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All DOWN Cycles MTB NewsMain MTB NewsLocal NewsTech Tips & Reviews
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05/24/09
English (US)  

I’ve been riding with tubeless mountain bike wheels and tires for the last two years. I have contemplated doing a review on tubeless since I’m still a bit perplexed on whether they’re a worthy upgrade over tube tires or not.

I have to admit that the system does work perfectly fine, but I’ve had some issues over the years. These issues are rather serious and they have me second guessing a positive review. I also wonder if they’re worth the investment or if they’re at all an upgrade over tube tires.

First off let me start with what the advertised, so called, benefits of tubeless systems. Manufacturers will tell you that you can utilize lower tire pressure (for better traction) without the annoyance of getting a pinch/snake bite tube flat. I suppose this statement has some truth to it. Fact is: lowering tire pressure in order to gain traction is something riders will not do for three reasons.

One, running low tire pressure (I assume low pressure for XC is below 30 psi) will dramatically increase your chance of burping air from the tubeless tire/rim bead contact area. Burping will occur if you ride aggressive, blast into turns/berms or jump and land on an off camber. Forget about tire sealant preventing this issue. Tire sealant has not helped my tires hold a bead or has it prevented flats do to punctures.

Second, lower tire pressure is a literal drag to ride. The rolling resistance is very severe and is actually dangerous to ride with either tube or tubeless tires. I’m sure most of you have rode with low pressure before. If not, try lowering your tire pressure and go for a ride. Accept the fact that you’re trying this at your own risk. Most likely, you will scare yourself when the tire flops/rolls from the rim. This unnerving sensation is even more noticeable with single ply tires and skinny rims. Flopping tires are also an issue when running low air pressure on large DH style tires. The skinny is, when your tires roll from the rim, you will temporarily have zero control of your bicycle. I don’t care how good a rider you think you are.

Third reason you’ll never lower your tires air pressure is an obvious one. You have a much better chance of denting the alloy rim with low tire pressure. Not only will your rims suffer possible catastrophic damage, your tubeless tires themselves very often snake bite flat. Yes, straight through the tires rubber casing.

So obviously the advertised ability to safely utilize lower tire pressure with tubeless is a bust. What then are the advantages of tubeless? The only one I can think of is that they eliminate tubes. Without a tube, you will never have another tube style snake bite flat. With tire pressures around or above 30 psi, I have had great success with tubeless!

You will become very aware of how often you run over thorns and also how often you weaken the tires bead when you switch to tubeless. A few companies offer tubeless tire repair kits, but frankly, not one has worked for me (and yes I’ve tried them all). The simple truth is, you must carry a tube with you wherever you go and I also recommend a heavy duty section of rubber for side wall repairs. Some duct tape is also a good idea to keep with you to hold that rubber piece in place when repairing side walls.

A C0 2 cartridge does not have enough volume to blow up a tubeless tire on the trail. A compressor is the only way to fill a tubeless tire with a strong controlled blast of high pressure air. You will need to install a tube during trail side repairs.

I’ve yet to wear a tire out on any of my tubeless tires. I’ve had to replace every tire long before it wore out do to damage to the tire casing, rendering the tire useless (unless I ran a tube). This expensive issue is annoying to say the least.

My tires are always low on pressure before every ride losing up to 15 psi overnight (unless the tire is brand spanking new). Pressure loss is hard to detect and almost impossible to repair if you find the cause. Some pressure loss comes from a loose tubeless valve. This is usually an easy fix, unless you over tighten the external o ring, knurled nut and twist/rip the internal rubber seal. (This happened to me while the bus pulled up to shuttle up to LPS in Moab Utah).

Tubeless tire selection is pretty decent. Many award winning tires are unfortunately only available in tube style, such as Stick e Nevegals. Maxxis offers a wide variety of tubeless tires, but still no mud tubeless tires. I’ve been riding the Maxxis Igniters and they seem very good for east coast conditions. They’re great on rock and hard pack and worked well in Moab and at the Kingdom trails in Vermont. They fall short in slick conditions and I wish they were a bit softer. Maxxis XC tubeless are 70a duro.

I recommend tubeless tires to riders who are competitive. Many a race has been lost due to a tube pinch flat. Riders who have a fat wallet and a lot of patience are also good candidates for tubeless. Weekend warriors should stay clear of tubeless. I feel that most riders will suffer with problems with tubeless. Tube systems work pretty well and are pretty easy to work on trail side.

In the long run, most riders will end up running tubes in the tubeless tires. I’ve battled the tubeless system tooth and nail. As of now, I have a leaky tubeless Igniter on the front of my bike and a Cross Mark on the rear with a tube since the tires bead is weak, not enough to bulge the tube, but just enough to leak all the air if set up tubeless.

In other words, I’ve been beaten by tubeless tires. I have surrendered, forced to run tubes inside this sophisticated, brilliantly engineered, tubeless work of art.

2 Updates

05/16/09
English (US)  

I’ve tested a few products recently that have simply astonished me. Every once in a while a product comes along that is technologically light years ahead of the rest and the pack will have to try and catch up.

I have been testing out a new chain lube, CHAIN-L on all of my bikes from Cross to DH. I was always a wax lube type of guy do to the clean trailside repairs and general bike cleanliness, but CHAIN-L has converted me. I now understand the benefits of an oil lube. Besides having the best name ever conceived for a chain lubricant (say it fast), CHAIN-L is by far the best chain lube I’ve ever applied to my bike.

