Friday, December 10, 2010
Road Tubeless Maintenance Tip: Don't Let Your Sealant Dry Out
This is not the case with tubeless road tires. I have found that the sealant that I have been using, Stan's will dry up about every 3-6 months. When healthy, and in the heart of the season, I can put on enough miles on my road bike such that I wear out my tire before the sealant dries up. In the cold Colorado winters or when I am off the bike due to an injury, my sealant will dry up before I have worn through a tire, typically a Hutchinson Fusion 3. I simply don't put enough miles on my Hutchinson Intensives to wear through them that quick.
If you have multiple bikes, the problem is worse, as the sealant will dry out periodically long before you wear through your tire.
What Happens When Your Run Out Of Sealant?
First, your tubeless road tire is more vulnerable to small, puncture flats. There simply is no sealant to seal the leak. Worse, I have found that road tubeless tires can suffer from what I call Spontaneous Deflation. I have seen the bead seal fail when the bicycle is not being ridden. You can put your bike in your car and drive to work, and by the time you are ready for your after work ride, you have no air pressure! I even once had my tire deflate, after I topped it off before my ride, while I was getting dressed.
For some reason, I have only seen this with road tubeless tires, not mountain tires. The only explanation is the higher pressures seen in road tubeless, about triple that of a mountain tire.
How To Maintain Your Sealant
When you install a tubeless tire, keep a log of when you added sealant the last time. I recommend a small notebook that you keep with your bike tools. Every three months, deflate the tire and check to see if there is still a small pool of sealant on the bottom. If there is, estimate that quantity and subtract it from what you normally add. If there is no sealant puddle in your tire, remove it and clean off any dried sealant before reinstalling it with new sealant. A dry rag or paper towel is all that should be needed to remove the dried sealant.
I will qualify my advice this way: I have been using Stan's sealant, so I know it will dry up at this rate. Your results may vary with other brands of sealants. I also live in Denver Colorado which is both a mile high and one of the driest places in the country. It is likely that my sealant will dry out faster than that of someone who lives in a wet climate at sea level such as Portland Oregon. Nevertheless, the principle holds true. You should periodically deflate and inspect your tire to ensure sufficient sealant remains to seal the bead and any punctures you may encounter.
Periodic maintenance is a small price to pay for the vastly superior comfort, performance, and reliability that road tubeless tires have to offer.
Posted by Jason at 9:04 AM