JOE'S NO FLATS UNIVERSAL TUBELESS CONVERSION KIT
Claiming to convert any wheel into a tubeless wheel, Joe’s No Flats Universal Tubeless Conversion Kit aims to bring the benefit of tubeless riding without investment in tubeless specific kit.. There’s no doubt that tubeless offers significant advantages, but there’s a good deal of discussion at Seven Day Towers about mixing systems for MTB, gravel or road, sensible and safe combinations, and a whole load of technicalities. Conversion kits come with long lists of instructions, and if you are converting you should ensure that your conversion is safe.
Having hedged things around with generic caution, it has to be said that Joe’s No Flats Universal Tubeless Conversion Kit has done just what it claims. Even “Rod Brake” Steve has been impressed.
Pros: has done just as it says, and spares are available.
Cons: rim size specific kits make life that little bit less tense.
Comprising two tubes of sealant (125g), one roll of rim tape (yellow), universal tubeless rim strip (ribbed, black, adjustable), Presta valves (two of), spare valve core, valve key, Presta-Schraeder adaptor, and easy tubeless assembly wet wipe (one sachet), the box is pretty full. There are also two short rubber tubes to aid the process of adding sealant, and, very importantly, a long list of instructions.
The instructions in particular should be kept away from the recycling pile until things are done and dusted. Taking the time to follow them properly is crucial. Mind, accurate though they are, there’s also a lot of info on-line - much of it generic. On that front, Joe’s instructions are clear and to the point - with one or two peculiar bits - but offer little in the way of technique tips to make things easier.
Good news for anyone with allergies; the label states that it is latex, ammonium, and protein free. Even better news, all the elements can be purchased separately. Check you order the right fit for your wheel if you need extras.
Allowing lower pressures to be run, tubeless is well-established amongst the MTB fraternity. Higher pressures on road bikes suggest specific tubeless rims. In between cross and gravel riders should be fine with a conversion kit. There’s a lot of debate, so its worth looking for the latest information. We decided to go with 622-35 gravel tyres.
Discussions amongst local mechanics have run from, “Well why not, just be thorough?” to “I have never known a truly successful conversion, if you want to go tubeless go the whole hog.”
There are obvious no-noes, but beyond that, err on the safe side, would be my best advice.
Given the number of variables, this is a pretty rough and ready approximation, but, not including the wheel, the tubeless set up came in at around 460g - including Schwalbe G-One All Round tyre; tubed was 535g, with the same tyre.
This is not a step-by-step guide. For that refer to the manufacturers instructions.
Remove the old tyres and tubes. Aged rim tape can stay in place, but give it and the rim cavity a good clean. With grease and muck gone, add the yellow rim tape. I went for a single rotation, leaving plenty for the second wheel. Going on easily enough, there’s sufficient stretch to keep it smooth, but check it over and deal with the odd bubble here or there.
Having smoothed and checked its central location, it was time to cut the valve hole. The instructions suggest doing this with a sharp knife. Matt, my local bike shop mechanic, suggested using a drawing pin first, then gently enlarging the pin-prick using the smallest Phillips screwdriver in the toolkit. I did the latter. Frankly, there’s only so much of each ingredient in the box; measuring twice and erring on the side of caution makes sense.
Next comes the ribbed universal tape. Inserting the valve gives secure location. The tape has three parts; a smooth central belt, flanked by two ribbed sections. Site the smooth strip in the centre of the tyre cavity. Sounds simple. Well, if you’ve been pumping iron for the last three months you may find it so. There’s a technique, but, as necessitated by the technology, things need to be taut. Strategically placed zip ties helped, as did releasing a bit of tension around the valve helped.
Once on, the central belt needs to be coaxed into the rim cavity with fingers, thumb; blunt, plastic or resin tyre levers came in handy. Be careful, robust as to looks, the tape ain’t bombproof by a long chalk.
To get the right fit, remove the ribbed strips one at a time. The aim is to get it sitting just below the bead on the rim. Finger nails should be enough to get started. My initial attempt saw two strips come free. Not a problem on the Mavic wheel I was converting, but you may not be so lucky.
Joe’s, and others, offer conversion kits for specific rim widths, and size-specific tapes are available, too. Fitting might be easier, but your kit will be less flexible.
Caution remains the name of the game when mounting your tubeless ready tyre. Ours was a Schwalbe All Round Tubeless Easy 622-35 gravel-type tyre. Go easy with those tyre levers; avoid metal, and be sure not to fold the rim tape under the tyre bead.
Initial inflation has to be high enough to force the tyre against the rim tape. With valve core removed this was easy enough. Whilst you should not go over the max pressure indicted on the tyre or rim, you do need to hear that popping sound, and I certainly went a little high for a few seconds. Like a good boy I wore safety glasses. Rather than hold the tyre during inflation, I hung it by a bungee from a convenient piece of garden furniture.
Casual advice suggested that a compressor or “booster” type pump might be necessary. It was not in this case.
As it turned out, both Mavic and Ryde Sputnik rims worked fine. Following a quick check for leaks, deflation gets the tyres ready for the sealant. There are two 125ml bottles in the kit. Joe’s recommend 120ml minimum for wider MTB tyres, so its is only just generous enough. 60-120 for cross and gravel types meant there was plenty to err towards maximum fill. I plumped for around 90ml. Clean and easy direct from the nozzle.
It’s worth remembering that the sealant needs sloshing round to keep it functional and to aid seal between tyre and rim. Changing every six months or so.
With that done, its time to ride. Joe’s recommend checking tyre pressure regularly on the first outing. I’d suggest taking it easy, too. A loose fit could see you heading for A&E or worse.
Performance on the ride
Checking things out on a short ride is recommended. Initially both tyres, but especially the rear felt a dead and cumbersome. A hundred yards saw lively response return, bringing confident cornering. Reports suggest that the experience would be repeated at the start if each ride. This seems to be the case, but it’s something you get used to and may notice less.
Tyre pressures remained spot on, so a longer ride over mixed surface towpath, including those lovely setts on the bridges, failed shake the connection. Heading onto rough cart tracks and dry forest trails, confidence in the conversion grew. Spirited clattering over loose gravel and bumpy compacted mud failed to shake things loose. In other words, the kit had done its job.
By the way, though not solely a function of the kit, riding along forest tracks felt faster and smoother than the tourer with its Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tyres, and faster but not as smooth as the MTB. Guess that was what I expected.
Anything up to a 6mm tear should be sealed, according to Joe’s, without a problem. Frankly, I have no idea if I have punctured so far. This, I suppose, is a good sign. Seeking out thorny hedge-cuttings, left by the Canal & River Trust workers, didn’t doc any damage. Mind you, the Schwalbe G-One All Round have a high level of puncture protection, so that’s a variable to bear in mind. Suffice to say, that provided you follow the guidance regarding sealant, there’s no reason to doubt the veracity of Joe’s claims.
In this context, remember not to over-tighten dust caps and be sure to have a pump with screw less chuck. I’ve been caught out by removable valve cores before.
You can run an inner tube, of course, and its common for tubeless riders to take one along - just in case.
Joe’s No Flats Universal Tubeless Conversion Kit does very much as it says. There may be advantages to buying wheel size specific kits, but some will like the ability to change tack after purchase. Whilst a few tips on technique would help, the process of conversion was straight-forward enough. Just don’t rush it, even if you have done it all before. Would I use it again? Well, yes, I would.