Ten Reasons To Go Tubeless

#10. New Technology. I’m not saying new technology is always better. But tube tires are ancient technology developed in the 1800s. The auto industry successfully re-engineered the tube tire in the 1950’s and found an alternative method to eliminate the tube without sacrificing functionality. So why has it taking the cycling industry so long to adapt the tubeless tire?

#9. No Tubes. Of course the most obvious reason for tubeless tires is that tubes are no longer needed and have been replaced with sealant that is more effective, lighter, environmentally friendly, and reliable.

#8. Less waste. Tubes can’t be patched forever and sooner or later will outlive their useful life and end up in the landfill. Going tubeless means fewer tubes will make it to the landfill.

#7. Can Still Use Existing Tubes. Going tubeless doesn’t mean you have to trash your tubes. While tubeless tires are very reliable, most cyclists still carry a tube as a last resort if sealant and plugs can’t repair a puncture.

#6 No More Pinch Flats. Without tubes, pinch flats are eliminated. Pinch flats happen when a tube is pinched between the tire and rim causing a puncture that looks like a snake bite with two holes side by side on the tube. Without a tube, pinch flats can’t happen.

#5. More Comfort. Without the chance of a pinch flats, tires can be run at much lower tire pressures giving a more comfortable ride.

#4. More Traction. When needed, tire pressure can be reduced to give the sides of the tires more bite to improve traction.

#3. Less Weight. In the world of cycling lighter is always perceived as better. Removing the tube and replacing it with sealant makes wheels lighter and reduces rotational weight.

#2. Better Performance. In general, tube tires have a higher rolling resistance than tubeless. After replacing my tube tires with tubeless tires, I’ve gained a noticeable improvement in performance. In my case it was about a 10% improvement.

#1. Fewer flats. The biggest reason for going tubeless is that they are self repairing. While fixing a flat quickly and effectively is a highly coveted skill, it can’t compete with tires that can repair punctures themselves on the fly before a flat happens. You won’t get less punctures with tubeless tires, but you will get less flats. In most cases, I don’t even know I’ve had a puncture until the end of the ride when I find dried sealant that has been sprayed on the back of my seat post from the sealant repairing a puncture.

Ken Whittaker


Good Riddance to Bicycle Inner Tubes

In the past, when I’ve heard the psst . . . psst. . .psst of a puncture, it meant that I should immediately find a safe and hopefully shady spot to stop and patch my tire. But not anymore. Thankfully, the road bicycle community has finally caught up with the mountain bike world by ditching the ancient inner tube technology developed in the 1800’s and adopting tubeless tires.

Now, when I hear that psst . . . psst. . .psst sound, I simply slow down to see if the sealant will plug the puncture. If it does repair the puncture, I’ll stop to give my tire the pinch test to see if I have enough air in the tire to continue. If not, I’ll pump a little air into the tire.

In most cases, I don’t even know I’ve had a puncture until the end of the ride and I find dried sealant sprayed on the back of my seat post from the puncture. On those rare occasions when the sealant can’t stop the leak, I’ve had to stop and plug the tire. While you won’t get less punctures with tubeless tires, you will get less flats. And to that I say, GOOD RIDDANE TO BICYCLE INNER TUBES!

Ken Whittaker

Bargain (Free) Helmet Cover

A few days ago, I posted that I used to carry a plastic garbage bag as an emergency rain coat.  While I would never recommend a garbage bag as a rain coat, I would, however, recommend a plastic shower cap as a light duty helmet cover.   And the price is right since you can generally score one for free during a stay at a hotel or motel.

Ken Whittaker

Wet Weather Kit

Day 40 Rainy Louisiana

Before I started bike touring, I wouldn’t even consider riding my bike if there was a remote chance of rain.  As a fair weather rider I never fully realized what I needed to keep pedaling comfortably in wet weather.  In retrospect, I cringe to think that I only carried a large garbage bag as an emergency rain coat. 

Inevitably, there will be rain and cold weather. And in many cases you have no other choice but to keep pedaling to reach your destination for the day. So, it pays to be prepared for anything that Mother Nature might throw at you.  Otherwise, you could find yourself in a deadly situation.

While nothing will keep you completely dry in the rain, a good wet weather kit will help to keep you warm, comfortable and protect you from hypothermia.  Hypothermia can occur when you are exposed to cold air, water, wind, or rain.   It is an emergency condition that can quickly lead to unconsciousness and even death. Surprisingly even exposure to water in the 70-80 °F range can lead to hypothermia. Needless to say, cold air, water, wind, or rain can be deadly business, so it pays to be prepared.

My wet weather kit includes:

  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Helmet cover
  • Shoe covers
  • Lights and clothing with reflective material to make me more visibility to drivers
  • Dry bag with a complete set of warm dry clothes
  • A dry bag for electronic devices
  • And an emergency blanket

Don’t forget that wet weather can have a serious impact on your bicycle too. My wet weather kit for my bike includes:

  • Saddle cover
  • Fenders
  • Wet lubricant
  • And dry rag

Ken Whittaker

Ignorance is Bliss

A lot has changed since I posted “How I Eliminated Bicycle Flat Tires Forever!” While the methods I outlined in that post still work well today, there have been a lot of improvements in technology since then. Mavic’s introduction of the road Universal System Tubeless (UST) is perhaps the most important.

I remember eagerly buying a set of Shimano Ultegra wheels that used the UST standard when they were first released. Sadly, the wheelset sat unused in my basement for years because I couldn’t find suitable UST road tires to use with them. Luckily, a lot has changed since then. Now there are dozens of high quality, fast rolling tubeless ready tires for road riders.

