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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116 thoughts on “Tubeless Fatbike Conversion Update

  1. Pingback: Tubeless Fatbike Conversion | Cycles In Life

      • Awesome write up. cheers dude. I have done it a few times now and the only thing i could add is: tyres that have moulding nibs on the bead area of the tyre should be cut off and sanded flush with the bead using 120 grit sandpaper. I had a few leaks in the bead because I didn’t remove the nibs and latex had built up around them. since I have been sanding the nibs I have had zero leaks on my tubeless set-ups. thanks again

  2. Very well written!. I see you own a couple Specialized bikes. If you have looked at the Fatboys, do you see any problem using the system you describe here for a tubeless upgrade on a Fatboy Expert?

    • Hello! I don’t yet have any experience setting up the specialized fat rims and tires tubeless. Specialized makes great tires so I wouldn’t be surprised if they work. If you try it, let me know how it goes!

      • I own a fatboy and one issue I’ve had specifically with Specialized rims is at the seam. Surly rims are welded, Specialized rims are not a welded joint and can let air leak out slowly, super gluing the rim at the joint seems to do the trick, good luck.

  3. I just redid my tubeless. Used gorilla tape for a couple years but this Scotch Tough Tape is by far superior for tubeless. Thanks for the tip!

  4. I just completed my tubeless set up on my specialized fatboy. I followed you directions to a T. They seated up perfect on the first try. I used 8 oz. Of stans ans used the scotch tape. Worked awesome. I probably could have gotten away with 4-6 oz though. Thanks for the awesome right up. Joe in Michigan

    • I’m glad to hear of your success! I have a lot of friends locally who have recently picked up a Fatboy and I was curious as to how similar the setup would be. Thanks for the feedback! Enjoy!

    • Hi Joe, this sounds good. No after effects?. Just bought a Fat Boy here in South Africa (Fat bikes are only an emerging feature here now…) I would be interested in doing this. We have Gorilla Tape here, but not the Scotch Tape you guys seem to be using. In your opinion, would the GT work just as well? Following your comments, it looks like I must try this soon!!!

      • Hey Alan!

        I have friends here that have used Gorilla Tape to set up Specialized Fatboys with success for months. It will work. Over time, maybe six months or so, you may get a leak because the Gorilla Tape seems to be somewhat cotton based and the liquid sealant gets under the end.

        Good Luck!

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  6. so sad in seeing so many ppl getting this to work… i can’t get the tire to seat and to hold air. i did everything exactly as you showed using the same materials (On One Floater to Weinmann 80mm rim). any other suggestions on getting it seated. i think i will have to just put the tubes back in now until i can get some help :(
    thanks for the post, im sure its operator error

    • I don’t have any experience with that run or tire, so I can’t help much.

      Sorry to hear you’re having trouble. If you put a tube in and inflate beyond 20 psi and let the air out of the tube does the tire bead stay seated until you break it? That aspect of the interface is important for a successful fatbike tubeless setup.

      • hmmm… no it doesn’t stay seated well. I talked with my LBS and a guy who has been doing these since about last Nov. He uses tubular glue to setup the bead an lets it sit overnight at least prior to letting the air out and putting Stan’s in. ever heard of/had experience with something like this? thanks again for your writeup… nicely done!

        • To answer your question, no. glue sounds like it would be add another layer of complexity to the conversion, but it also sounds like your rim and tire combo isn’t going to work on its own.

          Good luck!

  7. This was like a walk in the park !! Converted my Fatboy rims with Ground Controls to tubeless with this method. Thank you very much !!!! Lol , those tires inflated and kept air without NoTubes in them.

    • yes. on 80mm Weinmann rims. i ended up using this method but neither myself, nor LBS could get them to seat, so LBS used a method he commonly uses of applying Conti Tubular Glue to help them seat. 2 months and 100+ miles with no air loss. i used a little more than 6 fl oz of Stan’s/tire. they feel way better than with tubes…

      • update on this setup… i have about 500 miles on this setup since Sept. i have put n a 82mi singletrack/2 track ride, 30mi in the muddiest Iceman Cometh man has seen and finished 7th in IceBikes overall, and have a few snow rides- including last night on our packed/not groomed winter singletrack loop with about 9-12″ of snow… it all works totally solid from 12psi (road) to 4psi (snow) and has been holding air like a champ. the feel is still awesome.

  8. I have tried this several times on my Fat Boy rims and can never get a good seal. Can anyone offer some tips on how they kept from getting wrinkles in the tape during the wrap.

  9. Hi Mathew, have you had any experience with this tubeless set-up on the 100mm clownshoe rim with the Bud and Lou? Also curious about running down to 4-5psi tubeless for snow riding? Will the bead hold at such a low psi? Thanks for the info!

