Are You Ready to Meet Stan?
By Dan Crean
This article was originally published in our Fall 2004 issue. A lot has changed since then but—sealant based tubeless conversions have become a standard set up for everyone from pro racers to recreational trail riders, many companies are offering “tubeless ready wheels and tires” designed specifically to be used with sealant—but one thing hasn’t changed: Stan is still the king. Stan Koziatek revolutionized tubeless with his No Tubes system back in 2003 and all the current sealant based systems out there now are variations on his original design. This article written by then Polo Sport team mechanic Dan Crean is still very applicable to setting up your tubeless system correctly the first time.—Editor
So, you think you want to ditch the tubes and try Stan’s NoTubes System? You may have heard it’s not as easy as it looks, and that’s correct. There is a right way to use the system and a wrong way. If you do it the wrong way, it can wreck your eardrums and make your garage look like you hosted a 30-person . . . well, let’s just say that it can get messy. I’m going to let you in on some tips that I’ve learned, some by mistake, some by chance, and hopefully you will avoid getting in trouble with your significant other.
Stan’s NoTubes System is a fairly new product designed to make it possible to use a regular (non-tubeless) mountain bike rim and tire work effectively without a tube. The system also can be used creatively with a USB tubeless rim and a non- tubeless tire or to enhance a normal USB tubeless setup to make it more reliable and puncture resistant. However you choose to use Stan’s system, it can save weight in the all-important wheels area, save you a lot of trouble with punctures, and best of all, allow you to run lower tire pressure without pinch-flatting. A complete Stan’s kit consists of a set of special rim strips and a quart of Stan’s special patented liquid latex sealant formula. It will cost you around sixty bucks and includes enough formula to last about one year of tire changes. You also can purchase all the stuff separately.
To begin with, Stan is one of the best resources when looking for help with the NoTubes System. His website is action-packed with info. He has videos to download and many tips on what to do and what not to do. Check it out at (www.notubes.com).
Some of the tips I’ll give you are on his website and some are not. My goal is to help you set up Stan’s right, shed some weight to from your steed, and help eliminate the dreaded psssst on the trail.
For starters, make sure you get the right package for your wheel set. Different rims do require different rim strips. The liquid latex is all the same. Stan has been messing with different formulas, and each time they get a little better, but all of them work better than butyl tubes. If your rim has eyelets that go all the way through the rim for the nipples, then you probably need to run the included packing tape strip before using Stan’s rim strip. This adds extra strength and keeps the rim strip from getting sucked down into those holes.
When running a tubeless rim system such as the Mavic Crossmax or Crossroc series, you may still want to run his rim strip. At times I have successfully run a regular (non- UST) tire on a Mavic UST rim (with no rim strip) using only 1.5 scoops of Stan’s formula. I would recommend this only for a lighter rider (under 160 pounds). And if you push the tire into a corner too hard, a “burp” of the tire may mean a blow out, and we all know that can get ugly real fast. If you’re a smaller racer, or you are known for smooth lines and want to count every gram, use this setup, otherwise, use his rim strip or a tubeless tire.
Another tip when using a Mavic tubeless rim is to get a strip of adhesive 3/8” foam insulation from a hardware store (see photo). What this does is get Stan’s rim strip to lay flatter on the rim instead of making a “V.” Trust me, this saves a lot of time and effort when trying to get your tire on. All told, this little strip weighs in at a little over 10 grams and is worth every bit.
Most of the Stan’s rim strips nowadays have his valve stem with a removable core. This handy little feature allows you to add more latex down the road without breaking the tire bead. Stan’s formula does not last forever. It turns into funny little rubbery balls (you’ll see), and it will be less effective over time and should be replaced, or replenished. This is the reason for the handy removable core. If your strip doesn’t have it, don’t worry–the latex usually lasts about as long as your tire does, and you can still add more fluid by unseating a small section of tire. If you are one of those people who run a WTB VelociRaptor until it looks like a semi-slick, then you should make sure you get the removable core rim strip.
The key to using Stan’s sealant is shaking the mixture. The stuff settles out fast within the container, and Stan recommends shaking the bottle upside down vigorously before pouring. This gets the stuff into solution and makes sure that both tires get equal amounts of the good funky crystals that make Stan’s work.
Seating the tire bead onto the rim can be the easiest or most difficult part of the process. Here are some tips to help you out: To begin with, not all tires are created equal. Some go on much easier than others. I have had the best luck with Kenda tires, and Stan will agree with me. However, I have tried most of the other tires on the market, including Panaracer, Hutchinson, WTB, Continental, Bontrager, Maxxis, and Schwalble, and I have gotten all of them to work–some easier than others–but they all work.
Here’s another tip: Try to seat the tire without having the Stan’s sealant in the tire. Use a strong mixture of liquid soap to water (1/4:1 mixture). Use a spray bottle and squirt this around the bead of the tire. This will act as a lubricant, allowing the tire and rim to interface and seal. The reason for doing this is to get one side of the tire firmly seated into the rim. If you get it to “pop” into place, let the air out and remove only one side of the bead half of the way (enough to get the goop inside). Rotate the tire 180 degrees and push the bead back on. Never inflate the tire beyond 65 p.s.i. This pressure is even too high for most mountain bike tires and you could snap the bead. Stan recommends that you inflate to only 5 p.s.i. over your normal riding pressure.
If you cannot get the tire to seat on the rim, there’s a good possibility that the tire bead could be kinked. When tires are packaged in their neat little boxes, they are often folded, creating a kink or bend. To help iron this out, I have learned to inflate the tire on the rim using a regular tube. If you allow the tire to sit on the rim for several minutes (or even overnight if you have time), the kink will unfold and help seat the tire bead with better contact against the rim.
If you are going to skip seating the tire onto the rim with an inner tube (trust me, I’ve done this with unexpected tire changes right before a race), make sure both beads are sitting in the center of the rim, except for the area around the valve core. Use care when rotating the tire so as not to lose a ton of Stan’s (this stuff stains). The best bet for getting the tire to seat is to use an air compressor. A good floor pump will work, but it may also work you.
Stan would never recommend you use a CO2 cartridge to inflate the tire; however, in a race situation, Carl Swenson used a cartridge to re-inflate a torn sidewall and had enough success to continue racing. The CO2 comes out way too cold and reacts with the Stan’s with negative effects. I would say that the best way to fix a major flat is by installing a tube. If you lose a small amount of air from a small puncture, you can usually re-inflate the tire by using a mini pump. If you still hear some leakage, put that section of the tire at the bottom and shake–allowing the Stan’s to do its job.
Right now you’re probably thinking, “Is this worth it?” It sounds like a lot of trouble to go through. Yes, it is worth it. Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski used Stan’s in a tubeless tire last year at every race and never got a flat. He even had a 10-millimeter tear in his sidewall only 5 minutes into last year’s Tour of the Canyonlands in Moab, Utah, and went on to win that race, never stopping to fix the gash. In fact, the entire team used Stan’s all season and had only two race flats that were no fault of Stan’s.
So, I’ve either convinced you or scared the hell out of you. All I can say is that this stuff, when used properly, will help you avoid most flats. Flats suck. I’ve never had a ride when getting a flat was the best part of the ride. Enjoy, relax, and remember–it’s only a bicycle.
Here's a great video Tutorial on setting up a tubless conversion: