Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Gluing Tubulars for Cyclocross

I am a tubular neophyte. Last fall, I took the plunge into/back to old world technology when I built up a simple KinLin tubular rear wheel and enlisted Phat (Moose) Kent to glue the sucker on. He was keen. With a bit of 'tuning' the tire was on the rim solidly, and it hasn't moved since. Lots of glue was involved. I was sold on tubulars, as I felt the boost in comfort and traction immediately. 

Stretching the tubs on old rims
This year I geared up to glue up a new set of tires, first the front so I'd have a pair of tubs, then the rear once I receive my new Steelwool Truffle Pig, which, unlike my Secteur 18 road bike, will fit knobbies larger than 30c. I chose Challenge's Fangos in 32c for a couple reasons: 1) they'd be UCI legal, which would be important for the races in Toronto this season (UCI weekend and Nationals), and 2) the 34c version is a 34c casing with a 32c tread; I figured I'd have a less aggressive side knob angle on this size, so I might as well go with 32. Overall, the Fangos seem like they will corner a bit better than Grifos, while giving up a bit in terms of straight line traction. 

Research phase
Last winter I read everything I could about mounting tubulars for cross, including Cyclocross Magazine, and Lennard Zinn. Local honch, Greg Reain's how-to from his old blog resonated with me more than any other articles. Greg explains why he doesn't like the Belgian tape method. His rationale made sense to me, and still does, so I decided to forego that method. Main issue: and gap between tape and rim is a potential void in the basetape-rim interface. The tape seems useful for deep rims, but not so much for shallow ones like the KinLin. Check out Ali Goulet's video for some additional tips. In addition to saving the day by finding a 20 hole front hub for my 20h KinLin rim, Shawn Marshall provided lots of great advice on the process, including a recommendation for the urethane sealant below. Thanks Shawn!

I found that there was a tonne of good advice out there, but I didn't see any easy to follow breakdowns of the process. So I decided to write it out as clearly as possible and share it. The steps below mainly echo Greg's process, though I've added a few tips from other sources as well. While I am the furthest thing from a tubular gluing PRO, the people I've drawn from are, and everything I present here is consistent. I accept no liability for gluing related disasters.

Some seem pretty preoccupied with the finished product looking immaculate. While this is worth striving for, applying enough glue to the interface should be the priority; nobody will care how good their wheel looked after they've rolled the tire off the rim. Make sure you put enough glue on to secure your tire, don't skimp for the sake of it looking PRO.

Patience will serve you well in this process. "Days" are not necessarily 24hrs, you might be able to do two "days" steps in one actual day by working on the wheel in the morning and at the end of the day. 

Required stuff:
Wet stuff you'll need. MEC sells the sealant on the right.

  • Vittoria Mastik 1 glue, pot not tubes if possible (pretty 
  • much everybody on the interwebs uses Mastik)
  • rubbing alcohol
  • light sandpaper/emery cloth
  • broomstick/dowel/cricket mallet
  • latex/rubber gloves
  • shop apron
  • plastic baggies
  • 1" wide brush ('acid brushes' are popular, Lee Valley tools sells them for cheap)
  • electrical tape
  • sharp blade
  • warm dry place for drying
  • pump
  • citrus degreaser 
I got these brushes from Wallack's. Lee Valley sells acid brushes that look even better, and are cheaper
Remember to stir the glue before each application

Pre-Day 1
Stretch tires for 24 hours or more on clean rims at 60lbs

Day 1
1) sand rims and clean thoroughly with alcohol
2) tape rim sidewalls with electrical tape, slice off excess with blade - do not cover top edge
3) apply thin coat of glue to rim, including top of sidewall
4) apply thin coat to entire base tape (partially inflated) and massage in with baggied/gloved finger or use the brush - aim for saturated, not dripping

5) deflate tire and hang up in warm dry place

Apply electrical tape to sidewalls of rim and remove excess with a sharp blade. No cleaning required after gluing
Sand the rim to remove contaminants and follow up with alcohol
Apply first thin coat of glue

Saturate the basetape with glue. I tried the baggie on the finger maneuver, and it worked ok, but not great. I think a good brush will suffice to work the glue in. Go slow. Challenge tires will soak up a fair bit of glue

Day 2 (8 hours or more after Day1 steps)
1) apply thin coat to rim
2) inflate tire until base tape rolls out, apply heavy coating to partially inflated tire, as thick 
as you can without it running off - use brush, deflate and hang up (sorry I seem to have lost this photo...)

