Tubeless Fatbike Conversion Update

Last winter I converted my fatbike to tubeless. Since then I have ridden countless trips on them, I have set up a few more fat bike wheels tubeless, and I’ve learned a few things to make the process easier, faster, and is more reliable. I wanted to provide an update with my thoughts on running tubeless on a fatbike and the steps I use now.

I still opt for a simplified method of tape, valve stems, and sealant versus using split tubes and foam. I know others have success with those methods and I’m sure you will too if you decide to go that route. There is an excellent write up over on Riding Against The Grain for split tube fatbike tubeless setup if you decide to go that route. The good news is that we as a community have learned multiple repeatable methods for successful tubeless conversions.
IMG_9915The Materials:
I used Scotch Transparent Tough Duct Tape, Stans valve stems, Stans sealant, Surly Holly Rolling Darryls, Surly Knard 120 TPI for the rear, Surly Big Fat Larry 120 TPI for the front, Surly rim strips, Stans injector, air compressor, floor pump, and a five gallon bucket.

I used to recommend and use Gorilla Tape but I had two complaints with it. One, it is dreadfully heavy. When I removed the Gorilla Tape from a previous conversion I weighed it out of curiosity. I was shocked to see the Gorilla Tape from one wheel weighed .75 pounds. That’s 1.5 pounds worth of tape for a full conversion. No thanks. Two, I found that over time the Gorilla Tape broke down with exposure to liquids, this is a problem when liquid sealant is a key ingredient to the recipe. I set out looking for a replacement tape. I tried packing tape with some success. I read of others having success with clear duct tape so I decided to try it next. I set up my wheels in February with Scotch Transparent Tough Duct Tape and have had great success. If I’m completely honest, I had to add a few pumps of air every month or so, but I have to do that with all my tubeless setups. I’m a huge fan of how light this tape is, weighing in at .18 pounds per wheel for the tape. That’s over a pound less compared to Gorilla Tape with what seems like better resistance to liquids. I’m sold on it until Stans releases their own tape.

IMG_0462sHow I Did It:
One of the changes I do now is I always start with preforming a tire before trying to run it tubeless. With normal tires, I mount them on the wheel with a tube overnight to get the tire used to the shape and remove any folds in the beads of the tire. With a fatbike tire, I like to inflate a fatbike tube inside of the tire off of the rim. It tends to stretch out the tire making it easier to mount on a rim later.
IMG_9913I prep the rim by first cleaning everything. I next add a Surly rim strip. Another change I now incorporate with my fatbike tubeless conversion is that I no longer cut the tape after wrapping the left, right, and center sections. Instead, I run one continuous piece of tape from start to finish, thus removing edges where liquid can get underneath the tape and end your smiles. I start the tape at the edge of the rim, wrap the entire way around until you overlap the first pass by six or so inches, then I start transition the taping over to the center of the rim. I continue to wrap the tape around the rim until I again begin to overlap the center tape and then go six or so inches past that before transition the taping to the far side of the rim. I wrap this far edge with two full wraps of tape before transitioning back to wrap the center for a second time, and ending with wrapping the starting edge for the second time. By this point the left side, the center, and the right side have two full wraps of tape on them. I cut the tape for the only time after I have wrapped the wheel completely. I chose to double wrap because the tape is very light and I wanted the added security of no leaks.tapeSeriesThe wheel should look like this.
IMG_9952I use a pick tool heated up by a lighter to poke a hole through the valve stem hole to ensure no ripping of the tape as the heat makes a perfect cauterized hole.
IMG_9955 IMG_9960I installed a tube into the tire, and mounted the tire to the rim as normally done.
IMG_0475I then inflated the tire to 30 PSI to ensure the bead seats on both sides of the wheel. Once the beads are seated I carefully deflated the tire and broke the seated tire free on only one side of the wheel, leaving the other side completely seated. I then remove the tube and installed the Stans valve stem.

I then remounted the open side of the tire to the wheel (it is most likely loose, and that is alright at this time).

I then wrapped the tube previously removed around the outside of the tire. This helps push the tire to the edge of the rim, helping seat the tire when you inflate it.
IMG_0478I then used an air compressor to inflate the tire. If you hear any air leaking out, press on that area with your hand. If you are having trouble inflating the tire, you can place it flat on a five gallon bucket with the open side down. This sometimes helps the tire seat.
IMG_0480Once the tire starts to inflate, I stopped inflating with the air compressor and switched to using a floor pump to inflate the tire to 30 PSI to ensure the bead was seated thoroughly. Once the bead is seated I carefully deflated the tire and removed the valve stem core. Using the Stans injector, I injected six ounces of Stans sealant into the wheel through the valve stem. I then re-inflated the tire with an air compressor initially. After the tire takes some air and begins to fill, I switched to inflating it with a floor pump to ensure I filled it to 30 PSI.

