This is my 4th season on IRC tubeless tires and about 18 months ago I started keeping track of our flat tires, or lack thereof, during some of our major international races. At all of these races, we have had a handful of guest riders who are on a variety of different tires, both clinchers and tubulars, so it gave me some good metrics to compare, since we were all riding over the same roads in the same races at the same time.
Before we deep dive into the numbers, miles, and flat tires from the 3 international stage races, I wanted to talk a little about tire setup and the things I’ve learned over the past few years of installing new tires. Tubeless tires can be a pain to install. There’s not much around that. Sometimes they go on really easily, and sometimes they are a huge amount of work, sweat, and bloody thumbs to install. Tubeless tires have a non-elastic kevlar bead to lock the tire onto the rim of the bead without stretching and blowing off the rim like a typical clincher tire would do without a tube keeping the tire to rim bead locks in place. The inability of tubeless tires to stretch is why tubeless rims have a deeper center channel and can also be so hard to install. I have noticed that over thousands of miles and months of being inflated, the tire beads can still stretch slightly, which can make the tires harder to seat and seal over time. I have an order of progression I go through when I have a difficult time seating a tire and I just want to pass that along in order to possibly save you some time and frustration in the future.
- When I have a hard time getting a tire to seat with a normal floor pump, I either move onto a compressor or a pump with a chamber like the Bontrager Flash Can or something similar.
- If that doesn’t do it, I remove the valve core so that more air can enter the tire quickly and try again with the compressor or chamber pump to seat the tire to the rim.
- If you still aren’t able to get the tire to seat, I like to spray a little soapy water on the area where the tire and rim meet all around the entire perimeter. This sometimes help the tire bead slip into the rim hook. Try inflating again with no valve core with either a compressor or chamber pump.
- If that still doesn’t work, I remove the valve and put a tube in the tire, seat the tire, and then pump it up until the rim and tire lock together. Then I carefully remove one side of the tire only (while keeping the other side of the tire and rim locked together) and remove the tube. Then put the valve and sealant back in and try inflating with a compressor or chamber pump.
- If that still doesn’t work, take the tire and valve core off and add another layer or two of rim tape to the wheel. Put it all back together again and seat it with the compressor or chamber pump. This should work and has been my last goto every-time I have ever had issues with a tire seating.
- If that doesn’t work, bring it to your local bike shop, go home, and drink a beer.
Onwards to the stats. I started keeping track as I noticed the issues our guest riders were having with flat tires at these international races and decided to actually tally it up over the races and see if anything came to light. I kept track over 3 International stage races that we did in November 2018 (UCI Tour of Guatemala), October 2019 (The Tour of Tobago), and in February 2020 (La Vuelta Independencia in the Dominican Republic). I used these three races because the pavement was quite rough, and we had guest riders at all three races which were running a mix of high end clincher and tubular tires. Over the three stage races, we combined for a total of 11,700 miles, 7780 of the miles were ridden by team riders and 3920 of the miles were ridden by guest riders. Our guest riders got a total of 17 flat tires over the course of the three stage races, which were 5 flat tubulars and 12 clincher flats. Our team riders got 0 flats over the 7780 miles raced.
This difference was absolutely mindblowing to me. All of the team riders were running a mix of 28mm IRC Race Lite tires, 28mm IRC RBCC, or 28mm IRC X-Guard tires with a wide variety of tire sealants – heck, some of the guys probably didn’t even have any sealant left in their tires since it does need to be replaced every few months, and some bike racers are not stellar mechanics.
To top all this off, I decided to try riding my IRC tires until they were completely worn out and flatted. This time never came even though I was down to the casing on both tires around the entire tire, and I just got so scared of having a massive tire blowout 50 miles from home that I changed them.
I have to say that after riding tubeless tires for the past 4 years, that even though they are a lot of work to set up, you get the setup pretty dialed after a few times, and they are absolutely amazing once you get them set up and dialed. Seriously, nice work IRC.