Budget cyclocross? Making a second hand tubeless wheel/tire right and ready. Check your stuff.

Craigslist. After an arranged purchase from some guy in a parking lot-or parking garage which seemed like the opening to a missing persons story-the buyer needs to remember one solid piece of advice.

I don’t care how new or awesome what you bought is, you don’t know who maintained it. You don’t know how it was maintained. You don’t know if it even was looked at with the idea that maybe it should be maintained but only after they finished that cheese sandwich and then when falling asleep it was forgotten and now . . . it’s in your hand’s.

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I bought a set of Specialized Roval Pave’ SL wheels. The picture is the first set I bought. They were set up on tubes and honestly, are fantastic wheels for the durability and flexibility of use. Anyway, I bought a second set, identical, but already set up with the Specialized Tracer Pro 2bliss ready 700×33 cyclocross tires mounted, with sealant. And boy they were ready. I did two races on them and a few training rides before, by 75 miles on the tires by yours truly, finding short needle thorns in the front tire as I was getting ready to ship out to my third race. Thank god it was on a Friday afternoon.

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As you can see, the sealant didn’t do anything at all but pee all over my garage floor. huh. so much for tubeless for the third race. By this time, I had taken the frist set of Roval Pave’ wheels and, with gatorskins, had made those my winter road wheels. I quickly put the tubes and a non-2bliss ready Tracer Pro tire on the back, and a Continental CycloXking on the front (because it was mowed grass and packed sandy dirt) and went on my way to compete. Remarkably, at 40 psi, they worked VERY well and the side walls look perfect after this 208 pound rider gassed himself into 4th from last.

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This is what Stan’s NoTubes looks like after, I think, over a year. a spongy greasy gum ball with oil all over the tire. Of course that was the oil that pissed out the thorn holes all over the floor under pressure. I stripped the tires off both rims and wiped out the insides of each casing with old worn out t-shirts and rubbed off the gummy residue from the tire lips. Not forgetting the rim itself, I cleaned that out too. So, they were ready to install again, or at least I would try. I began by mounting most of the tire bead and then pouring in something shy of 2 ounces of Orange Seal brand sealant. Closing it up I began to pump air. Nothing but orange goo out the bottom and down the side. I couldn’t pump fast enough to seat the bead. I was new to this and learning as I went. The shop where I bought the sealant, offered to do the honors of seating the bead under 65psi of live air. So I packed them up and headed over.

Hissss. Pop, pop. and then sloshing it around, it eventually sealed up nice.

Rear wheel (Roval Pave' SL), Tire, Shimano 105 11-28 cassette, 2oz sealant.

Front wheel (Roval Pave’ SL), Tire, 1+oz sealant after the loss.

Front wheel (Roval Pave' SL), tire, probably 1.2 oz sealant after some loss.

Rear wheel (Roval Pave’ SL), tire, shimano 11-28, and 2oz sealant.

They had a scale. I asked and they let me weigh them just out of curiosity. I know for a fact, over the stock wheels and tires the bike came with, these lightened it up by two pounds. It’s interesting to see the difference. 6 pounds 8ounces of wheels and tires. Not the lightest but for $250 total on Craigslist, including a cassette, I think it’s a pretty good bargain, especially since Specialized sells these wheels for $400 new.

Once I got home, I checked the air pressure and added more. It had come down at least 20+ psi each since mounting. Things were great until pulling the fill nose off the rear tire pulled the whole valve out. Not just the un-screwable stem core, but the whole tubeless stem through the hole and all the air came out. I had no idea I was being that aggressive. So In finally getting the valve out, and inserting it again the right way, I discovered I couldn’t mount the whole thing again. I just undid all that work. So, Remembering the GCN DIY tubeless cyclocross tutorial on you tube, I had to build up the wheel tape to get a better bead lock. This involved removing things, making a mess, cleaning off the wheel, actually taking all of the tape off it and putting three layers of electrical tape on. Piercing a small hole, installing the valve, and then pumping it up fast with the tire back on. Oh wow it worked! Just like the video. Now If I can get myself down to the weight of that presenter. . .

Then I had to do it all again because I mounted it all with the tire rotation arrow backwards.

Now, I’m Done.

