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Tri’d And Tested: Stan’s Tubeless System

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Aug 10, 2010

The Stan’s Tubeless System is a recession-friendly upgrade that improves performance, ride quality and reliability without creating mechanical problems.

Written by: Aaron Hersh

The Stan’s Tubeless System is a kit that allows nearly any standard tire to hold air without a tube. The system uses a rubber rim strip to cover the spoke holes and liquid sealant to prevent air from leaking through the tire. Although it takes a leap of faith to trust a tire that is sealed with a scoop of liquid plastic, this progressive inflation solution reduces weight, prevents flats and improves tire grip. The Stan’s Tubeless System provides these dramatic performance improvements with only minimal drawbacks and at a budget-friendly price.

Flat resistance

Many riders trying tubeless wheels for the first time are concerned about reliability and puncture resistance. It seems only logical that removing the tube should make the tire more prone to flats, but the reality is just the opposite. A tube loses air as soon as it is punctured, but the liquid sealant in a tubeless tire prevents flats by rapidly filling any holes before air can escape.

Stan’s boasts that its sealant prevents nail holes from flattening a tubeless tire. If its system can stand up to nail damage, thorns shouldn’t be a problem, so I decided to conduct my own version of this test. I hammered four nails into the tire, pulled them out and waited overnight to see if Stan’s Tubeless is truly nail-proof. Sure enough, the tire held air.

A standard tube can also go flat when it is pinched between the terrain and the rim. This type of puncture, known as a pinch flat, is eliminated because the tire does not perforate when it hits the rim as a tube would.

Weight

A tube weighs somewhere between 125 and 200 grams. The rubber rim strip included in the Stan’s Tubeless System weighs about 60 grams and the sealant adds another 60 grams. Add it all up and going tubeless saves between 10 and 160 grams at the rim.

Tire pressure

Every mountain bike on the market has a suspension fork because it is more efficient to absorb—rather than bounce over—bumps in the trail. Both the suspension and tires can conform to rough terrain, which prevents the rider from skipping off the ground and losing traction. A tire inflated to a low pressure is able to conform to the trail more effectively than one inflated to a high pressure. Traditional tube-and-tire systems must be pumped firmly to prevent pinch flats, but this prevents the tire from absorbing bumps in the trail so the rider is battered and beaten by every rock with only the suspension fork to absorb the shock.

Unlike standard tires, tubeless tires can be ridden at low inflation pressures that allow them to effectively grip the ground without risking a pinch flat. Stickier tires improve performance on all types of terrain but the added grip pays biggest dividends on steep climbs. Traction, not weight, is the difference between spinning up a rocky climb and being forced to dismount and hike up the hill. Supple tubeless tires are able to grab onto rocks that would bounce a standard tire off the trail and leave the rear wheel kicking dust.

Drawbacks

The Stan’s Tubeless System costs $60, about $50 more than a pair of tubes. Although the kit is more expensive than standard tubes, it provides an unmatched performance-per-dollar value. Upgrading other parts—or buying tubeless wheels—to mimic the speed gained from converting standard tires to tubeless would be drastically more expensive than the $60 kit from Stan’s.

Initial installation is the only real drawback to the Stan’s Tubeless System. Using the kit to convert standard wheels to tubeless is an eight-step process that requires an air compressor. Although installing the system is certainly more involved than slapping a tube onto a rim, most shops charge less than $40 for the conversion. Once the tire is properly installed, adding a scoop of sealant every couple months is the only necessary upkeep.

The Stan’s Tubeless System is a recession-friendly upgrade that improves performance, ride quality and reliability without creating mechanical problems.

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Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at Ahersh@competitorgroup.com.

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