    • I’ve not tried clown shoes but friends have tried them with success. I’ve ridden my setup in the 4-5 psi range after they have been set up for a while with success. Good luck!

  10. First, many thanks for this write up. It is very clear and excellent. That said, I’m hoping you can help with an issue I am having. I set up a pair of Bud and Lou’s on Clown Shoes using the method you described. I did the front wheel first and then the rear and both held well over some very rocky trails with some 20 inch drops, etc. About three days later with the bike just sitting I noticed the rear lost a bit of pressure so I removed the valve stem, added another 2 oz of Stans and reinflated. This seems to have worked great as the back has had no issues since. However, a day after my last ride I noticed a puddle of Stans under my front wheel. It held on my ride the day earlier but for some reason the bead looks like it is leaking since I can see the fluid along the rim. Adding more Stans as before didn’t help. Thoughts / suggestions? Would you just start over and retape entirely? If it matters I’ve been running 12 psi on the trail. Thanks

    • Thanks!

      It sounds like you need to set the bead. You can try higher pressure (30 psi max) for a for a few seconds to try and set it. Try soap and water to find and seal leaks with shaking the rim. If it burps then your bead is not set good enough for the pressure you’re running from my experience. Good luck!

      • Thanks for the quick reply and I’ll definitely try to reseat the bead again. Would you drain the Stans that is in there first and add another 6 oz to ensure I’m back at a critical volume of fluid? Also, from what it sounds like you suggest only inflating to 30 psi for long enough to seat the bead, then drop back down to the pressure you want to run at so the Stans can setup under those conditions? Many thanks again!

        • I would just try to shoot for six or more ounces in that setup. You can use less to save some weight next time but I value it working more than weight.

          I’ve blown a tire off of the rim so I don’t like having max PSI for any longer than required. I think it’s hard on the tape and rim strip also.

          • Just following up, I pulled the tire off to reseat the bead and noticed that some Stans had worked its way under the tape to the rim strip and was not hardened. I presume this actually could have been part of my leak path but there were no noticeable wrinkles in the tape. In either case, I pulled it off to retape and start from square one with hopes for better success. Any additional suggestions? I’ll let you know how it comes out either way!

      • i’m having a similar issue with clownshoe/bud combo. I get it all set up fine, and it holds air at 25 psi all day, but as i drop the pressure it starts to leak slow from around the bead. It’ll last an entire ride at 8 psi, but once it’s below 6 psi it starts to leak pretty quick almost everywhere along the tire/rim contact. I think for this size tire and rim some tubular glue might be needed.

        no problems on the rear wheel holy darryl/nate combo.

        Thanks for the great write-up!

      • Update: I finally got around to redoing the 1st wheel that I had setup tubeless and that leaked. I realize that I made two mistakes in with this 1st wheel that I didn’t do on the second wheel: First, I managed to get the bead to seat without the tube on the outside of the wheel so I thought I was in the clear; This was just pure laziness. The other thing I realize is that I was too modest in pushing on the leaking areas once it was seated. Having done this on a few wheels now your method is spot on as described. I only mention all this because I think that last step of really pushing on the leaking areas with some good force is key, particularly for thinks like surly tires where the bead has a corrugated surface and that Stans needs a bit more motivation to work in. Thanks again for a great writeup and ongoing support!

  11. Anxious to try this setup, thanks for the write up, and the discovery of the transparent tape. Looking at Amazon, it comes in 1.88″ and 2″ width. Your pic shows rolls of the 1.88″ width, would you still choose that over the 2″?

      • Went with the 2″. Worked very well, but had best success on the wheel that I left a tube inflated to 30psi in over the weekend. Really seemed to smash and seal down the tape. Also removable schrader valves, as noted in a comment below. Love the setup.

  12. Another great tip is to remove the valve core from the Stans valve before filling. It allows the air to flow in much faster from the compressor. Until I did this I had trouble getting the bead to seat.

  13. Just used your method on my Rolling Darryl’s. Followed every step except used Orange Seal instead of Stan’s. Had access to shop (big) compressor so didn’t need to wrap tubes around outside. Perfect so far. Thanks a million for the super easy instructions and pics.

  14. Used the method on my Specialized Ground Controls and worked awesome did 6 rides on them in wide variety of temps and quite a few different trail conditions…working great…thx…

  15. Reinstall the tire and the tube. and inflate the tire to 25-30 psi. Work the tire around the rim to ensure the bead has set. Let the tire sit with pressure for an hour or two. the pressure from the tube will press the tape firmly into place and seat the tire bead onto the rim.

    • I live in anchorage and on my 2015 fatboy in -20 the notube sealant stayed wet and 4-5 psi works to the t. No problems worked first time ground control.
      Recommend same steps.

