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From the start, I've been a proponent of road tubeless wheels and tires. The combination of a nice wheel (Shimano Dura-Ace 7801 — the original tubeless wheel) and 90psi makes for a smooth, comfortable ride. Plus, it feels like there's Velcro on my wheels in crit corners.
Originally, they were my race-only wheels, and I rode them a couple dozen times per summer. But over the last season or so, I've been riding them pretty much every day. Why? Because they're fast — and they're fun. Why limit that to races?
"But what if you puncture?"
I've heard that question a lot. Over the four seasons I've been riding tubeless, I've never punctured in a race. I had one puncture last year that sealed at about 60psi, enabling me to easily finish the ride.
If it's a small hole, it will seal itself and you'll ride on. If it's a bigger hole, just tube it and get going. But I've never had to do that. Until yesterday.
Fairly early in a jailbreak ride (50 degrees and sunny in Omaha in February), I felt the telltale squishy wheel. When I stopped to check on it, I saw a bit of sealant bubbling out. That gave me hope for a quick seal.
This is where I should have just given up, put a tube in and continued on. But my past experiences with both tires sealing and with sealant seeping all over the place upon opening up a tubeless tire kept me going. I rolled on a bit more before finally deciding that it just wasn't going to seal.
Since I was close to one of our local shops, I babied it over there (tubeless advantage: you can ride on a flattish tire without fear of the tire coming off) and put it onto a workstand to get a better look. The cut, despite how it looks below, wasn't that bad — especially on the inside.
But once I actually cracked it open, I could see why it didn't seal — there wasn't much sealant left in there. In fact, there's a good chance that what I saw bubbling out immediately after the puncture was the bulk of what was in there.
Because of that, the process of tubing it wasn't nearly messy as I imagined it would be, and I definitely could have done it by the side of the road without making a giant mess of things. Still, though, it was nice to be in a more controlled environment and off the ground.
What did I learn from the whole thing? Tubeless flats are still pretty rare — in my experience, at least — and changing them isn't as bad as naysayers would have you believe. Also, if your tire doesn't seal up right away, it probably won't do it a mile down the road, either. Just stop and put a tube in the damn thing instead of checking on it every 20 feet for the next five minutes.
In addition to being GamJams Tech Editor, Bryan Redemske has managed the Trek Bicycle Store of Omaha, is a professional writer and a Cat 3 racer. He drinks a lot of coffee.
Sheesh, some of that stuff is expensive. Good thing you get your frames and wheels at Pro Deal pricing. Wait — you don't? You might want to look at November Bicycles. They've got a new racer-specific model designed to strip unnecessary pricing out of the cost of your new bike. It's like a Pro Deal for everyone.
November Bicycles. Race Smart.