How do you repair tubeless flats on Fat Tires?

Forums Mountain Bike Forum How do you repair tubeless flats on Fat Tires?

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    • #257765

      Question from the Singletracks help desk:

       I am an OLD guy who is a NEW rider (at least thinking I will be).  I got that tubeless is beneficial for reducing a little weight on a 40-50 pound bike, but running tubeless tires on cars for several decades, I know you can still get a lot of flats, and I can’t imagine that sealant is a “cure-all” (?).  How DO you repair a flat on a tubeless fat bike tire?  Seems like the sealant might also complicate that. (?)

      Anyone care to weigh in?

      My response is that sealant definitely isn’t a “cure-all” but it does tend to reduce the overall number of flats compared to running tubes, mainly because it eliminates most of the flats associated with pinches and small punctures from things like thorns.

      As far as repair goes, you repair a fat tire flat just like any other tire. A lot of riders carry a spare tube which is generally a quick and easy way to get rolling again. Tire plugs can help with big holes that sealant can’t fill. With a fat bike tire, you’ll want to carry a large CO2 cartridge if you don’t have an extra tube so you can re-seat the tire tubelessly. And don’t forget to bring extra sealant (more than the ~ 2oz. needed for regular tires).

    • #257766

      One flat on a fat bike run tubeless in the last 4 years of trail riding, and it was MY FAULT!  I rode over a fallen tree with a sharp broken tree limb sticking up and it punctured straight thru the center of the tire tread spraying Stans all over the place, why, because I had the pressure way to low in the fall and the tire absorbed the spike instead of moving to the side.  I love running tubeless, its WORTH IT!  By the way my wife almost died laughing watching me spray sealant all over the place!

    • #257767

      For me, fixing a tubeless flat involved inserting a tube.  The irony…

    • #257771

      Wow, it’s such a rarity that I might actually have relevant information regarding something!  The chances are great, however, that I’m wrong and won’t do anyone any good.  Nonetheless, my twin pennies!

      I’m going to make a couple assumptions. The first is based on your age.  I’m guessing you’re not looking to top the Strava boards on speed.  My second assumption is based on your weight estimation of 40-50.  You’re either looking to buy a bike at the very bottom of the quality ladder or you haven’t done a ton of research on real world weights in the fat category. You can get a bike at the lower end of the pricerange that weighs less than 35 lb, depending of course what you want bolted to your bike.

      So let’s talk about your concern of weight.  I did a lot of research when I first got my fatbike because I just knew tubeless saved lbs!  I ride tubeless on my 29er and 26 bikes and I just can’t speak highly enough about it. I ride in an area where thorns are a major part of any ride and I went from fixing flats every ride to riding for literally years without a flat so when I got my fatbike I was completely fixated on doing the same to it.

      Then I started reading more about it.  If you didn’t buy a bike that has tubeless ready rims or tires, you’re most likely looking at buying new tires and either rims or you’re doing a ghetto conversion on the rims you have(all my bikes are running ghetto tubeless).  To do this, you tape the rims and that’s often a bit problematic.  The rims are made mostly of holes and tape often leaks.  People try everything to seal them, from Gorilla tape, which degrades over time and turns to goop to cutting 20″ tubes up and using the rubber to seal.

      Which all adds weight.  Once you take your sealing effort and goop into account(twice the goop of a normal tire), you’ve often lost no more than a few ounces when compared to running a tube.  Nevermind the money saved when you don’t have to buy tubeless ready tires, stems or tapes.

      Want to lose weight and keep the punctures to a minimum?  Don’t buy fatbike tubes.  Buy a regular 26″ slime tube.  They stretch to fill a 4″ tire, they seal when punctured and they weigh so much less than a fat tube that the wheel weight can be less than what you ended up with when converting to ghetto tubeless.

      Another benefit?  You don’t have to deal with the goop when you get a flat on your tubeless while on the trail.  If you do get a flat, it’s the normal and quick method of breaking the bead, pulling the tube and replacing it with another or patching and replacing.  Airing up is a breeze(pun intended).  You don’t have to pull a stem, work in a nasty slimed tire or waste c02 cartridges while hoping it airs back up.

      The slime tube has kept me from having any flats, which amazed me, to be honest.  I ride at very low pressures, even for fat bikes(4lb front, 6lb rear) so I am very vigilant to watch my lines to keep from flatting due to rim hits.  The faster you ride, the more air you need(low pressure + fast riding ends in the contact patch wanting to continue going straight when you turn) so if you’re a fast rider, you won’t run that low of a pressure but you will eventually find a pressure that works for you.

      It would be my suggestion to hold off on tubeless and run some tubes for a while to see how it works for you.  I changed my mind on it after the first ride.  All the horror stories of rotating weight and low pressure pinch flats had me convinced tubeless was the answer.  It’s been my experience that my fatbike is no harder to pedal than my other bikes, I don’t notice any additional “wheel weight” and I’ve never had a flat(knock on wood).  My rigid fatbike is my year-round ride now and I absolutely love it.  I’m not what you would call an experienced or competitive rider, I don’t ride for speed, I just enjoy the experience and the fatbike is a perfect fit for me.