Day 3

apply thin coat ro rim
2) mount tire to clean rim and inflate to 40lbs or so to stretch for installation (I taped the rim with electrical tape to ensure no sticking, which worked)

Day 4
1) Apply medium thick coat to rim
2) Install tire - partially inflated first, then deflated for last section across from valve if necessary
3) check for alignment and adjust

4) inflate to 80lbs
5) check for trueness, deflate as necessary, wiggle and roll to centre
6) roll tire on broomstick floor to seat further with no air pressure

7) air up to 80lbs
8) check for consistent glue seal along edge of rim and fill where necessary

The rim just before applying the tire. Lots of glue, wet.
Day 5 (a good 24 hours later)
1) Deflate and try to roll off - not too hard, but to test seal on edges
2) find any gaps between base tape and edge of rim, fill with glue, re-inflate

Day 6
1) Recheck seal along edges, and repeat Day 5 steps if necessary

2) Apply sidewall sealant, thin coat, and let dry for 24hrs before using

The finished product, after adding glue to the seam and applying the urethane sealant. Looks good enough.

Lots of glue at the seam

You are done once there are no gaps between base tape and edge of rim. This is vital to keeping water out and the tire on the rim. You can go ahead and remove the tape now.

There is no need to trash brushes after use. I soaked these in citrus degreaser, then followed up with alcohol after rinsing. They came out well.

If you'd like to suggest any tweaks to the process, fire away. I've raced the Fango once now, and done a few training sessions on it with lots of off-cambers, and it has not budged one bit.  In the  event of any rolling, I'll report back here.It has been completely caked with mud, yet still looks great after scrubbing. The urethane coating is doing its job and holding up very well. I will likely reapply periodically.


Pascii said...

That's a funny but quaint use for your D2R2 souvenir beer glass. I tend to drink beer from mine.

Matt Surch said...

Why do you think it was down there in the first place? Those are clean brushes, the glass remains undefiled.

Nathan said...

The UCI officials did check tire widths in Toronto before the call up, but not in a completely uniform fashion. First day I walked directly through the bike check area, unchecked. The second day I saw some suspect tires which didn't pass through the gauge "helped" meet muster. It seemed quite subjective, which it shouldn't be to be fair. I chose to ride my clincher wheels on the weekend and had no issues. Not as good as the tubs but it didn't seem to slow me down... unlike that barricade.

the original big ring said...

Man, that's a ton of work! Kind of like fly tying (fishing) or waxing skis for xc. I imagine it takes on an art form of it's own. Very cool.

Do you think with the popularity of tubeless systems with road/cx that that system may take over gluing? I know that there will be old schoolers out there that will always use the glue method of course.

Nice post Matt.

Matt Surch said...

Nathan, I'd be pretty miffed if I went out and bought new clinchers to run instead of my tubulars, only to see others get by with too fat treads. You either measure, and do it fairly, or you don't measure. That's it, simple. Sure, you didn't roll a clincher, but if they really were just as good as your tubs you'd give up gluing, wouldn't you?

Craig, I agree, I definitely think people get a lot more out of the gluing process than a set of tires stuck to their rims. There is a real sense of pride people take in it. Its also an old-world technology that anchors us in the past, provides a sense of continuity in experience. I think this must be comforting for many amidst the sea of technorabble, bicycle-related and otherwise.

It seems tubeless is definitely taking a bite out of the tubular market, but at the same time, new folks are entering the tubular market now, like myself.Ten years ago I'd have never imagined I'd wind up gluing tires. Now, not only have I jumped in, but so have a few of the other guys. MAybe its because we're all mtb guys, and we've been obsessed with tires for years? I don't know, probably. Tires have never just been 'tires' to us. Seeing the best in the world use tubulars, and hearing people we trust tell us how much better they work left us with one choice: glue.