CHAIN-L is actually rather thick oil. I admit I was a bit nervous during the initial application. This lubes viscosity resembles that of honey, but when used properly, your bikes chain and associated components will stay clean. (Just follow the directions and make sure to wipe down your chain after the ride).

This chain lube will make you a faster rider! I immediately noticed my drive train was totally quite, the bike was easier to pedal and accelerated much faster! I’m sure many racer types consider this product a secret weapon.

Your bike will shift much better with this lubricant and you will have less wear issues with your chain and gears. My shift from 1 to 2 on the front rings is now instantaneous and I’ve never experienced one iota of chain suck since I’ve been using this lube.

I’ve found that chain lubrication intervals for east coast mountain biking is around every 5th ride, (with wax lube, every 2nd ride). Sure, your chain may attract some dirt, but the dirt will not make its way into the chains bearings as this is the area of the chain that CHAIN-L protects best.

DOWN Cycles is now a dealer for CHAIN-L and a 4oz bottle sells for a reasonable $12 and last much longer compared to other brands.

You just have to love these new technical innovations!

Chain L

5 Updates

07/22/08
English (US)  

Avalanche has released hydraulic bottom out cones, similar to the cones they use in their high end DHF fork, for the Marzocchi 888 forks! These quality parts mount inside the forks lowers and slow down the ending stroke bottom out with hydraulic pressure.

With the Avalanche tapered cones installed, harsh bottom outs are a thing of the past. Finally your DH fork can be set up soft for supple performance without any worries of destroying the fork on the big hits!

I tested the cones on my 2007 Marzocchi 888 RC2X. I had an entire season on the fork without the cones. Like all Marzocchi forks I have owned, the 07 888’s bottom out is harsh. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the metal to metal clank that alerts you that you have used up all 8 inch’s.

I took this same 07 fork off a G out on a local training run that always bottomed my fork. Many times my wrists would hurt from the impact. I prepared for the worst, suddenly, no bottom out, at least no perceived bottom out. Upon closer inspection, my fork used up 7 7/8” travel.

Buyers/Riders should know that with the cones installed, 7 7/8” travel is all you get. The cones take up a bit of space internally, but this issue is a small price to pay for the performance upgrade.

So there you have it, the cones do the job! I have beaten my fork to death trying to bottom it out “clank” style. The Avalanche cones simply take the hit and butter out the forks bottom out. This upgrade is a must for aggressive riders. You will ride with more confidence and less wrist fatigue. Both races and freeriders will benefit from this modification.

The AVA Advantage 888 Bottoming cones can be installed at DOWN Cycles!

1 Update

09/13/06
English (US)  

Avalanche Downhill Racing is bound to have a rear shock that will fit your bike frame and style of riding. This year they offer “generic valved” shocks that are less expensive. The generic shocks work well for riders of average weight and typical 3:1 leverage ratios. One new rear damper of particular interest is the Montie Monotube.

=> Read more!

1 Update

09/06/06
English (US)  

The downhill chainguide is the most important and most abused component on a DH bike. For years, engineers have been floundering with designs that try and prevent chain derailments. Most were overly complicated or simply to flimsy to hold up under the rigors of DH. Lucky for us, we have: Bob (“Mr. Dirt”). He has been coming up with ingenious designs since the beginning of time. He invented the “Gizmo” back in 2000 and has reintroduced a new improved version this classic guide.

Dirt Gizmo

=> Read more!

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01/25/06
English (US)  

2006 Syncros Mental Pedal Alloy

I’ve owned almost every high end pedal on the market and none have as much traction as the Syncros “Mental” Pedals. No wonder Syncros names these pedals the Mental. The studs are vicious! They can certainly tear you apart. As it says all over their web site, wear shin protection!

=> Read more!

1 Update

01/18/06
English (US)  
Pauls Components Thumb Shifters

I decided to build up a complete bike from spare parts I had lying around my shop. I had everything to set the bike as a 9speed except shifters. However, I did have a pair of Shimano 9 sp bar end road bike shifters. Although this style shifter is designed for road, bar end shifters are also considered prehistoric and are not used very often. Typically, road bike have dual control shifters. You sometimes see cyclo x racers using bar end shifters thanks to their simplicity and ability to shift perfectly when covered in dirt.

=> Read more!

7 Updates

06/03/05
English (US)  

Push

I’ve been happily testing a Push Industries tuned FOX Vanilla RC on my Orange 223. To prove to you that your shock has been tricked out, Push actually gives you back all the old Vanillas internals. For less than $200.00 Push Industries will trick out your old FOX and bring it up to speed with their “Race system”!

=> Read more!

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02/15/05
English (US)  

Rear shock technology has improved leaps and bounds over the past few years. So much has evolved that I felt compelled to test a few of the new designs. Three shocks were tested and to my surprise all work very well at propelling us downhillers even faster down mountains. All were tested on my latest and greatest downhill ride, the Orange 223.

Tested are two more recognized brand names: Avalanche DHS, Progressive’s 5th Element and the black sheep, underground company, Push Industries. New on the scene, Push is doing in the US what the Euros been doing for years, tossing out the internals of your FOX RC and replacing them with new technology. Riders now have the option of upgrading rear shock performance without having to buy an entire new rear shock. Push offers an upgrade to install FOX “Pro Pedal” or go for the gusto and install their totally revamped “Race Internals” (tested here).

=> Read more!

5 Updates

05/01/03
English (US)  

After a recent DH session, a friend of mine said my bike would be the choice pick for the GODS. This statement got me thinking, what bike would GOD choose to ride for DH? I pondered this interesting question and decided it would make a great tech tip.

=> Read more!

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