Hi again. It's been a while, I know. I blogged myself the hell out (mercifully, for you) and needed a break I guess, because I haven't felt much like writing. But I haven't had much to write about, either. My head's been in a strange place, bike-wise, ever since coming off the trip. The adventure and intensity of every ride on that tour was so powerful and profound that going for a "normal" ride ever since getting back just hasn't had much appeal. But I'm confident that my riding spirit will return, in due time. It's a little bit of a weird feeling, being less than enthused about going for a ride, but it also feels like a really natural response to an over-the-top adventure. As in, "what in the hell can I possibly follow that up with?"
And I have seriously asked that exact question, and I have some ideas banging around in the hopper. I think at this point that I would *really* like to do another fatbike excursion. Now that I know that 400-500 miles in a week over all manner of nasty terrain in remote country is reasonable, there are a bunch of possibilities. It's the soup stock that will be simmering over this coming winter, and to which I'll add the meat and potatoes as they come to me, maybe. A stew like this can be a fine way to warm yourself from the inside out on those cold, slushy, dark days of January.
But what has been more immediately and urgently occupying the portion of my life that's available for bike time and energy is fatbike flats. Or more specifically, resisting them. Why has this become so important? Well, I guess it's that these bigass tires are just bastards when they flat. Everything is so huge, including the amount of air required to pump them back up, and a flat pit-stop can turn into a pretty major chunk of time and PITA interruption to a good ride.
Slimed tubes proved to not be an adequate solution, IMHO. Regular tubes are a known entity. I do believe that the thick, heavy 26 x 4.0 Surly Toobs are a huge flat-resistant improvement over the paper-thin-when-they-are-stretched-out 26 x 2.8 tubes that some people like to run, and well worth the weight penalty.
And then there is tubeless.
Tubeless is all the rage among MTB'ers and for good reason: Tires are more supple and provide more traction without tubes, pinch flats are a thing of the past, and puncture flats are almost non-existent. I could give a krap about the first two things, but that last one, oh hell yeah. Sweet music.
Thing is though, UST, the system that has been developed for using tubeless tires on bikes requires special tires and rims. Nothing UST exists yet for fat tires and so we fat-bike-owning-tubeless-wannabees must join the special ghetto tubeless (aka redneck tubeless) club. Crazy MTB'ers that are too cheap to buy UST and crazy enough to risk their health and well-being developing cheap-ass, home-brew solutions. I reluctantly joined their ranks because, well, I was compelled. This is the (mainly) photo journal of what I have been through over the last week or so.
First step is to air down . . .
Second step is to remove those unsightly and totally unnecessary tubes . . .
The rims had previously been set up with a layer of orange duct tape turned shiny-side-out, to provide the dazzling color effect through the rim holes, and then a layer of clear packaging tape on top of that to cover up the "sticky", and then a wide-ass Surly rim strip on top of that. I left all that in place.
I wiped it all down with lacquer thinner, along with the inside of the tire, to remove any oil and give every component of the ghetto system the best chance to adhere.
The I applied two wraps of Gorilla Tape (unanimous choice amongst loonies) to the rim. I wanted the edge of the tape right up to, but not up on the sidewall of the rim. This is the start of the first wrap, and not a good example of where the edge of the tape should be.
This is better.
You can used valve stems hacked out of old tubes, but I opted to use Stan's stems the first time through, just to eliminate as many wild-card variables as possible. Insanely expensive as they are . . . $17 for the pair. Holy hell.
I burned through the gorilla tape with a soldering iron, to provide a clean sealing surface.
And then installed the stems.
As you're reading through the cornucopia of online knowledge compiled by the nutso pioneers of ghetto tubeless technology, it's clear that the biggest hurdle you must clear is seating the tire in the bead after sealing the rim up with tape. With no tube to force the bead onto the rim, it becomes a matter of getting enough air in the tire quickly enough to force it up and onto the bead shelf. There are different reported methods, all involving compressed air, and I tried them all. To no avail.
There is also a minority lunatic fringe that uses small explosions of combustible fluids/gasses (such as carburetor cleaner) to seat beads. I suppose I was secretly hoping all along that the compressed air method would fail me so that I could justify playing with fire. I didn't have any carb cleaner around, but I did have aerosol cans filled with all kinds of other krap around and I tried several of those fluids, but nothing was potent enough. And then I remembered: I had a tank of acetylene.
Disclaimer: I would strongly discourage you from trying this. It's inherently dangerous and I suggest you use another method to seat your tubeless beads.
With the job of seating the beads complete then, I turned my attention to filling the tires with sealant.
I bought a coupla these presta-to-schrader adapters.
And screwed 'em on.
Stan's is not without it's problems (expensive, quick to dry out), but it's reportedly the closest thing there is to a gold standard in tubeless tire sealant.
I even bought the Stan's syringe for injecting it.
Once you've injected the appropriate amount of Stan's (approx 6 oz, according to the lunatic fringe ghetto tubeless pioneers), you jiggle/wiggle/slosh the mess around inside your tires, so that every internal surface is well coated with sealant. It's very similar to the unnatural gyrations you go through when trying to coat the inside of a frame with frame saver and if you haven't already closed you garage door, you wanna close it before engaging in this wild dance, lest your neighbors call the cops to report the meth-head behavior next door. Of course if you had it open during the explosive sealing of the beads, it's already too late . . . the cops and probably the fire department are on the way, so you may as well leave the door open and save everyone a lot of trouble.
Once the sealant has been injected and adequately sloshed, it's time to air up and watch this magical substance magically seal every avenue by which air could possible escape from your tire/rim combination. Of which I had dozens, thanks to flatstravaganza. In theory, a little is supposed to come out and then form a skin that then seals up the leak.
What actually happened though, is that I couldn't get the stuff to seal. This puncture may look big, but that's just the magnification talking. It's a common thorn puncture and just *exactly* the kind of thing that Stan's is supposed to seal.
I tried everything that the lunatics suggested . . . I put the wheels in a stand so that I could better control the rate of spin. I played with all kinds of different pressures. But the bastards wouldn't seal. I'd conquered the supposed hard part (seating the beads) with relative ease, but the part that should have been so easy was taking me down. The frustration was at its peak and so I turned off the lights, closed the garage door, and walked away, lest I should destroy something to appease my anger. New light would bring new perspective and a more patient attitude, hopefully.
The perspective that the new light brought was even more disturbing, it that's possible . . . the acceptance, no the full-on embrace, of the wildly messed up mental processes of a very small group of weirdos lurking in the dark, shadowy corners of the interwebs that are mixing their own sealant. Of which I am now a member.
Upon first impression, the homebrew sealant was delightfully sticky and "cloggy", compared to Stan's. I even had to modify my injection method because it kept plugging up the valve stem. Trouble was, there were a coupla holes in each tire that still wouldn't seal up above 10 psi, and I need to be able to run about 25 psi in these tires for trips like the JWPT tour. As soon as I would get above 10 psi, they would spew sealant out of the puncture and then seal up again as the pressure dropped back down to 10. Not good enough. Shit.
local construction playground.
Bottom line is that the verdict is still out. If I can get these mothers to hold air, that would be a sweet first step. But the fact that I can't just count on them to automatically seal up is not really on the comforting side. And what a bunch of mess and hassle to go through. Plus, you still have to carry tubes so that if you *do* have a flat, you have a way to fix yourself up and get back to town. I'm not sure the advantage is there at this point. One thing I do believe though, is that tubeless is here to stay and that the sealants that are available are just in the infancy stage as far as performance goes. I suspect that I'll be going back to tubes for the time being, but that there's some tubeless fat in my future. Whatever the case, I'll keep you posted.