Sunday, August 09, 2015

The Old Man and the Sea(lant)

I am pretty slow to adopt most new things in cycling. I rode with clips and straps for quite a few years. I used friction shifters long after index shifters hit the scene. I thought V-brakes worked just fine until fairly recently. And one look at all the bikes in the garage would lead you to say, "Hey, what's with all the rigid forks?"

I also resisted the tubeless tire. It just seemed like a lot of trouble to solve a minor problem. How difficult is it to change out a tube?

Eventually I come around to most new technologies (except press-fit bottom brackets). With a bumper crop of goatheads ripening on the vine, it was time to try tubeless. I bought a set of wheels utilizing Velocity Blunt 35mm rims. While these are not tubeless specific rims, people seem to have decent luck with them, and I wanted the added width for more tire volume. I bought some rim tape, valves and sealant, and got to work.

Everything went pretty smoothly. The only difficult thing was getting the beads set because my air compressor isn't very powerful. It was a little frustrating, but overall the process was much simpler than I anticipated.

My Bontrager 2.35 tires grew to almost 2.5 inches on the 35mm rims. On the road the flatter tire profile felt a little slower, but on the dirt they felt great. I ran 24/20 PSI, and even though this was 8 PSI lower than I normally run for mixed-terrain rides, the tires were still too hard.

One thing I noticed immediately was the lack of tire squirm going through corners. Solid. Wide rims are where it's at.

I was taught in my teens that the valve stem always lines up with the tire logo. Always. That's the "pro look" my mechanic mentors strived for. I have done it that way for over 30 years now without even thinking about it. The partially inflated tube goes in the tire, and the valve magically lines up with the logo. But on my first tubeless setup, I completely missed the boat. NOT pro.

On the second one I came to my senses and lined it up. VERY pro.

I am actually looking forward to the first goathead to see if my money was well spent.


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