Road tubeless tyres: my first experience of fitting them
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.