05 July 2006

In Da Tube

Stop and ask yourself which you trust more : tubeless, or traditional tubed tires for your mountain biking excursions? You have to ask yourself if being "stranded" after a tire blows off the rim is worth all the trouble to begin with. Having researched the subject in depth online and in-person, I prefer tubes because I frequently ride in remote areas, often solo, and cannot risk the agony of walking out 6 miles due to a failed bead seal using tubeless or Stan's NoTubes. These guys seem to feel similar, albeit in a tongue-in-cheek presentation.
At the beginning of the Spring of 2006, I rode in the rain to get conditioned for the dry days ahead. Very few flats during the "cold" months. Once the weather returned to NorCal normal, I found myself flatting up to 3x on a single ride. How can this be? Same trails. No goat's head thorns. No balls-out dropoffs. Nothing changed, really.

SO, I examined my tire casings, tubes, patches, rim tape, literally everything. How can I not flat for months, and then flat 2x on one ride and then 3x on another similar ride? At one point, I replaced my Panaracer translucent green rim tape for
Velox white fabric rim tape.
I had tried strapping tape, but was unable to get a purely flat and even application guaranteed not to pinch the tubes. Sure, Velox is a little heavier, but not by much. This solved most of the problems. The original rim tape was floating away from its seated position, allowing the tube to come into contact with the sharp, 90-degree edge of the spoke holes in the rim. Shazam!!
At one point, I was not trusting the 125-gram Specialized Turbo tubes I had been using for years. After multiple patches and the subsequent replacement of four tubes, I found myself questioning to no one in particular, "Maybe there was a bad run?"

In searching for a new supplier, I stayed away from the ultra heavy 230gram alternatives, as well as the ultra light 90gram alternatives - just like the Olympics, right? And, after searching for the perfect combination of traction, low rolling resistance and light weight in tires, I certainly don't need 300gram Slime tubes throwing that equation out of
it's delicate balance. Maybe in a thorny, piny, cactus area I would consider returning to Spin Skins pantyliners. Err, tire liners. But they're not necessary among the cottonwoods, oaks, and maples among the timid trails I ride in the South Bay Area:
  • Skeggs/El Corte de Madera
  • Russian Ridge
  • Grizzly Flat/Upper Stevens Creek
  • Saratoga Gap/Long Ridge
  • Pogonip/UCSC/Wilder Ranch/Grey Whale
  • Santa Teresa/Stiles
  • Fremont Older
  • Alum Rock/Boccardo
Eventually, I uncovered competitively-priced tubes of comparable weight from Bontrager. 125 grams for $8 at my LBS. Totally recommend these for the intersection of price and weight + Added Bonus : the metal Presta stem is relatively short, so the "out of balance" issue is minimized. Longer metal stems found on other tubes add more weight at one spot of the rim. Unable to locate these online nearly anywhere in the states, I bought several and have had zero problems to date.


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