Lose the Tubes!

I’m a bit overdue on this, but I’ve finally gotten things together to write up a post on properly going tubeless on your CX bike!

After being totally sold on the performance and benefits of riding tubeless on my mountain bike, I decided to explore this venture on my cyclocross bike. Initially I just wanted to not worry about getting punctures while out training on clinchers and wasn’t too concerned about actual ride quality as I’ve already got a few different tubular set ups for race day. What I came to find out is that it works so successfully that I’ve opted for my tubeless wheels several times for racing.

So here we go, we’ll start off with the equipment you’ll need. The most essential part is finding a rim with that has an inner bead hook profile that will get you a secure grip on the tire bead.

If we look at this Stan’s rim you can see how tight the space is between the bead hook and the inner rim wall. This allows the tire bead to lock in there just so and doesn’t allow any room for the bead to slide around. This is CRUCIAL to prevent the dreaded tire burp.

Here we have what I would call a poor rim for tubeless conversion. As you can see, there is a huge amount of space between the bead hook and inner rim wall. We tried to build up the inner rim with several layers of Stan’s yellow tape, electrical tape, and  the Stan’s rubber conversion strip but there was still just too much room to create a tight hold on the bead. This rim resulted in countless tire burps. Not that it’s a bad rim, in fact this rim is on a fantastic wheelset, it just doesn’t have the right inner shape to accommodation tubeless conversion. 

After selecting a good rim you’ll need to get yourself a Stan’s tubeless conversion kit. Be sure that you get the kit that comes with the correct width conversion strips for the width of your rims. This is very important!

Now that we have all of the ingredients, it’s time to get to work. Step one is making the interior of the rim air tight. Here we use the Stan’s yellow tape. I typically like to run about two layers of this just to build up the inside and tighten up the wall/bead gap. 

Here we have the rim sealed up with the yellow tape smoothly adhered from side to side. Now, if you’re using a tubeless ready rim like the Stan’s Alpha 340, you can just poke a hole through the tape and insert the valve and skip the next step. In this case we’re using a Velocity A23 rim and it needs a Stan’s rubber conversion strip to properly tighten up the space between the bead hook and inner wall. Take note though, of how much smaller the gap in the rim is from the “bad rim” example above. This is what you want to look for in a successfully convertible rim.

The next step is to mount the rubber conversion strip. Here you can see it is properly installed, stretching from side to side. You can also see now how tight the gap is from the bead/inner wall. This is what we need to keep the tire in place!

Finally we’re ready to mount the tire and add the sealant. Leaving one of the beads off, pour in the sealant of your choice. I just use Stan’s or WTB TCS sealant. I don’t really measure exactly how much I put in, just eye ball it. I think I also tend to be a little more generous with the sealant than most.

Once you’ve got it in there you can mount the other side of the tire, get your air compressor and inflate that bad boy up. If it’s a real challenge to get it to start inflating, don’t worry, it’s normal. My biggest tip is to be absolutely sure the inner end of the valve isn’t blowing out to the the outside of the tire bead. Once you get the tire to inflate, make sure the bead is evenly set by examining the edge of the rim on either side. Now just shake the wheel to work the sealant all around the inside and you’re ready to go!

And here we have the finished product, out in the wild, puncture and burp free and pressure under 30psi.

If you have any questions feel free to ask me on here or come by my shop, Sports Basement Bryant st., in lovely San Francisco. 

Good luck and I hope this helps you get your tubeless set up going!