  16. Thanks for this. I did my Fatboy Expert with this method and it worked the first go. Didn’t even need an air compressor. Only modification I made to your step by step, was that I rubbed down the rim and my fingers with rubbing alcohol to ensure it was an extremely clean surface.

  17. I’m dying to get tubeless setup going on my FatBoy — have you all had good luck with tubeless and low tire pressure for winter/snow riding. I commonly run my tires at 4-6 psi for better traction in loose snow… will tubeless work at those pressures? Love to hear the good & bad with tubeless in the snow (and what about temps down around 10-degrees Fahrenheit?). Thanks!

    • I just converted my Fatboy front wheel and had the pressure down to 4psi and no leaks so far. I’ll be doing a long ride this weekend to put it to a full test. Will report back

    • I set my Ice Cream Truck up tubeless back in November with Surly Bud and Lou’s on Clown Shoes. I have since ridden it in -15 to 60 degree whether at PSI from 4-10 without issue. Definitely go for it. This method is solid if you follow it correctly!

  18. Thx for the great writeup on this method. I did this on my rabbit hole rims a few weeks ago and it has been doing great. The tape fits in these rims just like it was made for them. did a double wrap but there was no need to move from one side to the other.

  19. Scotch transparent tough duct tapes glue doesn’t hold up sealant. 3-4 Months it took, now sealant is leaking under the tape. Sealant is coming out from rim’s holes.
    Otherwise this setup has been great, but i’m thinking Ghetto-tubeless now.

    • Sorry you have had a bad experience. Many others and myself included have had success long term (well as long as a a full season). I do think it pays dividends to make sure you do a proper job of taping and be meticulous to avoid cuts, wrinkles, or other areas that could let liquid in.

      Good luck!

      • I have definitely had long term success with this method. I did this to my Pugsley a year ago and have had no problems with leaking sealant, through the spoke holes or otherwise. I have also done this with a couple different regular mountain bikes: one with Sun Rhyno Lite rims and Continental Mountain King tires, and more recently one with WTB Speeddisc rims and WTB Weirwolf tires. I cut the roll of tape to the right width on a tablesaw (don’t try unless you are 100% familiar with using a tablesaw), and I use presta valves cut from old tubes. Has worked perfectly both times, and I have never had a problem with sealant leaking after the initial period of about an half hour of bouncing, shaking, resting, and flipping. Thanks for this article, it has helped save a lot of money that would have gone to buying stans rim strips!

  20. I tried this this weekend with a set of Panaracer Fat B Nimble tires on my Weinmann rims and could not get the bead to seat. Couldn’t get fast enough air flow into the tire, even with my compressor. Hopefully my LBS will be able to give me a hand.

  21. I had no luck at all getting a Larry 3.8 120tpi to mount on the Rolling Darryl rim. Waaaay too loose and it never took air. I put the Nate 27tpi on (with the wire bead) and it sealed up in an instant. I might try the bud to see if I have any success there. The tape seems to be working great though. I couldn’t find the transparent one so I just picked up a white.

    • That’s the problem I am having with the Fat B. Nimble, just too loose on the rim. Going to take another crack at it tomorrow, but might just have to go back to tubes. :(

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  23. I did the tubeless conversion, Rolling Darryls and Knard’s. I too had a problem of the sealent seeping out around the bead at lower pressures. Higher psi, no problem. I just split the remaining tape into 3/4″ wide strips and did two extra wraps on the bead shelf. Worked like a charm, tightened up the tolerences and no more leaks.

  24. Thanks for this protocol – I spent time searching the web for a well-thought-out approach that had benefited from some tweaking and this seemed it. Both tires setup immediately with absolutely no issues. The situation was such that I’d been running Bud and Lou on Clown Shoes with tubes all winter, so about 4-5 months. I had never flatted and as such had never taken the tires off the rims, so I suspect that may have helped the process. The only part I deviated from was the wrapping of the tire with removed tube – tried this and almost unseated the bead. Instead, I held the tire parallel to the ground (unseated side down, of course) and while inflating with a compressor, gave a few shakes up and down until the seal occurred. Super easy! Of note, the tires held air overnight and I went to our local rocky, rooty, delicious singletrack to ‘take it easy’ at first the next day. There was some slight weeping of Stan’s sealant at the bead induced by the rough riding, but they held beautifully, never burped, and I liked seeing the weeping such that it gave me confidence that the sealant was doing its magic. I felt confident taking the bike to Levis Mounds in WI where it was subjected to some serious rocky descents and everything held with no issues.

    • I used less than a roll per wheel. I had a lot left over after a wheel, but didn’t want to start the next wheel on the same roll of tape because of risking running out on the next wheel. I started each rim with a fresh roll, and will use the left overs around the house on various things.

