Road tubeless tyres: my first experience of fitting them

by Dave Atkinson   June 12, 2009  

Hutchinson tubless road kit

Hutchison very kindly sent us a set of their Fusion 2 tubeless tyres, complete with all the gubbins that you need to convert your wheels and get rolling without your inner tubes: special rim tape, valves and latex sealant. So yours truly was chosen as the guinea pig, and I set to work attempting to fit them.

First port of call was the NoTubes website, which has a handy video showing the installation process, a few simple steps using tools you'll most likely have in the shed. What could possibly go wrong?

I picked a set of Shimano's excellent RS80s to take the tyres and stripped out the rim tape. The sealing tape goes in pretty easily, especially since the rim bed of the RS80s is fairly wide. You have to pull the tape pretty tight which stretches it out a bit and helps to seal the spoke holes. Two wraps later and they're ready, fitting the valve is just a case of poking through the tape and screwing it into place. Fitting the tyre is easy too; the vid suggested tyre levers might be necessary but I managed to prise them on without.

Next up it's a good soaping around the rim and the bead, which both serves to make sure they're nicely sealed and also shows very graphically any places they're not. This is the point at which the harsh reality of doing this job with your own thumbs in your back yard takes a sharp deviation away from the happy land of the NoTubes workshop.

On the video we see a jolly mechanic pumping the tyres up nice and hard with his trusty track pump, and maybe if you've got a well-behaved rim (some are better than others by all accounts) and some fresh tyres hot from the factory, that haven't been folded into a display case and freighted half way across the world, then hey: maybe.

Mine wouldn't go up. Not with a track pump, no matter how hard I pumped or how much I worked on the leaks. Every time the air went in it came out again, and the bubbles were pretty but pretty frustrating. The air flow just wasn't enough to push the tyre onto the rim, something more was needed. And that something in my case was a CO2 inflator: just a quick burst was enough to pop the tyre out and create a seal.

It's important to hang the wheel when you're inflating it (I hooked it over the workstand) so that there's no leaks where the tyre's sitting on the floor. Without an inflator I would have been stuck, and reading around the forums it seems I'm not alone. If you're going to go for tubeless, budget for an inflator on top of the system itself, if you don't already have one. One cartridge per tyre is enough to get the job done.

Once you know the tyre will go up it's time to deflate, remove the valve core and pour in the latex sealant, which is a bit messy if you're not careful (I'm not) but fairly straightforward. Then it's another quick blast from the CO2 to fill the tyre: I had a couple of minor leaks the second time but swishing the latex around inside the tyre sealed them off pretty quickly. I finished them off with the track pump and now they're ready to go. I left them overnight convinced they'd go down but nope, it seems I might have made them stick.

So with a few tools that you'll certainly have, and one that you might have to get just for the job, going tubeless is a reasonably straightforward job. But is it worth the cost and the effort to install them? The main claimed benefits are that the rolling resistance is reduced (no tube to deform), pinch flats are a thing of the past so you can run a lower pressures (good for town riding) and punctures from intrusions get sealed by the latex. We'll test all that as best we can. As to how they ride, well... that's a question yet to answer. As soon as we've put some miles in and tried our hardest to puncture them, we'll let you know our findings.

13 user comments

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I guess that if you had tubeless compatible rims, then you wouldn't need to resort to a gas cylinder to inflate them?

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1367 posts]
15th June 2009 - 9:47

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to be honest i doubt it'd make much difference. the main problem was not the shape of the rim but the shape of the tyre: because it's been folded into its display card there's kinks in the bead, and it's those spots where the air escapes. The gas inflates the tyre quickly enough to push it against the rim and seal the holes, something i couldn't manage with a track pump.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7468 posts]
15th June 2009 - 10:33

1 Like

how much does all this kit cost?. and what if you do get a puncture, would it be possible to pull out the valve and stick in an inner tube?

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1083 posts]
15th June 2009 - 12:50

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...and is there any significant weight saving set against a similar inner tube/tyre set up?

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1083 posts]
15th June 2009 - 12:52

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the kit purportedly retails for £215 but that's a nonsense: the tubeless fusion 2s are available for about £30 each, a pint of sealant costs a tenner, the valve stems can be had for a fiver each and the rim tape for the same. so total outlay is about £85 if you get all the bits separately. plus a tenner for a CO2 inflator if you don't have one.

if you get a puncture that flats the tyre then yes, you can just pull out the valve stem and fit a tube, so no problems there.

weight: not very different to a standard tyre and tube. the tyre itself is a bit bulked up from the standard version and weights in at 290g, plus there's a few grams of sealant in there. to be honest weight isn't one of the claimed benefits, it's more to do with puncture resistance and ride quality.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7468 posts]
15th June 2009 - 13:23

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thanks for that, shall be interested to see what you think of the ride quality.

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1083 posts]
15th June 2009 - 13:40

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be aware that using the icy blast of a CO2 canister to re-inflate the tyre after you've put the latex in can freeze the sealant and render it useless

having marveled at the ride quality of both tubeless MTB and 'cross tyres i'd too am keen to hear feedback on these

posted by VecchioJo [765 posts]
15th June 2009 - 16:22

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does the latex not just thaw out again then? I guess if you rotate the tyre so the valve's at the top it won't be a problem as all the latex'll sink to the bottom and the air will have warmed up a bit by the time it gets down there.

purplecup's picture

posted by purplecup [232 posts]
16th June 2009 - 11:17

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@dave - did you ever try running the tubeless tyres without the latex/slime stuff inside?

(just occured to me that maybe you dont need to if the tyres are well puncture protected..)

ta.

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1083 posts]
17th January 2011 - 14:36

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I didn't. while it's not technically necessary to have the latex if you're careful during fitting, it does help to seal any leaks between the rim and the bead. you could perhaps use a lot less than the recommended amount, just enough to do that job

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7468 posts]
17th January 2011 - 15:03

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ta, i spose theres no real advantage to it either except you wont get covered in gloop whilst sticking in an inner tube in the event of a puncture..

may well give it a go if they ever make 28mm tubeless tyres

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1083 posts]
17th January 2011 - 15:57

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How did the tyres work out in the long term? Did they provide a convincing reason to stay with tubeless, or are you back with tubes and likely to stay on them?

simonmb's picture

posted by simonmb [360 posts]
17th January 2011 - 18:13

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in terms of ride feel they're really good, they punch well above their weight in that regard. but it's a lot of work to fit them and they're no lighter than tyres and tubes. not that long after i'd fitted them i hit a piece of metal and gashed the rear tyre, it was unusable after that. so the tubes went back in at that point, and they've been in ever since.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7468 posts]
17th January 2011 - 19:43

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