over months).
Weight is pretty much a wash or heavier if you use sealant, in my experience.
Tape method or split tube method comes down to rim shape a lot for which will work (if not using a Stans rim/UST rim). It can be a pain for initial setup, but once you get it set for the rim, it stays working (again in my experience). As a fat guy, low psi and rough terrain was a recipe for disaster before tubeless for me.
I tried Killian’s method a few years ago. It worked for about 2 days. I had an interesting blowout right in front of my house. Had sealant and glitter everywhere. I think I posted about it. My Nightrider tire was probably to blame. It was looser than it should be. I had 6 blowouts on it before I realized the reason. When I built my geared 36er the only 36er rims available were the ones with the lightening holes. I was pumping my tire up to 50 pounds. Luckily the blowouts happened when I wasn’t riding. The rimstrip wasn’t strong enough to keep the tube from poking through. I used John Foss’s trick of using mini blind slats for a rim strip. Haven’t had any issues since. I might try the tubless thing again this summer. I had to change out my Nightrider tire last year. The bead was shot. I have a Coker ribbed road tire on it now. I have had the same 29er tube installed for the past 3 years. The Coker tire is so thick I don’t think very much will penatrate it. It sucks off road though. I don’t trust the geared hub off road anyway. I have already broke a flange during a bad shift on the road. I pump the Coker tire up to about 50 pounds. It has been like that since it was installed last year. I think the tubless might work on it. I don’t have much time in the near future though. It will pobably be in the summer.
I’ve read before that you live in a place where flats are basically guaranteed if you go MTB/MUni - I don’t fortunately, and so round here tubeless is a bit more optional. It seems like those who do it love it, and those who don’t, hate it still, which is probably as unfair as it sounds!
Yepp, that’s probably where I went wrong to be fair. I taped round my rim, put a layer of the foam strip over that, then poked my valve through. I tried taping the valve down, but by then there was already so much stuff packing the rim in that another layer of tape probably would’ve made the rim bed come over the top of the bead. Like I said, I will be attempting this again when I can be bothered!
Yeah, its probably not difficult - my point was more about perceived difficulty. Admittedly my only experience was with a 36er, and a tyre that is apparently not great for this to begin with, so obviously I’m biased, but there are plenty of people who have never even tried it on wheels/tyres that ‘just work’, and would still say its ‘too much effort’.
All in all, I’m pretty much on your side, tubeless is most probably the thing that’ll finally break us up from the torment of inner tubes (things like solid/foam-filled tyres don’t seem to be working out too well… Wonder why…), and I think I speak for most cyclists when I say that day can’t come sooner. I’ve still got plenty of gorilla tape/weather stripping left, so I might try your idea of taping the valve down with a full rim-worth. The tyre isn’t the problem for me, I had zero issues getting it to mount with the weather-strip, even without a compressor - the problem was purely the valve slowly leaking air around it because it wiggled about.
I hope one day that all tyres/rims will be (insert whatever tubeless standard is the best) at some point. Be even cooler if the rims come with a valve stuck in them!
Sorry for turning this into a tubeless discussion thread - I think it’s an interesting subject!