Looks who’s laughing now, clown!

After successfully running tubeless tires on my Salsa Fargo for many miles, I have fully embraced the tubeless movement. I had only ONE flat on the entire 2700-mile Tour Divide last year, and that happened just 300 miles from Antelope Wells (the sealant held the puncture until 40 miles from the finish, when I finally threw in a tube). These days it’s actually hard to ignore the merits of “going tubeless.” Not only do you virtually eliminate flats, but you also get better traction and are generally able to run your tires at a lower pressure, allowing for a smoother ride over bumpy terrain.

So, naturally, when the Surly Ice Cream Truck came into my life, I wanted to run my Bud and Lou’s tubeless. Fat bikes are all about squishy tires anyway. Why deaden those monsters with tubes? But surprisingly, the tubeless movement hasn’t quite made it over to fat bikes yet! Granted, Surly is making a stab at the market with its brand spanking new Other Brother Darryl TR rims (right on!) but if you want to run 5” tires, like those of us with Ice Cream Trucks, you’ve got spend some serious time with your shoes off — Clown Shoes, that is (For the uninitiated, the Surly Clown Shoe is the name for the 100 mm rims that come standard on a stock Ice Cream Truck fat bike). Anyone who’s messed with tubeless knows what it’s like to wake up in the morning, having let a new conversion sit overnight only to find the tires flat. Ugh. The Clown Shoes were laughing at me.

After trying — and failing — with Gorilla tape (2” and 4”), regular duct tape, transparent duct tape, and then hunting in vain for a 24” tube (presta valve, removable core) to split for a “ghetto” setup, I had pretty much resigned myself to living with tubes. Then I got two flats within a couple weeks of each other. Both from thorns! If this bike is supposed to be “omniterra,” it can’t be getting skittish around thorns. I mean, that’s like an elephant being afraid of a mouse. In the immortal words of Matt Damon, I was going to have to science the $%*! out of this!

Through all my failures, I learned two key things about this particular tire/rim combo: 1) The bead will not fully seal unless the tape is completely rim-to-rim. Those bead channels need to be lined with tape. 2) Overlapping tape to span the full width of Clown Shoe “hundies” is just asking for leaks. Even 4” Gorilla tape is not wide enough to span the distance.

So, I needed to find some super-wide, super-watertight, super-sticky, super-flexible tape. And, my friends, I found it. It was just hiding. It wasn’t in the regular duct tape section near the paint isle, no, this stuff’s too good for that. It was buried in the back of the store with the REAL duct tape, next to the HVAC foil tape. It’s Nashua 6” Select Window and Door Flashing Tape! This stuff is the real deal, with butyl adhesive covered by a removable backing for easy application. And 50’ is only $20 to boot! About an hour later I had a properly tubeless fat bike to ride (And the tires are still holding air two weeks later as I write this post.).

Without further ado, here are the steps for setting up your Bud and Lou’s tubeless using the Nashua super-tape. Stick it Clown Shoes!

What you’ll need:

– Nashua 6” Select Window and Door Flashing Tape (of course)
– Two standard mountain tubeless valve stems with removable cores
– 16oz Stans (or similar) sealant and some sort of injector system
– Air compressor
– Scissors
– X-Acto knife
– About an hour

  • 1. Remove the tire and tube, leaving the rim strip in place.

  • 2. Unroll and cut 76” of Nashua Tape.

    3. Carefully cut 1.75” from the width of the tape, reducing the width of the entire 76” strip from 6” to 4.25”.

  • 4. Wrap the 76” x 4.25” strip of tape around the rim, beginning approximately 3” before the valve hole. Gradually remove the tape backing, exposing the adhesive as you progress, and pull the tape taught as you adhere it to the rim. Be as precise as you can when aligning the edges of the tape with the edges of the rim (uniformity pays off here), gently creasing the tape into the bead channels as you go. You should complete the wrap approximately 3” on the other side of the valve hole, having overlapped 6” of tape.

    5. Use a plastic tire lever or some other blunt object of similar size to fully push the tape into the bead channels. Also ensure that the tape seam is sealed.

  • 6. Use a razor blade or X-Acto knife to cut a small “X” through the tape over the valve hole.

    7. Reinstall the tube and tire, inflate to 15 psi, and let the inflated tire sit for a few minutes. This will help the tape conform and adhere to the rim’s contours.

    8. Deflate the tire by removing the valve core, break the bead on one side of the rim only, then remove the deflated tube.

  • 9. Install a standard mountain tubeless valve stem and hand-tighten the nut. Remove the valve core.

    10. Lay the wheel flat with the open bead facing down (gravity will help the bead seat more easily) and inflate. You should hear the bead “pop” into place.

  • 11. Deflate the tire again, inject 8 oz of the sealant of your choice through the valve stem into the tire, then replace the valve core.

    12. Inflate to 15 psi and bounce/shake the wheel to splash the sealant evenly throughout the tire, then deflate to desired pressure.

    13. Say goodbye to flats!

9 Comments

  1. How’s this working so far? I walked into the garage this morning and found another flat on my Ice Cream Truck, so I believe it’s time for tubeless!

    1. Author

      Hi Ryan. Yes! They’ve been holding for several months now — no flats. One caution … make sure you overlap the tape quite a bit. I have another set of wheels (80 mm rims, 3.8 knards) and one of them failed recently. The sealant was leaking out of the cutouts, which means it was getting through one of the seams in the tape. So, just make sure those seams are solid. Good luck!

      1. Finally got around to trying this. It was surprisingly simple to get the first one set up, but on the second one the Big Fat Larry’s bead blew to shreds as soon as the tire seated and pressurized. Going to order a new tire and try it again, hopefully with less violent and catastrophic results.

        1. Author

          Wow, Ryan. Sorry to hear about the BFL explosion. Good luck with the next go-round. My Bud and Lou’s are still holding BTW — with minimal re-inflation.

          1. New tire came, and the front set up easily as well. Great tip with the 6″ flashing tape!

  2. Thanks for the tips, I’ve purchased this tape and going ahead with this when my stans comes in. So it is now about 9 months after your post, I take it you’re still happy with your choice of materials?

    1. Author

      Hey Roger. Yes, this works great. No leaks to-date and I can still hear some Stan’s sloshing around in there. Good luck!

      1. Ok, operation complete to your specs. Took a ride, I witnessed on leak seal. Two hours later pressure is till holding fingers crossed. -R

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