Okay, so you want tubeless tires on your mountain bike, but you do not want to pay for them. Welcome to my world–I refuse to pay more for tires on my bicycle than for my car. It’s just stupid . . . as hell. That said, tubeless tires are awesome, especially when you ride in places that are full of goathead thorns and star thistle; if you’re a shitty rider who can’t bunnyhop/pick the bike up while riding to save your pathetic life, tubeless tires are great for avoiding pinch flats.
The concept I’m about to outline is not mine–I found it somewhere else online, and I’ve essentially copied many others, including the basic idea behind the Stan’s No-Tube kits you can buy in any bike shop. Remember though, I’m here to save money while reaping the benefits of tubeless tires (like hot chicks who know your name, free beer, and a rock-and-roll lifestyle). I will not explain to you how to remove your tire or fix a flat; if you need these directions, please look elsewhere, like your local bike mechanic.
List of crap you need:
1. Stan’s No-Tubes sealant (about a quart). There are guys out there making their own sealant with latex (and maybe some cat gizz mixed in–I don’t really know), but I went the easy way. This is the most expensive single item here, but it comes with a cute little red measuring cup.
2. Tube of a smaller diameter than your wheel. I have 29-inch wheels, so I use 26-inch tubes for sealing/rim-strips/valve stems. The idea here is to need to stretch an inflated tube over your wheel, within reason. Note that I’ve also used Stan’s rim strip tape, which was not specifically necessary; you should still use/keep normal rim strips, but the Stan’s tape is not necessary.
Edit: Skip #2. Just use 1-inch Gorilla tape around the rim. Skip the strip and the fake tube, and just find a way to get valve stems that stay put (like Stan’s stems, or maybe cheaper ones you may find elsewhere) after you’ve done the tape and cut a couple of small slits at the hole. This will be more of a test of your cheap tires, of course. If the tires blow off (which can happen–wear eye protection, and close your flytrap), you’ll need to go back to #2.
3. Access to a compressor. Much like with a car tire, you are highly unlikely to seat a bead with your regular bike pump. In a picture below, you’ll see the adapter I use to make my presta valve a schrader. So this is actually two things…
Note on tires: I don’t buy stupid folding tires. They will only last so long, and the weight you save in a tire is negligible, unless you’re trying to be the fastest racer on the planet (in this case, fuck you and your power meter/Strava posts). I use cheap Chinese-made WTBs, with wire beads. I have a theory that the wire beads help in avoiding burping/bead breaking while riding; not using stupidly low tire pressures (like 25 pounds) also helps…
Proof: I’ve used the following (pictured) combination for about seven or eight months, without fail; there have been tons of holes in the tire(s) in that time, and I’ve watched several seal; I’ve made no trail-side repairs since doing this. This shit works.
Steps: Look at the fucking pictures below. Feel free to ask questions.
Your basic tire–I’ve used this one for months..
This is a 26-inch tube on a 29-inch rim. Get the valve in the hole, then center the tube by pulling and snapping all the way around. Some pics were blurry, as I was in need of a snack (shakes).
Stab a hole in the middle of the inflated tube, then cut down and around the center (one side, note the whole tube). Spread that bitch over the sides of the rim, as shown in the pictures. Make sure that your valve stem is straight and secured with the nut.
Get your gizz ready by shaking it for a while, like spray paint. Mount one side of the tire, making sure to get the bead on the inside of the tube. Hang the wheel off of something, like your neighbor’s car door mirror, your kid’s ear, or your quad’s handlebar. Mount most of the other side, leaving a few inches open, making sure that the flaps from the now 1/2 tube are still hanging out on either side of the rim (they are becoming your seal). Pour in two (little red) cups of that Stan’s gizz, then carefully mount the rest of the tire. Carefully turn the tire to spread the gizz around the inside, making sure that you do not go off center; the gizz loves to get out and onto things, like your pants. Hang the wheel back up, and position the valve stem/adapter in a easy spot. Hit it with the compressor; if you have trouble getting the bead to seat, try pressing part of the tire toward the rim. Eventually, as long as you’ve got a good surge of air going into the tire, the bead will seat, and presto, you’ll have your new mock-tubeless tire. I use 30-32 pounds, and check with every ride.
Remaining pictures include the presta valve adapter, trimming the excess tube after mounting tire, and the finished product. When you’ve got the thing mounted, don’t be such a neat freak that you pull too hard on the excess tube sticking out between the tire and the rim; remember that you’re a cheapskate, not a fashion whore.