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So I let them sit on their sides over buckets to keep them flat. Once every hour or so I’d come out and slosh them around slowly. holding them at a 45 degree angle and rotate them to make sure the fluid gets into the bead on both sides and then I flip them over for another hour. One of them did deflate down to twenty psi but after filling it back up, I heard a small leak that sealed itself instantly. That’s why you want to let them sit with occasional rotation. All of those little nooks and crannies the sealant can go needs time for the air pressure to shove it there, and then it will seal. I’ll let it set another day and then take both sets of wheels to the race Saturday morning at a hopps farm. At my race time it is scheduled to be 37 degrees. Am I excited? Not sure.

Ready to roll. I'll have to take it tothe shop to get it weighed, I'm just curious if I got it down to 21 pounds.

Ready to roll. I’ll have to take it tothe shop to get it weighed, I’m just curious if I got it down to 21 pounds.

So, in the end, get those tubeless systems serviced if you haven’t actually seen the inside of them yourself. Unless they’re absolutely zero pressure, you have no idea if there’s a golf ball rolling around in there, waiting for you to find out you have no actual flat protection. I was on top of a mesa on a hot 85 degree day running some single track stuff with these tires and nothing happened. Now, I get a little shiver knowing I would have been in serious marooned trouble if I picked up any thorns.

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Review: Specialized Tracer Pro 2bliss ready

I ilke them. there.

I’m about 208 pounds right now in race trim on a 21 pound bike. I have these tires mounted on a set of Specialized Roval Pave’ SL wheels. the entire package I bought off Craigslist mounted and ready to go (more on that later). The first time I ran them at the course, I put them at race pressure just to see what the characteristics would be like and as a first time corss racer, they were lovely. I set them at just under 40 psi, again I’m not a lightweight, and the bumps were soaked up. They rolled quite well and never burped air. I never felt squirmy in a straight line or indecisive in cornering at that. Now, really getting into a corner and driving through it, leaning it in and carving my line, I haven’t exactly accomplished yet. It’s coming tho, I’m getting better and better at attacking corners and each time, It holds it’s ground. I need to work on my committment to the corner to really find out their limits.

I’ve used them on packed dirt, loose dirt, sandy packed dirt, combinations of that with gravel and on some mowed grass. they’ve held decent grip there and on sand, well, did I say I’m heavy? they tracked well in sand if I put effort into holding the bars firmly and staright. Leaning back and pedaling through a slow cadence. I got through where others did not but that has to be luck.

The only issue I sort of have is durability, but that is self-induced. They are not for long distance use on firm pavement and rocky single track or where you’re likely to panic stop and slide around corners. The rear tire suffered through several downhill descents into braking where it locked up here and there and the ocacsional brake assisted pivot on one of the weirdest off camber hairpins I’ve ever seen, all on gravel pack dirt, really wore into the soft compound. It is indeed a softer compound for loose terrain grip. Just like winter car tires in the summer. Super soft compound for grip on snow and ice. So, seriously agressive use on gravel will use the tire up, otherwise It’s fantastic for cross.

Where I have raced in colorado thus far, there is no mud. not yet.

Update. A lazy one but an update. I’ve been doing it!

Three races in cyclocross behind me, I get to reflect on things. I can blaspheme here, it’s one of the ways to truly express the feelings.

Holy shit is everyone in Colorado in shape! I may be in decent shape and doing alright for an average person with a bad schedule but jesus christ these guys are amazing. I only get forty minutes to compete in my ‘beginner category’ event. In that time, we circulate around the course for a few laps and the first person ove rthe line wins. Well, that’s nice. On my last lap i get, wait for it, lapped by the leader and half of the field. The good news is I don’t finish in last place. that’s for the two or three guys behind me who are arguably ten years older and thirty pounds heavier. So, had I started racing cros two years ago at 240 pounds, I would be those guys if not behind them.

Notes for the beginning cross racer: Learn handling skills. The outright speed ou have isn’t enough if it feels like you’re going to slide out and lay it down or fall over in a tight corner. Learn how to really drive it in there and carve the line, pedaling through it to power out. You will catch EVERYONE in your group that isn’t in front already, just by efficiencey of knowing when to accelerate and when to cruise. Let them pass you because youll get them back in the technical stuff if you are good in control. So where you suck at, efficiently pedaling at supreme speed, you can at least regain something and then when everyones tired at the end, you have a little bit of power left to finish hard.

So, the fuji Cross I have, at 21 pounds with tubeless tires at 38psi, works fantastic. I need to work more fantasticer.