Fat Tubeless to Bliss.

I recently wrote about my ghetto tubeless conversion, which went seamlessly and took less than an hour to setup.  I now have a few rides in on the tubeless, and wanted to give some early impressions.  Here’s my thoughts thus far, in my normal, mild-mannered tone:

Converting your fatbike to tubeless is the single biggest, most cost-effective way to increase your riding pleasure.

Is that overstating it?  Perhaps.  I don’t think pleasure is necessarily the right word…perhaps…efficiency?

There is a huge difference in pedaling effort that accompanies a 1.5 pound reduction in rolling weight on a fatbike.  Regardless of any other benefits, the weight reduction makes it totally worthwhile.

Added to that, you get the greater resistance to flats, and less potential for tube chafing at ultra-low pressures.  I’m still experimenting with pressures, but I did a 20 miler at 6 psi front / 8 psi rear, including many obstacle crossings and one unintentional log bash intentional test of burp-resistance, which was passed with flying colors.  From what I’ve seen thus far, I expect that I’ll be able to run pressures as low as the tires will allow…at some point, sidewall deformation becomes tire wrinkling and folding…and that’s too low for me.  But I expect 3-4 psi will be eminently doable.

The downsides to tubeless?  Twice a year Stans refilling.  The ghetto appearance of ghetto tubeless.  I would say ‘difficulty mounting/remounting tires’, but my experience has shown that mounting the tires is incredibly, unbelievably easy…so I don’t think that’s a drawback. I’m very confident I can seat the tires in the field, with CO2 or a handpump.  The more elegant ‘taped’ versions of tubeless eliminate a few extra grams and have a more streamlined appearance, but I’m not as confident in the field-remountability of tires, if needed.  Then again, with the extra flat resistance, field mounting/remounting shouldn’t be an issue.  Tire retention has not been an issue, even with some intentional field-testing at low and high speeds.

I’ve previously said that the Fatbike + front suspension concept made the most important fatbike of 2013.  I’ll say now that the fatbike tubeless is the most important fatbike modification of the year.  I’ve tried many–carbon forks, hydro brakes, drivetrain upgrades, different tires, etc.  I would say, without hesitation, that I’d do a tubeless conversion on any fatbike I would ever own.

Hopefully, we’re within a short window before wheels and tires are intentionally designed for this purpose.  A fatbike tubeless rim would be a nice option…either with non-structural areas milled to a thinner aluminum (e.g. thin aluminum in lieu of holes in a holy Rolling Darryl), or with a rubber rim strip that seals the rim, or a composite rim strip bonded to the aluminum…and a rim bed shape that encourages seating and bead retention.  The market is here for it…bikes like the Beargrease demand it.


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