I then did the “Stans shake” to seal any leaks. If you don’t know what that is, there is a video detailing what I am referencing here.
IMG_0483After shaking the sealant onto the sidewall all the way around the wheel, I sat the wheel down on a bucket for about three minutes to allow the sealant to work its magic on the sidewalls of the tire.
IMG_0481I repeated the shake and bucket work at least three times per side of the wheel, rotating which side of the wheel is pointed down each time. You can spray soapy water on the wheel to check where your leaks are, and you will see some for a while. The leaks will eventually stop completely. If you are still seeing leaking sealant and or air, repeat the “Stans shaking” step until the leaks seal completely. It’s better to fix it here than deal with it on the trail.

I then deflated the tires to about 12 PSI (my desired riding PSI), and repeated the shake and bucket trick two more times to be sure everything was sealed all the way.

The Outcome?

Everything works beautifully. The tires inflated to the beads with little effort this time and hold air completely. I believe that tires that have been set up tubeless in the past are much easier and more reliable to reset up tubeless. The¬†Scotch Transparent Tough Duct Tape is much lighter than the previously used Gorilla Tape and proves to work well. I’m a fan. There is an obvious weight reduction, and you won’t have to worry about thorns or punctures. I think the tires shape is a bit more natural as there is no tube to dictate the shape and rolling resistance seems better as well. Oh and they still ride wheelies!

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Gore ALP-X 2.0 GORE-TEX Active Jacket Review

MJ5L1542I really like my Gore jackets so when I found myself in need of a rain jacket, I knew where to start my search. I narrowed the waterproof Gore jackets down to the Gore ALP-X 2.0 GORE-TEX Active. The GORE-TEX fabric that the jacket is made from is pretty amazing. It keeps all water out while also wicking away sweat leaving you dry and 40% happier than a wet version of yourself.

The jacket features a flap that a be unbuttoned that extends how low the jacket hangs in the rear keeping water from being sprayed on your backside.
MJ5L1544 MJ5L1532 The jacket has two pockets, one breast pocket and one centered rear pocket.
MJ5L1546The Jacket has a removable hood via zipper.
MJ5L1549 MJ5L1552The jacket features adjustable wrist straps that allow for the fit you want.
MJ5L1536The jacket fits a bit looser than all of the other same sized Gore jackets, probably related to it being marketed as a mountain bike jacket. Overall I am happy with the jacket but I wish they had a snugger fitting rain jacket with the fold down rear flap. It does a great job of keeping me dry from the rain and getting any sweat off my skin. I find myself wearing it around town on rainy days because of how much I like it and how well it works. If you are in the market for a long-term cycling rain jacket, I’d recommend you give this one a try at your local bike shop or if they don’t carry Gore, give my local bike shop a call and they would be happy to help you out.

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2014 Gravel Metric

2014-05-25 11.51.21The Gravel Metric took place this weekend in DeKalb, IL. If you are unfamiliar with the event, it’s a ride that takes place largely on the gravel roads around DeKalb that is roughly 100 kilometers in length, this year’s length being just over 110 kilometers or 68.5 miles. It is organized and put on by the great folks at Axletree and North Central Cyclery.

I drove up to DeKalb the day before the Gravel Metric to take advantage of the Moots demo that was scheduled as one of their titanium bikes is probably in my future.
2014-05-24 18.32.31 2014-05-24 18.32.48I’ve been looking at the Moots Frosti for a bit as an eventual replacement for my Salsa ti Mukluk. The Moots truck had the new Frosthammer which is basically a Frosti that is capable of clearing five-inch tires or running 29+ tires. It felt very agile, especially for a five-inch fat bike.
2014-05-24 19.12.37After getting my fix of Moots awesomeness, I was offered some pizza and a cold beer. I hung out for a bit and watched some people ride a Penny-Farthing and some people try to ride a Penny-Farthing. Smiles were had!
2014-05-24 18.20.33The next morning after getting ready I joined the other 360 riders at the staging area before setting off behind a police escort out-of-town.
2014-05-25 08.49.00The pace was very lax as we rode out-of-town but things quickly got crazy as we turned onto the first gravel road with the speed jumping to over 25 mph. That doesn’t seem too crazy until you factor in riding on gravel that moves under your tires and the leaders were pulling even faster.