Today, ignorance is bliss when it comes to punctures. I never even know I got a puncture until I get home and see signs of sealant on the outside of my tire. In addition, tubeless tires have eliminated the low pressure snake bite type flat. This is great news for touring bike riders. Now when I encounter bad roads or rough chip seal surfaces I can drop the tire pressure and ride in comfort. While upgrading to tubeless wheels and tires may be a bit costly, it is a good investment in reliability, comfort and performance.

Ken Whittaker

Trek Bicycle Bait & Switch?

In my previous post (1998 vs 2018 Bicycle Prices) I mentioned that I’ve been thinking about buying a 2018 Trek Domane SL 6 Disc with a MSRP of $3,600. The Domane SL 6 Disc seemed like a great value to me and I decided to buy one. So I went to my local Trek Bike Shop to buy the bike.

After spending a considerable amount of time dialing in the specs for the new bike, I was told that Trek would not have a bike available in my size (52 cm) until November.  Needless to say,  I was a bit disappointed. The cycling season is almost over here by November. Then I learned that Trek would be able to build a 52 cm Project One 2018 Trek Domane SLR 6 Disc for me in only five days. Unfortunately, this bike would cost nearly twice the price of the Domane SL 6 Disc.

Was Trek using a bait and switch sales tactic to lure me in with a low price on an unavailable Domane SL 6 Disc with the goal of upselling me with a similar, pricier Domane SLR 6 Disc ? I don’t know. I would like to think that wasn’t Trek’s intent. What do you think? Have you had a similar experience?

Ken Whittaker

1998 vs 2018 Bicycle Prices

OK, a new compact crank has more range than my old triple crankset (see Triple vs Compact Crankset). And, wider tires will give me a more comfortable ride with less rolling resistance than my 700×28 tires (see Wide vs Narrower Tires).  But, with today’s bicycle prices, will I have to settle for less bike for my money?

I am back to doing the math. My old 1998 Trek 5520 had an MSRP of $2,200. Giving 3% for inflation over the last 20 years, that would be the equivalent to approximately $4,000 today. So, can I buy a carbon fiber bicycle with components equivalent to Shimano Ultegra for around $4,000? In addition, since carbon fiber was a technological advancement in cycling in 1998, I would expect similar advancements in what I would be purchasing today.

Well it looks like I’m in luck. I’ve been looking at the 2018 Trek Domane SL 6 Disc  and it seems to fit the bill with an MSRP of $3,600. It has a carbon fiber frame with road-smoothing front and rear IsoSpeed technology and Shimano Ultegra components with hydraulic disc brakes.

Wait, that looks like a bargain! How can I resist?

Ken Whittaker

Wide vs Narrower Tires

My 1998 Trek 5220  has served me well for twenty years. Nevertheless, after experiencing varied road surfaces while touring across the country, I realized that I want a bike with wider tires than 700×28 to help reduce road vibration. If you’ve ever ridden chip seal  roads in Texas, you know what I mean. On my second day cycling across Texas chip seal roads, the surface was so rough that my water bottle cage and CO2 cartridge holder broke due to metal fatigue from all the shaking.

In addition, according to tire manufacturer Schwalbe,  “wide tires roll better than narrower tires.” So, what’s not to like about wider tires on a road touring bike?

Ken Whittaker

Triple vs Compact Crankset

I’m considering retiring my cherished 1998 Trek 5220  road bike. The biggest obstacle holding me back is that new bikes aren’t equipped with triple cranksets anymore. While I rarely use my granny gear, it’s comforting to know it’s there if I need it.

The bike I’m looking at has a double 50/34 (compact) crankset with a 11-32 rear cassette compared to my triple 52/42/30 crankset with a rear 12-26 cassette.  Before buying a new bike I wanted to know how much range would be lost if I gave up my triple crankset, so I did the math as follows:

High Range Calculation

Distance traveled with each revolution of the pedals in high gear =

Wheel Diameter x Pi x Largest Chainring/Smallest Cassette Gear

For example:
28 inches x 3.14 x 52 teeth / 12 teeth = 381 inches
28 inches x 3.14 x 50 teeth / 11 teeth = 400 inches

Here a larger number is better.
Triple 52/42/30 crankset with 12-26 cassette = 381 inches
Compact 50/34 crankset with 11-32 cassette = 400 inches

Low Range Calculation

Distance traveled with each revolution of the pedals in low gear =

Wheel Diameter x Pi x Smallest Chainring/Largest Cassette Gear

For example:
28 inches x 3.14 x 30 teeth / 26 teeth = 101 inches
28 inches x 3.14 x 34 teeth / 32 teeth = 93 inches

Here a smaller number is better.
Triple 52/42/30 crankset with 12-26 cassette = 101 inches
Compact 50/34 crankset with 11-32 cassette = 93 inches

I was surprised to find that the compact crank setup would give me a greater high range but I was downright shocked to learn that it would give me a better low range as well.

Ken Whittaker

Secret to Patching a Slime Tube

I’ve heard people say that a tube with Slime sealant can’t be patched. However, I can assure you that I have patched them.

You may be asking yourself, why did I need to repair a self-repairing tube? In one case, I punctured the tube during installation. While Slime should seal punctures up to 1/8″ (3mm) the puncture was larger, so I had to patch it.

I found that the secret to patching a tube with Slime is to completely remove all residual sealant from the outside of the tube with soap and water before patching the it.

Ken Whittaker