So I finally upgraded my eBay wheels on my cross bike this season. For the last several years I have been riding some of the worst wheels known to man. You know the ones, they have no vendor name stamped on them because even the manufacturer is ashamed that they made them. When you actually see them at your LBS (local bike shop) they appear in the discount bin labeled as "free". They weigh as much as your head, but their 1 main advantage is THEY-NEVER-BREAK!
Well, shock of all shocks, after an unknown amount of miles of life the hub in the front wheel finally started that lovely grinding sound that goes I-want-to-be-replaced, I-want-to-be-retired...so I obliged. <Warning...plug coming> I hit up my team's sponsor's shop, Sheldonville Bike Repair, to get the experts opinion and after much hemming and hawing I purchased my very first set of tubeless wheels!
Since I didn't have a big enough fund to go straight for Stan's top-of-the-line Iron Cross wheels I settled in on their road wheels since they are plenty tough to handle cross racing. I purchased the A340s with some Kenda Kommandos. I have had them now for 2 months, tons of rides and several races so I have definitely formed a strong opinion on them.
Early on during my deciding-what-the-heck-to-buy phase, I consulted the Oracle of New England. Otherwise known as my buddy Billy. Now you are probably wondering, "Rob, you are supposed to be a coach, don't you know all about this equipment stuff?" and the answer to that question is and unequivocal "YES!" dear reader. I asked my friend who has been racing cross since it started in NE (that's New England for you folks not "from around here"). Billy made one comment of caution, one that I had heard many times before, that tubeless wheels can be very finicky. He words turned out to be prophetic in hindsight.
After Dan from Sheldonville had put the new wheels on and taken the time and effort to seal the new tubeless tires onto the new tubeless wheels, I of course was itching to take them apart!
Sidebar here…tubeless wheels and tires work through having a thicker rim on both the wheel and tire side that allows them to form a much more almost-air-tight seal once the wheels are seated properly, usually by using an air compressor to quickly and forcefully blow the tire onto the rim in one shot. The point of that is to align the rim of the wheel and the rim of the tire, hopefully perfectly, as the better the fit, the better the air seal. After you have spent this effort getting the tire onto the wheel, the first thing you do is let all the air out of the tire! This is done so that you can then pour some sealant into the tire. The purpose of the sealant is to fill all the tiny little imperfections in that seal between the wheel and the tire. Sidebar done! Whew!
So here comes the finicky part…Dan did an outstanding job and the front tire was seated on the wheel flawlessly, holding air like there was no tomorrow. Unfortunately, the rear wheel decided it needed more love and attention. After several attempts to seal it up as well as the front and with no noticeable leaks, the rear was losing air. Over the course of the day it would go from a high of about 45 psi to a low of about 10 psi. Not really a huge problem as this just means a daily trip into the garage to make sure the tire has enough air in it to not pop off the rim.
This being my first foray into the world of tubeless and being a rather impatient, I –just-want-to-get-on-my-bike-and-ride type of guy, I was a bit nervous riding on this tire that was somehow mysteriously losing air even though the expert had installed it properly. After a trip ripping around my yard, which included the required log and curb jumps of course, I felt much better about taking these new wheels out for a spin!
Stay tuned for the next installment where Bullwinkle shows up at my local CX training area! Or was it Rocky? You’ll have to tune in to see!