On the other hand, three out of four of us new gluers are also veteran tubeless riders. We were convinced years ago about the superiority of tubeless for mtb. On the road side, the tires are still just too small. We want 28s and 30s to see tubeless working for us for most of our riding, but then 25s like Neil has been using would likely be mint on our new Stan's wheels for the smoother riding. I think tubeless for road is going to become quite popular soon for the masses. For PROs, at least one Tour team has been running tubeless, but I wouldn;t be quick to say others will follow soon. Yes, it would be simpler for mechanics, but riders would not be able to ride flats as safely, which is a negative. Time will tell.

For cross, I can see tubeless becoming more popular for the average racer, but still resisted by higher end racers. Until more than one company makes a selection of tires with a super tight bead that really does stay on the rim at low pressures, riders won't likely ditch tubulars for tubeless. For monster cross riding though, tubeless is the obvious choice. Again, more tire options will help people adopt the set-up.

This is much like the 29er scene. Until more tires came online, people waited. People are waiting for tubeless for cross and road, they like options.

2011 will be a year of tubeless experimentation for me. I'll aim to run anything bigger than 30c (slicks) tubeless. If something like the Grand Bois comes out in 30 that will seal, I'll try it. In theory, a tubeless tire should be as supple, and even more supple, than a tubular. I hope to find out.

Anonymous said...

that's too much work!
And, what the heck do you do if you flat?

me, I use to use a tub filled with stans. Tubless rims as well.
Double protection.

Just go thin walled on the inner tub and fill it up with Stans...

voila - double protection. Never any movement...

that's just too much work.

Anonymous said...

I have a funny story though about a guy that used tubless.
He flatted half way to work... didn't bring a spare.
He was stuck walking bare foot in the hot summer pavement for miles.
(didn't want to walk in road shoes)
When he got to work, his feet were blistered.

man-o-man, the work we make for ourselves ...

I don't use road shoes. Ever.

Madmountainmike said...

Looks like a lot of work but as you said Matt - it is a form of craftsmanship and you are rewarded with your results.

Too much maintenance for me just yet...(I'm the dude that only uses liquid ski wax and waxless classics)...but I will keep tabs on what you experts conclude.

Matt Surch said...

It actually looks like a lot more effort than it is, at least if you are only doing a set of tires every year or two. Its not really a big deal, just a bunch of steps to follow. But yeah, this is really the sort of thing that will appeal to some folks and not others, and that's fine. When it comes to squeaking out ounces of performance, some are willing to put in the time and effort. Nobody's saying tubulars are the way to go for everybody, or even anybody all the time.

If you run tubes for cross, I suggest getting ahold of a pair of Challenge latex tubes for a more supple, tubular-ish ride.

Nathan said...

Doesn't take that much time ... seriously. It took more time to read the article then it does to actually do it. The disadvantages I've seen with 95% of the clincher tires out there today are the low quality/thread counts, poor tread rubber used, and low casing volumes as compared to quality tubular tires. I haven't yet used the Challenge clinchers and don't know of anyone else who has/does, but that would be interesting to try and see how they compare directly to their tubular counterparts. We have a couple pairs at the shop but no one has bought them yet over the past two years.

Coating For Packers said...

It seems tubeless is definitely getting a chew out of the tubular industry, but simultaneously, new people are coming into the tubular industry now, I can see tubeless becoming more popular for the average racer

Matt Surch said...

CtP, it seems some riders are indeed using tubeless, and that the courses they ride factor heavily in the decision. Around here, we're almost exclusively on grass, and its not normally really wet and muddy. So we have pretty good grip often, especially on frozen ground. This means rolling tires is a primary concern, and that's where tubeless really suffer. I think the majority of our team are now using the belgian tape method, which is tenacious. No rolled tires. Getting them off is not fun.

coating for tubulars said...

It seems tubeless is certainly buying a chew on out of the tubular industry, however together, completely new everyone is being received by the actual tubular industry at this point, I will see tubeless gaining popularity for your typical speed.

Anonymous said...

Don't think tubeless will ever replace tubular tyres. On the road the rims are just so much lighter, maybe with road discs you can make a safe light tubeless rim, but I just don't see it. In triathlon and TT I think tubeless will be the way to go, weight is not such a big issue and the lower rolling resistance is king. In CX tubeless will newer be as safe and subtle as tubular, but tubeless is easier.