I decided after a few miles that I didn’t belong in the first or second group and settled into a groove riding with different groups averaging between 17 mph and 22 mph depending on who was pulling. At one point I was part of a pace line of more than 30 riders that was traveling at 20 mph, pretty neat!

The ride is titled as a gravel metric and we spent the majority of the ride on gravel but it also included awesome dirt roads, double track, and pavement.
2014-05-25 11.59.26-1 2014-05-25 12.31.33 2014-05-25 10.47.23We crossed different obstacles including railroad tracks and a shallow creek crossing.
2014-05-25 12.07.19 2014-05-25 12.10.08About three and a half hours in, right around the 60 mile mark, I started to lose some steam and had to slow down. It was a little tough to fall off a bit so close to the end, but I had to listen to my body. I rolled back into North Central Cyclery with a time of 4 hours and 11 minutes.

The Axletree and North Central Cyclery folks know how to organize and run great cycling events! Everything from the simple and fast registration, great event products, organizing the police escort out-of-town, to the food and drinks organized for after the ride. It was all great! I had a bast overall and plan on going back next year with a goal of breaking the 4 hour mark with even more smiles along the way!

Garmin Data

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Revelate Tangle Frame Bag Review

MJ5L1436I wanted to explore more gravel rides this year after last years awesome intro to gravel. I made a few changes my Specialized Crux for gravel rides in the cyclocross off-season including Surly Knard 41c tires, side entry water bottle cages, and a Revelate Tangle frame bag.

I knew I needed to be able to carry a variety of items on longer gravel rides. I choose a half frame bag because full frame bags removed the option of water bottles, and saddle bags removed the option of easy access during riding. I choose a Revelate Tangle frame bag because of their build quality and materials used.

I really like that the left side and the right side compartments are separated (roughly 80% 20% spit). It allows for easy access to some things while not having to deal with sorting through other types of items.
MJ5L1438 MJ5L1432

The fit of the bag is great and allows for use on a variety of frames because of the versatility the Velcro and straps have.
MJ5L1426Overall I’m thrilled with the bag. I love that it keeps all water out. The zippers are high quality and feature weather sealing. I like that the interior fabric is bright yellow, making things easier to find. I like there is an access hole to put a hydration bladder inside and run the hose and mouth piece out. There is nothing I’d change about the bag or things I wish it did differently. It’s awesome!

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2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 Dura-Ace Di2 Review

MJ5L1422Earlier this year I picked up a 2014 S-Works Tarmac SL4 Dura-Ace Di2 and since then have spent a lot of time riding it. Let’s start with this, the bike is awesome. I really enjoy riding it. It is ridiculously lightweight weighing in at 14.88 lbs as pictured, it climbs like a rocket ship, and it rides far smoother than I ever imagined it could.

The shifting on the bike is amazing. Amazing. I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to like Shimano Di2 the first time I rode it. I was a fan of Sram (particularly DoubleTap) and didn’t like the idea of a battery to charge and wires. The first time I rode a Di2 bike on a steep hill and threw the front derailleur over to the small chain ring I was sold. It didn’t complain, it didn’t make any angry noises, it just did exactly what I asked, all while being quite and fast.

In addition to the best front shifting I’ve ever experienced, several other Di2 features sold me on it as the group for this bike. I love that the front derailleur trims itself every few rear shifts to ensure no rubbing. I love that I can change the shifting buttons to do whatever I want. This is cool for things like making the left shifter act the same as the right shifter as I have done, but even cooler for people with special handicap needs and want to be able to shift with one hand. Di2 rocks.
MJ5L1443 MJ5L1476 MJ5L1480The crank on this bike is a thing of beauty!
MJ5L1445The brakes are powerful and provide even modulation.
MJ5L1458I’m a big fan of the internal cable routing, and internal battery for the Di2 shifting.
MJ5L1493The wheels are light, have quick engagement, and the braking is good even in wet conditions.
MJ5L1484The bike rides much smoother than I thought it would. I expected a bit of harshness compared to the Specialized Roubaix I previously rode and was pleasantly surprised how similar the compliance was. The geometry is a change from the Roubaix so my riding position has been stretched out a bit now. I still find myself very comfortable after four hours in the saddle. The handling of the bike was the biggest difference compared to the Roubaix. The steering is noticeably quicker. While screaming down hills in Southern Illinois at over 47 mph, steering inputs don’t require a lot of force, I can attest.

MJ5L1467 MJ5L1450I smile when I think of the future rides I’ll spend pedaling this bike. It’s everything I could want in a road bike. I love it.

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