Once upon a time, I learned a hard lesson about not depending on a trike manufacturer to get all aspects of design squared away prior to sending me a recumbent tricycle. My brand new extreme terrain, off-road, backcountry buggy visually demanded respect as one awesome looking machine for serious outback explorers. But it had a quiet, yet serious, flaw awaiting just the right terrain and environment before it would manifest itself to me.
Riding across the desert, my rear tire quickly went flat. I put in a new tube. The next day, all three tires went flat within an hour or so. I was kicking myself for deciding not to listen to my cycling buddy Matt Jensen when he had originally told me that riding this new trike across the desert with inner tubes in the tires was a BIG mistake. He was adamant about the declaration, and just shook his head when I informed him that I wanted to try it anyway, thinking that these new Schwalbe Jumbo Jim tires would get the job done. They didn’t! After four flat tires in less than 24 hours, it was very clear to my primitive human thinking center that, once again, my buddy Matt was right all along. He warned it was crazy to attempt desert travel on anything less than tubeless tires, and he was absolutely correct. Even Tim, the local bike shop owner here in town, had concurred that tube tires had NO place once out beyond where the pavement ends. Below is the result of not listening to highly experienced cyclists ahead of time (live and learn):
I was dead in the water. I had only three spare tubes in my trail kit, but had four flats! Bummer!
All this was dutifully assigned to the trash can, having learned my lesson the hard way. The three tires and liners were so full of dozens of sharp nasty thorns that it wasn’t even worth my time to try and pick them all out. The tires were not tubeless compatible anyway, so they could not have been converted. The tubes were not repairable at all, a total loss. By the way, if for some reason you wish to read lots more of my sorry tale of wayward woe, click HERE for all the juicy details.
So anyway, all this lead-in is to prepare you for the real topic of this post, and that is a little duty that I must perform every 12 months or so, having long since converted over to tubeless tires. I no longer have flats, just like Matt and Tim said would be the case with tubeless … assuming a good tire sealant was injected inside, of course. I converted over to the “split-tube” method of tubeless, also known more commonly among the masses as ghetto tubeless. The name ghetto at first made me think it was somehow inferior to the other tubeless paradigm, but I have since learned that the split-tube method is preferred, at least for me. It works, and it works very well.
Matt Jensen is in the process of converting my inner tube tires into split-tube tubeless tires. it may at first appear as a daunting conversion, but it was so very well worth the time spent. Flatless!
This product is the magic bullet, but requires periodic replenishment. It’s a very easy job to do!
The Stan’s NoTubes company says that this liquid will have to be replenished every 2-7 months, depending upon one’s environment. Folks living and riding in an arid and hot region will need to perform the job more frequently than those living, as I do, in a very moist and cool region. I have been riding on the initial conversion sealant for 15 months without a flat, but that is probably not advised. I am going to aim for once per year, every 12 months, unless experience reprimands me.
Basically, I remove the Presta valve cores from the tires, which then go flat. I place the valves in the eight o’clock position, slide on the injector connector hose, suck up some sealant, place the syringe into the connector hose, and inject the watery white liquid. Here are some photographs:
Getting ready, I place thick cardboard on the floor in case any sealant drips while injecting it.
I have an old plastic measuring cup, with the 8 ounce level marked with arrows. For these super huge tires, Stan’s recommends between 6-8 ounces. Note my digital tire pressure gauge on the right, which provides precise measurement for these super low pressure fat tires (maximum air pressure is 20 PSI, although I was riding them at 6 PSI with no tire deformation noticeable).
The Park Tool VC-1 is necessary to remove the Presta valve cores, which then allows the liquid sealant to be injected. A little tip I learned: when removing the core, keep it in the VC-1 tool until it is completely free of the valve stem! On the first tire, I used my fingers to turn it out the final few threads, and even though the tires were at 6 PSI, that core shot across the garage like a bullet.
I am about to remove the Presta valve core using the Park Tool VC-1. Unlike plastic valve core remover tools, the Park Tool does not crack or break under pressure because it is metal.
The flexible plastic injection connecting tube is in the foreground. The black area at the end threads onto the Presta valve once the core is removed, allowing the liquid from the syringe injector to flow effortlessly into the tubeless tire.
I am removing the core, using the tool so the core doesn’t launch across the garage from the air pressure that escapes as it is pulled out! Notice the small O-ring under the tightening nut where the valve stem enters the rim – I am trying this to see if it prevents the nut from loosening up, as it was doing all the time when it was tightened against the metal rim (even when I used pliers to snug it up). I have heard that this method is effective for this little problem.
With the core out of the valve, the tire goes flat quickly, but the bead stays seated, which means that pumping these monstrous tires back up is a snap with a regular floor pump.
I pour 8 ounces of Stan’s NoTubes sealant into my old plastic measuring cup. It took 24 ounces to do all three tires because I used 8 ounces per tire. You can use less liquid if you prefer.
I place the connector hose onto the valve stem, ready to accept the injector once I fill it.
With the injector connector hose attached and ready, I now fill the injector syringe with 2 ounces of sealant. Since the syringe only holds two ounces, I must do this four times for each tire.
After attaching the injector to the connector hose, I begin injecting the tire sealant. The connector hose remains threaded on the valve stem until I am finished with this tire. I have paper towels handy to catch any stray sealant drips that occur when removing the syringe each time.
With the 8 ounces of sealant now inside, I reinstall the valve core, and then begin pumping up the tire, which remained seated on the bead during the entire time. The reason the valve is placed at the eight o’clock position is because if it had been at the bottom where the tire is flat, you can see that the sealant would have nowhere to go. A cup of liquid needs room to run down and pool once inside the tire, thus this position. If I had placed it at nine o’clock or higher, the liquid would not have gone inside. So, remember eight o’clock and you’re all set to go!
When the 15 PSI mark is reached, my job is finished with this tire. This is the electronic read-out on my aging, but still functional, Topeak Twister tire floor pump. A special high-volume air pump is not necessary as long as you do not break the bead seat.
All three tires are complete after about 30 minutes of leisurely effort on a warm spring day. Oh, after I finished each tire, I gave it a good spin to distribute the sealant inside. Then, once all three tires were complete, I took the trike for a ride around the neighborhood to assure the sealant was well distributed on all inner tire surfaces. That’s all there is to it, easy even for a beginner like me!
By the way, clean-up is a snap! Simply take the injector syringe, connector hose, and measuring cup out to the outdoor facet and rinse them clean. The sealant is as watery as water, so it is gone in nothing flat. Pull the syringe plunger out to wash the inside of the syringe. Once all cleaned, set the items in the sun to dry while you are out pedaling around the neighborhood distributing the sealant on the insides of the tires. For me, this simple job is well worth the small effort involved because flat tires are a thing of the past, even if you ride through hundreds of blackberry thorns, goatheads, nails, screws, thumb tacks, or whatever else is out there waiting to ruin your day!
GRAPHIC DEMONSTRATION OF WHY I CHOSE TO GO TUBELESS:
Even Schwalbe Marathon PLUS tires will not reach this level of flat protection! They only have the extra protection in the tread area. Using the tubeless tire with Stan’s NoTubes sealant protects even against sidewall punctures, something the Marathon PLUS tire cannot accomplish. Awesome!