|Setting up your wheels and tires to be run without tubes is one of the best things that you can do to improve reliability and performance, and it's also something that you can to do at home and for very little money. First, here's what you'll need: some alcohol spray to clean your rim bed, a roll of thin width Gorilla Tape from the hardware store, a knife, a set of tubeless valve stems, and any brand of tire sealant from your bike shop. The grand total should be under $40 USD, and the job shouldn't take more than an hour, even if you only have one arm.|
Step 1. Remove the old rim strips and use the alcohol spray and a clean rag to wipe down the rim bed. Make sure you get any of the old dirt and gunk that may be in or around the spoke holes, with the idea being to allow the Gorilla Tape to stick to the rim as best as it can.
Step 2. Hold the roll of Gorilla Tape up to the rim to see how wide it needs to be, and then start a short tear at the correct width - it should span the entire inner width of the rim, but not extend up either sidewall. Mounting the wheel in your frame or fork with the bike upside down will make the next part much easier... Start about six inches away from the valve hole and apply the tape to the rim bed, making sure that it's straight and not up on the sidewalls, and pull tight enough that it stretches slightly as you apply it. Go all the way around until you pass the valve hole again and the tape is overlapped by eight or ten inches. Now use a knife or scissors to make a clean cut.
Step 3. Inspect your tape job for anywhere it might have not been aligned properly, and use your thumbs to press out any places where it didn't completely stick. Now you're ready to install the valve stem by using a knife to make a small 'X' directly above the valve hole, and then pushing each valve through. Screw down the locknut tightly.
Step 4. Mount up one bead of your tire as you usually would, but please don't use tire levers as you risk poking through your new air-tight rim strip. Pour in the recommended amount of sealant (it will say on the bottle) and then install the other tire bead - no levers!
Step 5. The big moment! Getting your newly tubeless'd tires to seat and be air-tight often comes down to how tight the tires fit onto the rim - the tighter the fit, the easier they'll pop into place. And remember, it's all about getting as much air into the tire as quickly as possible, so a compressor can really make life easy at this point. Not seating up? If your valve stems have removable cores (some do, you just need a tiny wrench), unscrew them in order to allow the air to enter faster, and you can also spray both sides of the rim and tire bead with soapy water to help the situation. Still no luck? That likely means that your tire fits onto the rim too loose, and that you'll have to add a turn or two of Gorilla Tape in order to build up the rim bed height and make a tighter fit. Start by adding just one extra wrap and see if it works. Too much tape and the tire will fit so tight that you'll have a hard time getting on or off.
It may take a few rides until your tubeless setup doesn't leak air, either from the tire's sidewall if they're not intended to be run without tubes, or possibly from around the valve. It can help to take the wheel out of your bike and hold it so the sealant runs to the problem area. Also, because a recently tubeless'd wheel needs to have the sealant spread around the tire, you might find that you're losing air if you don't ride your bike often enough... just use this excuse to ride your bike more. This will fix all of your problems with your wheels and everything else in life. - Mike Levy
Some Gorilla Tape and sealant will have you forgetting about tubes, although you should always carry one as a spare regardless. This is also one job that can be messy, so best not to do it in the kitchen.
|Breaching the subject of when and how much to use the front brake on the dirt is guaranteed to light a fire in the comment section. I can skip the cautionary mumbo jumbo because as a moto road racer, you have mastered the front bake and the art of modulation. The rules are the same: the front brake stops, the rear brake skids, and the front brake must be released as the bike is leaned onto a turn. Both brakes are almost always used in combination, but there are a handful of situations where the rear brake is used solo. The three main situations where rear braking is the only effective and sane method to slow the bike are: |
First: When descending wet roots or slick rocks, use the Sam Hill technique - Get your body position low and towards the rear of the bike, lower your heels below the pedal axles and bend your wrists below the handlebar grips to help drive the rear tire into the ground. Modulate the rear brake using maximum braking where traction is available, while releasing the lever momentarily where death awaits on off-camber or diagonal faces.
Second: Descending or entering corners where a deep parallel rut dictates your path is another good reason to keep your fingers off the front brake. Skidding or not, the rear wheel will follow the rut as long as you are giving the rear lever a significant squeeze, and as such, you can use the rut to establish your line. Use the rut to your advantage and then simply release the rear brake when you need to roll out of it.
Third: The last reason to use only the rear brake for slowing is for controlling speed or changing direction when the soil is soft, deep, or unstable - like six inches of shifting gravel. In those situations, the risk is that the front tire will plow deep into the soft stuff or refuse to plane over the top of the gravel and start to wander uncontrollably.
The rest of the time, the front brake is used for slowing the bike, while the rear brake is used judiciously as both additional stopping force, and to encourage the rear wheel to 'trail,' or to follow the front wheel when the bike is bouncing around under hard braking - exactly as you would brake on your road racer. 'Trail braking,' lightly dragging the rear brake into and around turns - is commonly used in moto racing to maintain the lean angle of the bike, so there is a minimal transition between braking and acceleration at the apex of a smooth turn. This is useful for entering and exiting fast, bermed corners, but generally, trail braking is not used effectively as a tool by mountain bikers. We rarely power out of turns from the apex, because the pedals would rub, so it makes more sense to choose a lean angle that allows you to coast around most of the turn. If you over-cook your entry, drop the inside foot, increase the bike's lean angle by bending at the hips, and drift both wheels (without brakes) to scrub off speed. The key to braking and going fast is to read the terrain and to use the brakes in short, powerful intervals wherever traction and the trail surface provide low-risk opportunities to burn off speed, and then roll the turns and technical parts without much or any braking application in order to maximize control where you need it most.
Finally, there are often situations, especially when picking your way around tight corners at slower speeds, where a quick skid can help swing the rear wheel around the turn and help set the bike up for a straighter exit. Squaring off every corner with a rear-wheel skid, however, is lazy and destructive, and in most cases, it's the slower way around. Many off-road riders (moto and mountain bike) claim that using the rear brake for everything and only applying the front when absolutely necessary is the secret to speed - and some of those guys ride pretty fast - but they are wrong. Without exception, the best moto and mountain bike racers master the use of both brakes and their front brakes play the dominant role. - RC
Jared Graves's finger is lifted well clear of his front brake lever as he passes the apex of a tricky corner. That illustrates how conscious top racers are of their brakes and alludes to the precision with which they use those tools.
|The Mavic Crossride is by no means a 'bad' wheelset, but it is on the more affordable, budget oriented side of the spectrum. It's also a little heavier, and the rims are narrower than other slightly pricier options out there. In this case, since the wheel is covered under warranty, have you considered asking the shop if they have a loaner wheel, or maybe a used one you could buy for cheap that would hold you over for the next few weeks while you wait? If not, purchasing another Crossride front wheel will still probably be your least expensive option.|
On the other hand, you mention that you're getting into enduro racing, in which case having a spare wheelset is a very good idea - there's nothing worse than having a weekend ruined by blowing up a rim or toasting a freehub body and not having a replacement. I'm not sure what type of budget you had envisioned for a new set of hoops, but if you can part with around $600 USD, Spank's Oozy Trail 295 wheelset would be good option, or you could go the handbuilt route, and have a local wheelmaster put together exactly what you'd like. For rims, I'd suggest either Stan's FlowEX or WTB's Frequency i25 - both options strike a good balance of weight, strength, and price. Pair those with the nicest set of hubs your budget allows and you should be set for a good long while. - Mike Kazimer
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