I have seen a lot of tubeless setups with all kinds of different ideas behind it. Rim choice, tire options, valves, fluid, tapes, amounts of fluid to use and air pressures. When the setup is wrong it can be one of the most frustrating experiences you can possibly imagine. Tires that won’t get on the rim and most infuriating is a tire that blows off the rim exploding fluid all over yourself, the room and if you’re real lucky, in your eyes.
Below is what I am running on my mountain bike which took me less than half an hour to set up both wheels tubeless this afternoon. Shop price on this work is between $40-$50 for labor and around $20 dollars for two valves.
What you will need to get started:
- A pump for easy tires. (possibly an air compressor at a gas station, or a Co2 canister)
- Your preferred choice of sealant, I like Stan’s and Orange Seal
- Tubeless Valves, I have Stan’s on my mountain and Shimano on my road
- Tire levers to get your tire off your rim
- Some way of measuring how much sealant you are putting in the tire
- Pliers, can make it easier if you need to remove a valve core or tighten/loosen a valve.
- Tubeless ready tires and rim
- Rim tape, Stan’s works very well. It can get damaged with tire levers if you are not careful.
- A nice cold beer
There are many different opinions and ways of setting up tubeless. I like to use products that are made to be tubeless instead of the ghetto idea that maybe it will work and I’ll constantly be messing with it on the trail. I’ve seen gorilla tape work really well for tubeless tape setup, but it is porous and most likely has to be changed more often.
First, remove your tire off your rim. I try to always start by using plastic tire levers. They are super cheap and can break easy, but they will not scar up and gouge your rim. If your tire is super hard to get off and plastic levers are breaking you may have to invest in metal tire levers that are about $25.
After the tire and tube is off the rim install preferred rim tape and tubeless valve. Using a truing wheel makes this really easy applying the tape. I like to clean the rim with alcohol and clean rag before applying the tape. Let the alcohol dry for a couple minutes before applying the tape and make sure it is straight. There shouldn’t be any part of the rim showing except the 90 degree curve of the rim upwards. This tape is the barrier to cover all of the nipple holes in your rim. Take your time and make sure its perfect. I’ve also used a heat gun from a few feet away to give it a little extra stick to the rim. Make sure the lock nut on the valve is tight, but not so tight you couldn’t remove it on the trail.
Most tires have a direction arrow indicating which way the tire should be put on the rim. It’s the worst when you finish putting your wheel on the bike and realize the tire is on backwards. Take your time and figure it out.
Once you’re sure the rim tape is perfect and the valve is installed, it’s time to install the tire. The arrow on the sidewall of the tire should be point the way the wheel will spin. With an easy tire that goes on and off the rim without much fuss this is the easiest way to add sealant. I like to put half of the tire on the rim and then leave the other half off. Shake up your sealant well and add it to the tire. I used 2oz for a 29×2.35 and 29.2.25 tire. Some people may add more, but that is a good start. Then put the rest of your tire on and pump it up. Make sure it is seating correctly and don’t exceed 40psi or the risk for a blow off could happen.
Remember the idea of the sealant is to slosh around in the tire helping to seal the bead on the rim. The tire and rim contact point is what is keeping the tire on the rim, not the liquid. The sealant helps to make that seal from leaking air or aids against flats. If a thorn goes through your tire the sealant will help make an air seal. Large objects like nails or glass may be too big of a hole for a seal alone and will need a tubeless tire plug or patch from the inside of the tire.
Personally, I am more concerned of the added weight of adding another 1-2oz of liquid in my wheels and that is why I use 2oz. If I am loosing a lot of air I can add a splash more. If you are prone to riding over a lot of thorns giving you flats maybe add another ounce of sealant. On my road bike I put about 3oz in each wheel because of the higher air pressures and most of the flats are from small objects like household tacks. The sealant sprays out pretty intense at 100psi on a 700x25mm tire versus a 29.2.25 with 30psi.
On a new tubeless setup you must check your air pressure for a few days. The air will slowly seep out a few psi everyday and could be very low when you get ready to ride. After awhile the liquid will seal right up and you won’t loose as much air.
In the end it is a good idea to always ride with a spare tube, pump/co2, tire lever and multi tool. Out in the woods or on a long road ride it isn’t the best to rely solely on tubeless sealant to get you out of any situation.
Here’s a pretty good video from Stan’s about the myths and misconceptions regarding tubeless: