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Technical FAQ: Rotor travel protection, tubeless tire retention, yellow equipment

Tips for traveling with disc brakes, road tubeless safety, and bespoke yellow cycling kits.

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Have a question for Lennard? Please email him at veloqna@comcast.net to be included in Technical FAQ.

Dear Lennard,
I have read a few times about taking the rotors of the wheels for travel. I do not like to do that, so I came out with a solution that has worked very well for me on a few trips to Europe, I put a round Tupperware dish over the rotors, inside the wheel bag, so nothing can touch them! It is just a little bigger than the rotor so the spokes can take the load!
— Alex

Dear Alex,
That’s a good idea! Removing the rotors every time can indeed be a PITA. It’s a must when traveling with a “coupled“ bike in a 10-inch-deep S&S bike case or everything simply will not fit.

With my e-bike in a Sci-Con hard-bottom soft case to go to Ireland in 2019, I don’t recall removing mine. I think I would remember, because the tubular ENVE wheels I took have 6-bolt rotors, rather than Center Lock, and without an electric screw gun, I got really bored with installing and removing 6-bolt rotors. I must have just used those big plastic rotor protectors that come with new bikes. The rotors definitely did not get bent — I rode around Ireland for a week with a bunch of other old guys who had also raced the Tour of Ireland back in the day, and I had no rotor rub.

I haven’t been on a plane since before the pandemic hit. I’m going to find some Tupperware containers to fit over my 160mm rotors and see if I can use them when I go to Tuscany in September to assist with a couple of Fabio Tours.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I have used Tufo tubulars quite some time ago, and as I remember they had a bonded butyl tube. I reasoned at the time that this was the best tubular to add sealant to, as the tube wouldn’t float away from the tire wall and make two holes for the sealant to plug.

I always read your column and switched to tubeless road tires many years ago after a very bad crash at speed. In your column (back then), you mentioned how a tubeless tire was much less likely to come off the rim than a standard clincher (exactly what happened to me).

I read about tubeless for the road all the time and very seldom do I hear it mentioned as one of the big reasons to run tubeless?
— Dave

Dear Dave,
That’s because this is no longer the case. Back then, in the infancy of road tubeless, however, it indeed was the case. The only wheels to use at the time with the Hutchinson Fusion tubeless tires (which were the only tubeless road tires available then) were Shimano, Mavic, Fulcrum, and Campagnolo wheels made specifically for tubeless tires. Using different spoking methods to achieve it, none of those wheels had holes in the rim bed for accessing the spoke nipples, so no rim tape was required. Most critically, these rims had a ridge on the inboard edge of the bead shelf that acted as a bead lock as well as a bead seal.

One time while riding them, I hit a sharp rock in the middle of the lane when it popped out from under a Porsche I was following too closely while descending our local Flagstaff Mountain at high speed. The rock cut the sidewall of the Hutchinson Fusion tubeless tire, and it deflated instantly on a Dura-Ace scandium tubeless wheel. When I saw that it was staying on the rim, I kept riding it another kilometer, and it stayed on. I don’t think many clinchers would have done this, and the bead-lock ridges in the rim, as well as the non-stretch carbon-fiber beads on those tires, made the difference.

Now, however, riders generally use tubeless sealing tape on standard clincher rims, rather than tubeless-specific wheels. The combination of this smooth, slick tape with no bead-lock ridge and the sealant inside makes the rim bed super slippery—slippery enough that I have received a number of emails from people who had burped tubeless road tires. If the bead can slide inward into the rim valley, then the rim diameter the bead is sitting on is reduced enough that popping over the rim wall so that the tire comes off of the rim is a distinct possibility.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
I have watched the Tour for years and have been amazed by the advances in equipment and the riders.

But one thing always puzzles me and that is what I call “instant yellow.” After a rider pulls on the Yellow jersey for the first time a transformation in equipment occurs overnight.

The next day he is resplendent in a yellow helmet, with a yellow skinsuit, and yellow gloves. His bike is now a yellow weapon of speed.

I know the rider gains superpowers the minute he pulls on the maillot jaune, but how does his attire and equipment become “instant yellow” overnight? Are there cans of yellow spray paint waiting in the mechanic’s toolbox?
— Terry

Mathieu van der Poel being measured for a Le Coq Sportif yellow skinsuit. Photo: ASO/Tour de France

Dear Terry,
I can’t say for sure what is in any Tour mechanic’s toolbox, but I think I can say with a moderate degree of certainty that, no, there are no cans of yellow spray paint in there. What there generally is behind any team that gets the yellow jersey is a bevy of equipment sponsors motivated enough to have somebody drive through the night with its products in yellow. For instance, the bike sponsor will whip out a newly painted yellow frame. They may build it up as a complete bike at the factory or distributor, or they may drive the frame to the team’s Tour hotel with the expectation that the team mechanics will stay up late or get up early to get the bike ready in time for the next stage. The clothing sponsor will also whip out new yellow articles of clothing, the shoe sponsor will whip out a pair of yellow shoes, etc., and they will do what it takes to get them to the team by the next day. Some sponsors are more motivated than others; some teams take a couple of days before the entire ensemble is yellow, while others have everything in time for the first day in yellow.

The Tour itself sublimation-prints the rider’s jersey for the following day, with the rider’s team sponsors on it. It’s quite amazing to see this done in whatever venue happens to be the day’s stage finish headquarters. If the following day is a time trial, the Tour organization will print up an entire yellow skinsuit. As I have not been to the Tour in many years myself, I don’t know if this has changed with the fact that riders now wear skinsuits for many road stages as well.
― Lennard


Lennard Zinn, our longtime technical writer, joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a custom frame builder (www.zinncycles.com) and purveyor of non-custom huge bikes (bikeclydesdale.com), a former U.S. national team rider, co-author of The Haywire Heart,” and author of many bicycle books including Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,”DVD, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikesand Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.” He holds a bachelor’s in physics from Colorado College.

Follow @lennardzinn on Twitter.