  25. Followed your directions to a tee on my Fatboy, after a couple of initial leaks they settled down and are now perfect, thankyou and excellent work fella!

  26. I want to convert my silverback double scoop fatty with Circle Star JP95HF 32H rims and Vee Rubber Bulldozer 26″x4.7 tyres to tubeless. Any success stories on this combo? Thank you for a great article!

    • bulldozer tires dont work the best in a tubeless setup. vee have a tire coming out soon called the ice golem 4.25″. this tire has plenty of grip and works great tubeless (i just got a pair to test before they get released in my country). if you want to use the bulldozer tire you should use tubes. you can use maxxis dh tubes. they are approx 300 gram and will blow up in a 4.7. there is a schwalbe tube people in my area are using too. i think it is 13f weighs 250 gram.
      As for the star circle rim i cant help you much. I do know that my past experience with star circle rims on fixies is that they have very poor seams in the rim. so rough they rip and puncture of all the fixie kids where i live.
      Hope that helps

  27. Hi. I will try to do this tomorrow on my RSD mayor. Just wanted to ask if I will get the same results using Scotch tough non transparent duct tape. I couldn’t find any of the transparent tape you used here where I live. Do you think it will still better than gorilla tape? Any help would be great. Thank you.

  28. I’m very curious about setting my Fatbike up tubeless. But please once and for all: What are the actual benefits compared to using regular fatbike tubes but even more so compared to using lighter tunes (I’ve read about people successfully using narrower tubes that weigh 250 grams or so – in which case the weight benefit of tubelss is gone).

    • The being its of tubeless vs tubes are the same for fat bikes as they are with anything else including mountain bikes.

      The rotational weight savings, the ability to get thorns and such never stop to fix the flat. Some say less rolling resistance. Less likely to pinch flat with low PSI.

  29. curious to know how your tubeless has held up.

    mine has held up great the last year! until now where i had to break the seal because i had to redo my modification from last year. (i integrated reflector tape).

    but now im contemplating whether to still use the 3M tape or try ORANGE SEAL.
    i am re-thinking this because some sealant has creeped in on the 3M tape and had i not opened the tires up, it may have succumbed to failure sooner or later.

    just trying to see how much maintenance you had to do after your last update.


    • Pretty well, My front has not given me an ounce of trouble in about two years and I’ve had to redo my rear twice. Overall not too painful, but not perfect. That said, some of my “tubeless ready” other wheel and tire combos also give me trouble after sitting for months.

  30. Thanks for the write up! I just did this tonight on my instigator with rabbit holes and dirt wizards, will see tomorrow how well it holds up..

  31. Hi and thank you very much for your well-written and highly informative article. I just converted my 2015 Fatboy. Except for a Bluto it is otherwise stock with Specialized wheels, Specialized rim-strips and 4.8 Ground Controls. I followed your instructions pretty much exactly, except for the exterior tube-wrap technique, which did not seem necessary to obtain a solidly-seated bead. I carefully cleaned the rims and tire beads with solvent. I pulled off the rubber moulding nibs and flashes around the tire beads but should have sanded them too as recommended in one of the posts above. I also missed the recommendation to Superglue the rim joints: great idea; they certainly look vulnerable to leaking. I used “Cantech Duct Pro Clear” because it was easier to find than Scotch Tough. Even with your double-wrap technique in three sections and using a generous overlap I easily did both wheels with just one 25m roll of tape though. After wrapping I carefully compressed the layers of tape against the rim and rim-strip with my fingers, ensuring there were no wrinkles, air pockets or lifting edges. The tire beads seated perfectly using a compressor to 30psi. I used 7 oz of Stan’s per tire. There was nary a trace of Stan’s leaking out anywhere. I let the first wheel sit at 12 psi overnight and it got a bit soft but there was still no sealant visibly leaking. I re-inflated and shook it around and let it sit while I did the second wheel. Then I took the bike out for a quick spin at 12 psi. They seem to be holding pressure but I will check again tomorrow. If I do it again I would: (1) sand the tire beads; (2) Superglue the rim seams; (3) apply glue/sealer to the tire bead (may as well eliminate what sounds to be a common point of leakage); and (4) pay attention to the tire-rotation arrow when mounting the tire! I did not realize they were directional. Thanks again.

  32. Wow! Great write-up. Going tubeless can be an expensive proposition and was wondering have you converted any regular mountain bike tires to be tubeless using this option? Based on all the items it sounds like it’s very possible. Anyways, appreciate the instructions.

    • I haven’t. Stans Tubeless tape and sealant is so cheap and fool proof. I’ve been using purpose built tubeless wheels and tires with no issues.

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