Last winter I decided to try going tubeless on my fat bike, and had mixed results. I knew that the tires I was using were older and probably not ideal for the use, and there’s other complications that come with fat tire tubeless setups. It was a good experience though, and made me decide that it was time to convert the main ride (Salsa Vaya). I didn’t want to go into the situation with used tires though, so I gave it some time this summer to wear out my Teravail Rutlands. I opted to give the Panaracer Gravelking SK+ a shot, since they seem to be the darling of just about every gravel biker out there.
I began by first acquiring a small air compressor from a friend of mine to make the seating process work. I got the rims taped and unfolded the tires, and everything was going great, until I tried to get them to seat. No matter what I did I couldn’t get enough air in quickly enough to get it to pop onto the bead. I brought it over to my buddy’s place and he gave it a shot, trying the soapy water trick and nothing would work.
I brought it back to my local bike shop and in 30 seconds their high powered compressor had them seated and I was on my way. I did lose the bead on one of them on the way home and had to make a second trip once I had sealant in, but after that little mishap it’s been holding. My mechanic also thinks that the plus(+) version of the SK’s might be causing some issues in that the rubber isn’t quite as flexible (added puncture resistance). He’s never had an issue with the non-plus version seating easily.
I’ve been checking my pressure every day, as well as before and after rides. Right now I do seem to be losing about 1-2psi per day on each tire, but the act of riding doesn’t hasten that. I went for a 20 mile ride during a break in the smoke last week and the pressure didn’t change one iota from pre-ride. I’m thinking that it’ll just take a bunch more riding to get every little spot sealed up. I do think that my taping job was pretty good, but not quite as perfect as it could have been. At some point I may pull them apart and re-tape, but I’d like to save that until I need to change tires.
With this success under my belt I went ahead and tried changing out my wife’s spare wheels to tubeless. They came pre-taped from the factory which made the job super quick. The first tire was done in record time and is holding pressure solidly. The second tire however brought up a new problem. I had forgotten that my wife had a flat tire when she last used this wheel and it was due to a pretty severe puncture from glass. I got the second tire seated with the air compressor, tossed in some sealant, and started hearing hissing. I rotated things around a bit and discovered the troublesome hole.
Next up on this bike journey is learning to use bacon strips to seal a puncture when sealant just won’t cut it. Bikes are an ever growing learning process!