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Mountain bike upgrades: Tubeless conversion, air compressor, new saddle.

Friday, February 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

February
17
2012
WTB Devo Carbon Saddle

WTB Devo Carbon Saddle

Big mountain bike blog today. 🙂

The stock saddle (Bontrager Evoke 2) on my Trek Fuel EX 8 was starting to come apart, so I had to replace it. I found the Evoke to be fairly comfortable, but it was a little too narrow for my body (I have fairly wide sit bones). I definitely could feel some pain on long (3+ hour) rides. The Evoke is also relatively heavy at 287 grams.

My primary objective was to find a replacement saddle that was wider and lighter than the Evoke.

After a lot of reading I finally decided to go with the WTB Devo Carbon Saddle. The Devo is wider than the Evoke, and also a little shorter (which makes getting in front of and behind the saddle easier). The saddle is made using very strong and lightweight components: carbon, genuine leather and Titanium rails. At 189 grams, the Devo actually came in a gram under the manufacturer stated weight of 190 grams. The new saddle gives me a net weight savings of 98 grams over my old saddle.

I took the Devo on its inaugural ride yesterday morning: 20 miles over very rooty trails. With the scant amount of padding on this saddle, I was very surprised that it was so comfortable. My sit bones were perfectly centered on the padded areas, and so this saddle is a much better fit than my old one. 3-4+ hour rides should be much more comfortable now.

Stan's NoTubes

Stan's NoTubes

Yesterday evening I tackled another important mountain bike upgrade project and converted my bike to tubeless tires. The rims that came on my Trek Fuel EX 8 (Bontrager Duster) are tubeless ready, which basically means I just needed to install tubeless rim strips and add the sealant.

The de facto standard for going tubeless is Stan’s NoTubes. Stan’s offers several different tubeless kits for most kinds of rims. I required the “Flow” kit, which is the appropriate kit for Bontrager Dusters. The NoTubes web site has all the information you need to select the right kit for your rims and tires, and helpful videos for installation.

I found the tubeless conversion to be much easier than I expected it to be. The instructions are very clear, and I simply took my time and made sure I was following the guidelines to the letter. A short while later I had both tires inflated sans-tubes and 100% leak free. Flats should be a thing of the past now (check out the video of Stan rolling over a spiked platform a couple dozen times).

The Rockworth 2-Gallon Hot Dog Air Compressor

The Rockworth 2-Gallon Hot Dog Air Compressor

The thing about inflating tubeless tires for the first time is you need a lot of air pressure to get the tire to bead. In most cases a floor pump won’t cut it: you’ve got to have an air compressor. I didn’t own an air compressor, and I didn’t want to spend a lot on one. I found an awesome compressor on Amazon that was just $39.99: The Rockworth 2-Gallon Hot Dog Air Compressor. This 100 PSI compressor is factory reconditioned, but it arrived looking brand spanking new and working perfectly. The compressor also came with a 20′ coiled hose and a gun-style standard Schrader valve tool. The hose and air tool are practically worth what the whole compressor cost!

When I went to bead the tubeless tires for the first time the compressor effortlessly filled the tires with air almost instantly. Very impressive for such an inexpensive tool.

The nice thing about the compressor is that it isn’t just good for bikes: it can fill anything from wheelbarrow tires to automobile tires, and even power many air tools. I hooked the compressor up to the tires on my big F150 and it didn’t even break a sweat while adding air to them. Keeping the tires on your automobiles properly inflated gives you better gas millage, and having a compressor in your garage makes this chore much more convenient than feeding quarters into the machine at the gas station.

The Prestaflator

The Prestaflator

One other important note. Many bikes (and Stan’s NoTubes rim strips) use Presta valves. They sell Schrader to Presta conversion pieces, but they are a pain and prone to leaking. I found a very cool tool that anyone who is into bikes (and has an air compressor) should have: The Prestaflator.

The Prestaflator can fit both Presta and Schrader valves, is easy to use and has a very accurate gauge. I have no idea why the few reviews on Amazon are so bad–all the other reviews on the Internet are glowing. I think those Amazon reviewers simply didn’t read the instructions. I had no problems with the tool, and I’m very happy with the purchase.

I’ve updated my garage repair shop article with the new tools.

John Stone Fitness Comments

12 Responses to “Mountain bike upgrades: Tubeless conversion, air compressor, new saddle.”
      • Yeah, I watched that vid…freaking crazy is what it is. So there’s just a sealant floating around the inside of the tire? Does that go in before or after the air? And why is there no such product for car tires, or is there?

        I’m so intrigued…

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        • About 2-3 ounces of sealant (depending on tire size) is added to the tire just before airing it up. You simply dismount a small section of one tire bead, add the sealant, re-mount the bead and air the tire up. As noted above, quickly airing the tire up with a compressor is usually required to properly seat the bead.

          You can also add the sealant after airing the tire if you want. That involves removing the valve stem and using Stan’s NoTubes Injector.

          The sealant lasts about 2-3 months, and stays liquid in the tire during that time. Refreshing the sealant is accomplished by removing a section of bead and adding the sealant or, the easiest method, using the injector (that way you don’t have to deflate the tire or break the seated bead).

          There are similar products out there for auto tires. I think Slime makes one.

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  1. Tubeless is great in principle, but in practice i have found them to be less than stellar. Most of my friends (myself included) have now switched back to inners. YMMV obviously!

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      • +1 for tubeless. I’ll be converting my 29ers as soon as I can. Be warned though. You won’t pinch flat (obviously), but you can still tear a sidewall or burp them if you get to aggressive in the corners with low PSI. It’s always good to carry a spare tubey. Just be prepared for a mess. I have never had any problems with my 26er set up tubeless with stans and quality rim strips. WTB wierwolfs and the bulletproof ignitor/crossmark are both wonderful without tubes.

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        • I still always carry a tube. I also carry a sandwich size ziploc bag with a pair of latex gloves inside to wear while I make the repair. I stick the old rim strip in the bag if I have to throw a tube in. Nothing worse then getting latex all over your hands then have to put them in your glovesor getting latex all over everything inside your pack!

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          • Put those tubes in a sock or something too. There’s nothing worse than being covered in stans while fishing out the emergency tube only to find out your multitool has been rubbing against it for a hundred miles.

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  2. I think it all depends on the terrain you ride and the tires you use. Some are much more prone then others to blowing beads and tearing sidewalls. Current tubeless ready designs are your best bet as they are compatible with latex sealants and have stronger beads. I am a bit weary of converting standard tires as I have experienced a few failures but I have also gone an entire year without a flat. Some of my friends have tried it and it worked great for 4 months then suddenly they get a flat and swear tubeless off when in reality it is there own fault because they let their sealant dry up. It takes patience and a bit of maintenance to keep a tubeless system up and running but I think the benefits far out weigh the costs.

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  3. If you aren’t carrying a spare tyre I would also recommend carrying a tyre boot (can make one out of an old water bottle or something similar – heard you can do it with a toothpaste tube!). Got me home a few times!

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