Technical FAQ: Tubeless tire troubles

Lennard Zinn addresses questions about things that can go wrong while using tubeless tire setups.

Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.

Traveling with tubeless tires

Dear Lennard,
I recently bought a coupled bike with the idea of flying with it frequently. I plan to ride rougher roads and gravel much of the time, so I have a 28c tubeless tire/rim setup that rides really well. After watching your video, I still cannot get the wheels in the case without losing all the sealant. Also, these particular tires are difficult to re-inflate without a compressor. Do you have any thoughts on how I can get around this problem without resorting to tubes?
— Mark

Dear Mark,
No. I had one set of Hutchinson Fusion 2 tubeless tires on Ultegra wheels that I used successfully for a number of years on my coupled travel bike, and those are the very tires that I’m deflating in that video you linked to. (I keep my travel bike in its case ready to go at a moment’s notice, so the only wear the tires get is on trips, and the tires last a long time.) As you know, you have to deflate the tires completely to get the wheels into the case, and the beads on those Fusion 2s never unseated, front or rear, when I pushed them into the case over dozens and dozens of plane trips. Then I could just pump them up upon arrival with a small pump. Worked great.

Since I replaced that pair of tires, however, I have not managed to get any tires to stay seated when I push them into the case. Besides sealant getting all over inside the case when the beads unseat themselves after being jammed into the travel case, the tires are unusable as tubeless because there is no way to seat them at my destination.

As you are aware, seating tubeless tires is not possible with a little pump you can travel with. TSA won’t let you fly with CO2 cartridges (which dry out the sealant anyway), and I’m not willing to carry one of those huge two-chamber tubeless-mounting floor pumps with me when I travel.

In June when I co-lead this multi-day bike trip from Venice to Rome, I’m leaving a few days early and am carrying along tubeless tires and sealant to install in Italy. The third day’s ride from Barberino to Siena will include a lot of riding on strade bianche (dirt roads) of L’Eroica in Chianti, and as a trip leader, I definitely don’t want to be “that guy” who gets flat tires. I also want the comfort of 27mm tires at low pressure, which is the biggest that will fit under my brakes on that bike. Using tubeless tires will allow me to run them at 55-60 psi with, of course, no concern about pinch flats.

I will be getting the sealant and installing my tubeless tires at a buddy of mine’s bike shop in Vicenza before we head to Venice. There are still slots open on the trip; if you come along with your coupled bike, I’ll install your tubeless tires there, too!

On most travel, however, I usually don’t have easy access to the resources required to install tubeless tires at my travel destination, so I have otherwise resorted to using inner tubes on my travel bike. It’s not my preference, but if I’m just doing a couple of days of riding at my destination (like at Interbike), I can’t make the arrangements necessary to go tubeless. If you find another solution, please let me know.
— Lennard

Blowing out sealant buildup with compressed air

Dear Lennard,
Regarding blowing out a sealant buildup in a tubeless valve with compressed air from a gas station, just this weekend I used the air hose in the local petrol/gas station. It required two inflations and deflations, but the sticky valve in question is totally free now.
— Stephen

Dear Stephen,
Thanks for that follow-up. I want to underline that you removed the valve core before blowing into the valve with compressed air, which was key to you being able to blow out the clog. I know from long personal experience that an air compressor alone will not blow out a sealant clog if the valve core is not first removed from the valve stem.
― Lennard

Deflated tubeless tires on a roof rack

Dear Lennard,
I’m having a problem with swapping some tubeless tires to different rims. Three weeks ago, my son moved a set of Kenda Kommando X Pro tires from a set of Zipp 30 Course rim-brake wheels to a set of 30 Course disc-brake wheels. The receiving wheels were thoroughly cleaned, as were the beads of the Kommandos. I used a 2-ounce bottle of Stan’s on each wheel. The bike was ridden for a day and then loaded onto the roof rack for a four-hour drive to a race. When we got to the race, the tire was flat. I found a shop to inflate the tire (to about 50-60 psi), let it sit horizontally for 24 hours, and it was fine for the race the next day (although it dropped to about 30 psi). That wheel/tire hasn’t lost any real pressure since. The front never had a problem.

This past week, I did a tire swap. I put a set of Kenda Happy Medium Pros (previously mounted to Stan’s Grail wheels) tires on a brand new set of Zipp 30 Course disc-brake wheels. I did everything by the book. Tape was brand new, the beads were clean, soapy water, 2 ounces of Stan’s, 24 hours horizontal. Everything went fine with no loss in pressure. Another four-hour trip and the rear tire was flat. I put another bottle of Stan’s in, re-inflated to about 50 psi, and the tire is now fine.

I’m stumped. I’ve been doing tubeless for over a year now with very few problems. Granted, last year I primarily ran the Grails or Easton EA90SLCs vs. the Zipp 30 Courses. Is it the ride on the roof, re-mounting older tires on different rims, or something about the Zipp 30s?
— Jim

Dear Jim,
It’s the ride on the roof rack with the tire at low pressure that did it. When you cinch down the rack tray strap around the bottom of the rear wheel, you change the shape of the tire enough at that point that air can bleed out between the rim and the tire sidewall. If you had had the tire pumped up high (perhaps to 60 psi), it would not have leaked because the tire would have been too hard for the rack’s strap to deform it enough to disturb the seal.

If you have a fork-mounted rack, this answer will explain why the rear tire went flat while the front tire did not; the front wheel didn’t get strapped down. However, if you have an upright roof bike carrier, then I don’t know the reason that the front tire didn’t also go flat.
― Lennard

Tubeless-compatible rims with tubes

Dear Lennard,
I know I can install conventional (inner tube) road tires on a tubeless-compatible rim, but will it be any more or less secure than a conventional road tire on a conventional tire rim? I don’t plan on using tubeless tires, so is there any advantage to selecting a tubeless-compatible rim based solely on tire fit?
— Dirk

Dear Dirk,
The security will be the same. There is no advantage to selecting a tubeless-compatible rim if you are going to run standard clincher tires and inner tubes.
― Lennard