This is meant to be a long and informative post, the highlight of which is a recipe for tubeless tire sealant you can make yourself that is cheaper and much better performing than anything else out there. There is also a video showing a very cheap and effective way to tape spokes and seal rims.
I was a holdout for inner tubes and tire liners for a long time. Tubeless mountain bike tires have been around for awhile, but I was not all that attracted for 5 reasons. Those reasons have since been addressed as I will explain below.
By the way I could not imagine running tubes again anytime soon. I just keep them around for a back up in case of 1″ or larger cuts to the tire sidewalls and tread.
1. I have seen so many really nasty messy trail and road side failures with tubeless tires. These failures fall into two categories, burps and tire separations. Bicycle tires consist of tread, sidewalls, and beads. The beads are the hard, raised areas at the edges, these are captured by the hooked part of the rim and this is what holds bicycle tires onto the rims. This set up is known as a clincher. Burps and full tire separations are the common failures. What’s a burp? This is when the tire bead momentarily looses contact with the rim hooks, causing some air leakage. A big one means total loss of air. This usually happens at the worst possible time often with a spectacular wreck. A full separation is when one or both tire beads totally unhook from the rim causing the entire tire to come off. I have seen this happen to a rider traveling on asphalt, at speed, around a corner. It was ugly.
Reasons for the above failures: The most important feature of a tubeless tire is the beads. If they are too small, the wrong diameter, or the wrong shape, the tire will not stay mounted on the rim. The rim also needs to have the correct diameter where the tire bead sits inside the hooks. Some rims just won’t hold a tubeless tire well. There is now a standard for tubeless called UST. There are some rims out there that are not UST listed, but do have the right specs. The WTB laser disc trail is one such rim. This is what I run. So far I have also stuck with tires specifically labeled by the manufacture as tubeless compatible.
2. Early tubeless UST listed tires were heavy and very expensive.
Tubeless is now becoming more common that tubed tires. Also, you can now get compatible tires with UST beads but otherwise ordinary construction. A true full UST tire uses a butyl rubber liner like an inner tube and will hold air without sealant. Tubeless compatible means you need sealant to seal micro holes in the tire side walls and tread. The increased demand for tubeless has also caused the price to come down.
3. It’s really slow to swap out a tubeless tire.
I was very weary of this as I like to change tires for different conditions a lot. However, proper technique makes the process much cleaner and faster. After swapping a few tires you will get much better at it.
4. Some early sealants and tires didn’t play nice and resulted in the tire being broken down by the chemicals in the sealants.
Tire companies are hip to this now and homemade sealant has very low or no ammonia. WTB tires, which are some of my favorite, had this problem and they responded by making new tubeless compatible TCS tires. Like all tubeless compatible tires, these need sealant (see recipe at the bottom of this post).
5. Rim strips that leak, chunky rubber rim strips, and sealant drying out.
Commercially made kits from stans, DT swiss, Trek, WTB and dozens of others are really expensive, like 50 bucks expensive. I laugh at them with 10 dollar Lowes shopping sprees. Rim strips are the tape, corks, or rubber that seal off the spoke holes or protect an inner-tube from them. Check out the video below for instructions on how to seal a rim with inexpensive tape. I used the very same method with a few inexpensive substitutes from Lowes.
1″ wide gorilla tape in place of expensive caffe latex sealant
1/2″ wide strapping tape. – like packing tape but with fibers in it instead of the expensive stans tape that is exactly the same thing shown in the video below
3/8*3/16 foam weather stripping, same stuff in the video below
If you follow the recipe at the end your sealant does not dry out quickly, mine easily outlasted the tread of the tire.
Tested best recipe large batch 16oz parts because slime and latex mold builder come in 16oz sizes.
1 part Latex mold builder
1 part Slime tubeless
1 part cheap antifreeze (RV or other non-toxic glycol based solution, NOT- AMMONIA)
2 parts water
1 16 oz auto slime
1 16oz antifreeze (green, EG)
2 16oz water
1 16oz mold builder latex
New beta recipe no problems yet
3 16oz premixed RV antifreeze
1 16oz slime
1 16oz mold builder latex