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Tubeless Misadventures – American Classic and Hutchinson Intensive Variety

Posted: December 25th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: bicycles | No Comments »

I have had a few goes at running tubeless on my mountain bike, trying both the 26 inch and 29 inch variants of Stan’s rims. It never really worked for me – just never held air well. At best the tires would hold air for two days.  Worse, they were a bear to install and the Stan’s sealant is messy messy. So, after a few fee weeks of shaking the tires to try to get appropriate sealant coverage, I went back to using tubes. It was all kind of a bummer because the rooty and rocky riding around me is best with the added traction and low tire pressures (~18-20 psi) that tubeless allows. However, given the nightmare of getting the tire on the tubeless rim, all I could think about was the mess and hassle of dealing with a flat on the trail, whether from a sidewall tear or “burping”. So, I have stayed with tubes off road.

Recently while at IFixByx – a local shop – I saw the new American Classic road tubeless wheels and was curious. Despite a reputation for being a little fragile, I have had good luck with American Classic wheels on my mountain bike, and so I figured I’d try their road offering out. The wheelset is light – around 1200 or so grams and has all the appropriately garish styling that you expect – nay demand – from road kit. My thinking is that even if tubeless doesn’t work out, the wheels should be fine with tubes.

I went with the Intensive 25c tires from Hutchinson. These tires garner mixed reviews. The low tpi is said to result in a relatively harsh ride and the tire is said to be a 23c tire labelled as a 25c. Still for a racing/training tire, the Intensive seemed to be the best current offering.

Before tackling installing the tires, I had to swap the cassette body, replacing the Shimano standard for one that will work with Campagnolo. That process was relatively straightforward, the only twist being that the 17mm axle requires the use of 19mm wrenches on the nuts that secure the cassette body. No local shops had 19mm cone wrenches for sale, so the project was delayed a week while I waited for the wrenches I ordered to arrive.

Finally I was ready for the tires. I decided to install them without sealant with the intent of adding sealant after the beads were seated. Even without sealant, it is a messy process as the entire product needs to be lubricated with soapy water. So, standing in the bathtub I wrestled with the tires for nearly an hour, finally getting both the front and rear on. The trick for me is to “roll” the tires on, pulling the last stubborn section of tire around the rim with the palms and coaxing the bead in with my thumbs. Even with these tricks, I new my hands and thumbs would be hurting the next day and they are.

After installing I wiggled the tire back and forth in an effort to get the bead either seated or ready to be seated. Then I commenced 30 fruitless minutes of trying to inflate the tires with my Joe Blow pump. The front wouldn’t hold air at all – the air whistle out all around the bead. The rear would pump up to around 80 psi but the air would seep out in 15-20 secs. The next step will be taking the wheels to a local bike shop and blasting the tires with 110-140 psi to get a better bead seal.  After that the plan is to deflate, pour around an oz of Stan’s sealant into the valve cores and keep my fingers crossed.

So, can’t say that I am in love with road tubeless yet, but in fairness I haven’t had a chance to ride them yet. I have probably spent more time dicking around with trying to get them inflated and installed than I have cumulatively on flats this year, so there’s that. I will withhold final judgement till I get them road ready.

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