A confessional prologue: I was an early adopter of road tubeless, at a point where the dedicated wheels from Shimano were available and the tires to complement them from Hutchinson weren’t (yes, I bought into BioPace chainrings, too).
Why bother? Aside from possibly offering a more tubular-tire like ride and maybe being faster, there’s a practical benefit that comes with running a road tubeless system: if you flat, the tire stays locked to the rim and you can usually ride (gingerly is best) until you get home, or find a more practical place to stop than the middle of a construction zone.
The ride was good, and fixing one on the road was rarely necessary and not really any more difficult than replacing a tube. I wasn’t a big fan of the first tires, though, and the wheels went away as bike stuff I own tends to do.
A chance ride on the next generation of tires and Campy 2-Way Fit wheels later, and I’m tubeless again. This time, I put in some Stan’s NoTubes sealant, curious to see if adding sealant to a road tubeless tire is effective.
I wanted to know–or sort of wanted to know, but purposefully didn’t try and find debris-ridden, glass-covered roads to force the issue. I wasn’t convinced that a few ounces of latex-based goo could do anything, my faith in the inexorable onrush of progress being somewhat strained at this time.
There is documentary evidence, in the form of tests that “prove” how well sealants work in tubeless tries (fast forward to 5:55 for the action in this video). Central to the testing is a disembodied icepick-wielding hand pscyho-slashing a freshly-mounted tire. Which happily seals, thumbing its nose at the slasher.
But that’s all fine and good in a lab: what really happens when you’re out on the road?
The construction zone known as Portola provided a field test, in the form of a nice fat nail that I heard ticking merrily along before I felt it. By the time I stopped It was buried almost dead-center in the tire.
I looked at it, shrugged as philosophically as is possible while wearing a helmet, lycra and flaming red “click my heels and you’ll be in Kansas” shoes, and pulled.
Air hissed, but not violently. No sealant appeared at first. I remembered something about spinning the tire from the test/slasher videos. This slowed and then stopped the hissing, and a little latex bubbled out of the tire, then solidified. The tire felt rideable to the touch, and I weighed wasting a cartridge to top it off but didn’t.
It rode fine. After a mile or so I stopped at a shop and borrowed a pump. It still had about 65 psi (a rough estimate). A little arm action and it was back at 105.
As of tonight, and after another ride, it’s still sealed.
So–do tubeless tires with sealant work?
(I wonder if I can find those BioPace rings…)