Replenishing Stan’s NoTubes tire sealant on a fat tire trike

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!

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About trike hobo

Steve Greene is a naturalist, philosopher, and teller of tales. He pursues absolute truth in all things, modifying his existence as supported by legitimate evidence. His ideological foundation rests on the respect of life, as he follows a path of health, serenity, and maximum functional longevity. He has authored eleven books, and is a noted authority on Death Valley National Park, human powered recumbent cycle touring, fitness and longevity, and professional law enforcement. Steve has not owned a petroleum powered automobile since 2008, as part of his environmental preservation paradigm. He eats an organic vegan diet, exercises regularly, and enjoys exploring the wilderness. Harmony with nature tops his priorities. To learn more about Steve, please visit: http://wildsteve.wordpress.com
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5 Responses to Replenishing Stan’s NoTubes tire sealant on a fat tire trike

  1. Gene Garrison says:

    Steve… So in 12 months you will need to re-treat your tires with sealant. I’m assuming that the old fluid will need to be removed. How will you go about doing that? Will you need to remove your tires and clean everything out? It looks like it could be a very messy and time-consuming project.

  2. trike hobo says:

    Stan’s recommends 3 to 7 months for the replenishing, depending on the environment (hot arid regions apparently cause the sealant to evaporate quicker, thus the time span in their recommendation). I live in a cool humid area, so it apparently lasts longer, evaporating slower. I had gone about 15 months since Matt and I originally did this conversion, but I was still not getting any flats even on thorny trails, which leads me to understand that this cool humid air is a big plus. This has led me to try the 12 month interval for replenishment.

    I am still new at this, so I will attempt to answer your question based on what I know today, which is limited from a personal experience standpoint. This liquid tire sealant is watery, not thick in the slightest, which leads to evaporation over time, just like water. The more frequently you pump air into the tires, especially in hot arid areas, the quicker this evaporation occurs (that’s my theory currently). When I pump air into the fat tires, the humidity of the air is usually 90 or higher, which is a good thing, as water vapor (humidity) keeps the whole interior wetter, thus less evaporation. I have read that some riders who have removed their tires during the replenishment maintenance have found what is known commonly as “boogers” (street jargon) – these are small clumps of the sealant that have congealed over time in hotter drier environments as the sealant evaporates. I suspect that this is more a factor of evaporation duration (quicker evaporation because of hot arid climate), and that in wetter habitats this has less, to no, chance of occurring (still my theory at this time).

    I did not remove the tires, as I could not hear any “boogers” moving around inside the tires when I spun them in the garage. If they are in there, they will be heard if a tire is rotated by hand in a quiet garage. I heard no sounds, so I figured why worry about it. So, I took the easy way out, and, if this proves successful, I see no reason so far not to continue with this method annually, until something indicates to me that it would be a good idea to break the bead to have a look inside. It is my suspicion at this time that due to the cool damp environment where I live, the evaporation occurs so slowly that the sealant does not congeal into clumps, thus cleaning out the insides of the tires is not necessary. Even if “boogers” did form, they won’t hurt anything in there, and would not have any detrimental effect other than perhaps adding a micro-amount of spinning weight.

    In conclusion, I am learning this as I go, based on what others have told me, and now most importantly, based on my own first-hand experience. If someone breaks the bead to look inside, or removes the tire entirely, then yes, it will require more time and work to reseat the bead or remount the tire. I just don’t see the need thus far, and rides since this replenishment job are smooth as silk with no indication that what I did is not effective. I will stick to this paradigm until, or if, it proves to not work efficiently for me. So far, so good! Yee haa … time to continue riding flat-free!

  3. armadillozack says:

    Great idea….! Thanks for bringing this product to our attention Hobo…!
    Armadillo Zack

  4. Bob Clark says:

    So, Steve, would this product be suitible for use in Schwalbe Marathon Plus 47 x 406 tires with Schrader valves? I do live in a freezing/ sweltering climate.

  5. trike hobo says:

    Howdy Bob,

    Well, there are several aspects of this that must be addressed. I am using this sealant in tires that I converted to tubeless. There are riders who also use this sealant in their inner tubes. I have heard positive results both ways, however tubeless has definite advantages. Another thing to consider is that until recently, Schwalbe was still embracing tube tires – I say “until recently” only because Schwalbe has a statement on their website stating something to the effect of: At Schwalbe, we believe tubeless tires are the future. Does this mean that they are going to begin production of tubeless-compatible tires? I find it interesting that the company is talking about the “future” being tubeless, because the tubeless paradigm has been around for many years in most vehicles, and even human-powered cyclists have been using it for a long time. Why the future? Why not “now” Schwalbe? (have to sell off all those old tires that are not tubeless compatible, perhaps?)

    Anyway Bob, regarding your Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, sure, Stan’s sealant will work in the tubes of those tires, but do you believe you need it? I ran the Marathon Plus for more than six years with never a single flat in thousands of miles, and that includes hundreds of goatheads and numerous things like wire penetrating the tread area. The Plus tires are the best tube tires out there. I do not know for certain (you’d have to contact Schwalbe), but I do not believe the Marathon Plus tires, or any of their long-standing tires for that matter, are tubeless-compatible, thus tubes must still be used. Again, I may not be privy to some recent tubeless development there at the company, so don’t rely on this as factual until you ask them. If the company now produces Marathon Plus tires as tubeless-compatible, then I’d jump on that real fast! The bottom line with Marathon Plus tires with tubes is that they rarely, if ever, go flat, except by some catastrophic sidewall damage, or a two-inch screw in the road. If they were tubeless however, and using Stan’s NoTubes sealant, even that two-inch screw would not do them in. If the diameter of the screw is super large, then simply placing one of those tubeless plugs (like used on car tires) in the hole, and then spinning the tire will distribute the sealant in the patched hole, and you’d be good to go again.

    I never used Stan’s NoTubes sealant in my Marathon Plus inner tubes – never found a need to because I never had a flat, even riding at speed in deplorable road shoulder conditions. The more you have to fill air into a tire, the faster the sealant congeals over time, and if it’s hot air, the congealing occurs quicker. High pressure tires lose air fairly fast over the course of days because of the extreme PSI, thus must be topped off more frequently. With these fat tires I use now, it takes five months for the pressure to go from 15 PSI to 6 PSI, so my sealant lasts a long time between replenishment duties.

    steve

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