    • #257777

      The bigger and wider the tire the greater the weight savings you will get from going tubeless. Trading 4 oz of sealant for a 16 oz Fat tube is a lot of weight savings. However, many Fat rims and especially the older drilled versions are not designed to be tubeless and it can take quite a lot of tape and hassle to convert them to tubeless. You will have the best luck converting to tubeless if you have non-drilled tubeless ready rims and tubeless ready tires. I’ve heard of people using just a floor pump to mount tubeless Fat tires but in my experience this job requires a compressor. You might not be able to mount a Fat tire with just a CO2 inflator.

      Only the latex sealants actually seal minor flats. Non-latex sealants should not be trusted as most of them don’t perform well at sealing even minor flats. For larger flats that the sealant won’t repair there are three ways to get rolling again.

      Put in a tube. But remember, you have a tire full of messy sealant that you will need to clean up. So make sure you also carry a large rag to clean up that mess and also a plastic bag to put that sealant soaked rag into so that you can put it into the trash. Please don’t leave that rag on the trail. You might also need a pair of pliers to remove the tubeless valve stem.

      Use tire plugs. Which would be my first choice for tubeless flat repair.

      The third option which can be difficult to do on the trail is to put a patch on the inside of tire. However it can be difficult to get the inside of the tire cleaned up well enough for patch to bond to the inside of the tire and then get the tire to mount up when you are in the dirt. You also need more sealant. It is much easier to do in a clean shop/garage with a compressor. This is a last ditch effort to keep the tire tubeless when plugs don’t work.

      If you’re going tubeless you should have a spare tube, a rag in a bag, pliers, maybe some spare sealant, and a tire plug kit and know how to use it. There are many online videos showing how to use all of these repair methods and how to mount up tubeless tires. In my experience, things seldom go as smoothly in real life as they do in the videos. There is definitely a long learning curve to using tubeless tires. The great paradox of tubeless tires is that when they work right they are incredible and you never get minor flats but when things go wrong, they are a huge mess and hassle. I can replace a flat tube for a new tube in about 5 minutes. Fixing a tubeless flat can take much much longer and can be very messy.

      In addition, in extremely cold temperatures, sealants might freeze.

      • #257782

        In my opinion, the best reason to convert to tubeless is that you get many minor flats—think goathead and cactus thorns. When using tubes, if you get less that 10 flats a year, staying with tubes is cheaper, less hassle, and easier than convering to tubeless. The benefits of tubeless just don’t outweigh the downsides unless you get frequent flats.

    • #257810

      I recommend not overthinking it.

      Put in a tube, air it up, and ride. When you get home, make a better fix.

      If you have a big enough tear that the tube bulges out of the hole, put a dollar bill over the hole in the tire as you inflate the tube. Then ride. When you get home, make a better fix. Don’t forget to put the $20 back in your wallet. 🙂

      I currently carry some bacon strips for plugging small holes, but I haven’t needed to use them yet. I’m hoping that these will enable me to fix a minor hole without having to use a tube. Then just ride on.

      When you’re on the trail, forget about cleaning up sealant. Just leave it. All the goop will still attempt to hold things together. Never spend time cleaning a tire if you’re going to replace it away when you get home.

      Tubeless tires cut my rate of flats by a factor of 10, and my frustration rate went WAY down (even saved $$, because all those tubes add up).

      • #257841

        I agree with not overthinking it.  Not too long ago, I took it a little further.  I’m back to tubes 100% of the time again.  My experience has been that I don’t encounter any more or less flats with or without tubes.  I’ve noticed though, that today’s tires are better at resisting punctures than those a few years ago.  Goat heads, thorny vines, etc., don’t penetrate enough to puncture my tubes any more.  Tires just seem to be tougher.  The rare flats I get are significant.  The kind that tubeless sealant, or tubes, an prevent.  So, for me, it’s easier to just patch or replace a tube than it is to clean out sealant before inserting a tube.  And I don’t like to worry about the need to replace sealant due to age.  I know, it’s not that big a deal.  Just one less thing to mess with.  I am by no means anti tubeless!  I just prefer tubes for me.  🙂

    • #257842

      ^^ What they said ^^  As a new rider getting into MTB’ing better to spend your time and focus on building your skills and just enjoying the ride.  While I am a big fan of tubeless (including my fat bike) for many of the reasons already mentioned when you’re starting out it’s just not that important unless you find that you are having issues flatting.  If you think it may be important some time in the future consider buying a bike  with tubeless-ready wheels.  More importantly, get out and just enjoy the ride and the experience!

    • #257997

      I just got a tubeless  and asked the same question . I was told by a buddy to take a tube with me on my ride’s ,if I get a flat  to put a tube in the tire  and go have fun . That’s my plan

    • #257998

      I just got a tubeless  and asked the same question . I was told by a buddy to take a tube with me on my ride’s ,if I get a flat  to put a tube in the tire  and go have fun . That’s my plan

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