There are 2 different ways to go tubeless with non-tubeless setups
- Using a Stan’s Notubes \ Orange Seal with a lightweight rim strip kit or Gorilla Tape and screw-on valve
- Ghetto tubeless using a split tube and Stans or Orange Seal
The people that seem to have the most problems are the ones that do it the first way. Although using a split tube means that you end up with marginal weight savings over using an ultralight tube it does mean that you can use almost any combination of Tire and Rim whether they are designed to be tubeless or not.
Going tubeless on fat tires is more for being able to run at super low (sub 8psi) pressures without getting pinch flats than it is for weight savings.
Here was my shopping list to convert 4 tires to tubeless:
- $32 shipped : Qty 4 – Q-Tubes 24″ x 2.1-2.3″ 32mm Presta Valve Tube – The smaller tube makes for a tighter fit on the rim and the valve cores should be removable. Be aware that these tubes only work well on 80mm rims and smaller and will NOT work with 100+mm rims. If you have a larger rim just split open the tube that comes with the bike (as long as it has removable valve cores).
- $19 shipped from ebay : Orange Seal 16 oz Sub Zero Sealant Refill Bottle – Orange Seal beat out Stans in independent tests and I need something that will seal in super cold temps
- $4 shipped from ebay : Syringe Injector for tubeless tires
- $5 from Lowes : Sill Seal foam gasket, closed cell 3.5″ x 50′ is enough for a whole lot of tires
- Optional $2 for qty 10 from ebay : Presta to Schrader Bicycle Bike Valve Adapter – This makes it easier to use a compressor
- Optional $10 shipped from ebay : Park Tool VC-1 valve core remover tool for Schraeder and Presta valves
That brings the total to $60 for 4 tires or $15 a tire. Considering a decent lightweight fatbike tube is over $11 it means that going tubeless is really not that expensive.
1) Cut the tube the long way along the outside of the tube opposite the valve stem. Wash the powder off the inside of the tube and dry.
2) Cut the foam insulation to width and wrap around the inside of the rim with the seam meeting up at the valve hole. This foam will push the tube against the tire making inflation with the compressor a snap. If the tire has a large diameter bead and you can’t get it to seal in step 4 you might have to add 2 layers of foam. With the Surly Lou and Bud I had to do this.
3) Insert the valve and wrap the tube around the inside of the rim
4) Mount the tire on the rim making sure the tube sticks way out on both sides. Inflate with air to make sure it seals properly and easily. It should be easy, if not add a 2nd layer of foam on the rim strip.
5) Remove the valve stem carefully with pliers or with the Parktool vc-1 and allow tire to deflate.
6) Inject about 4oz or so of sealant.
7) Replace the valve core and inflate the tire to max psi (this might be only 20psi depending on the tire) with a compressor
8) Swish the tire around while parallel to the ground and try to get the sealant to seal on the rim. Flip tire over 180 degrees and shake it on the other side. If you have holes in the tire from previous pinchflats now will be when you see them. Let the tire drift down to lower psi’s (like 5) then set the tire so that the orange seal will blow out the hole and try to seal it. You will need to wait several minutes for the tire to seal. If this doesn’t seal you will have to patch the inside of the tire with rubber cement and a tire patch.
9) Mount the tire and ride for at least a few miles.
10) If tire is flat the next day then re-inflate and ride a few more miles. Once the bead sets then you can ride it at much lower pressure with less chance of the tire burping.
11) Trim off excess tube, the best way to do this is to cut a slit with a fresh exacto blade in the tube down to the rim being careful not to cut the tire. Then point the razor toward the rim with one hand and hold the excess tube with the other. Carefully pull the tube and the wheel will turn pulling the excess tube into the blade. If you are doing the front wheel you will have to have someone hold the handbars steady or balance the bike upside-down.
Bring a spare tube with you in your backpack on the trail as if the tire goes flat it is much easier to just rip it apart and throw a tube in than to try to get it to work while on the trail.
If you are trail riding with a fatbike you are missing the point if you are using tubes. Lower tire pressure means a much nicer ride quality, better control and more traction. If you want to go over 20 mph and ride with a reasonably low tire pressure then you will need to go tubeless or your tubes and tires just won’t last.
Update: I’ve done about 12 tires tubeless and had no problems. On some of the 80mm rims I have to use 2 layers of sill foam to get the tube to press against the tire bead enough to seal without a lot of hassle. The air pressure also crushes the sill insulation flat once the tire is inflated for any period of time so when you replace the sealant or deflate the tire you will need to pull out the foam insulation and replace it with fresh strips. I only use tubes now to figure out what tires I want on what bikes. Once I decide that I like a tire combination on a bike I switch it to tubeless. It’s the only way to ride.