I’ve rewritten conversing spoked rims to tubeless. There are several updated pages from here on what, why and how.
If ever a bike wanted tubeless wheels it’s the AT (and T7 for that matter). These bikes run 21-inch fronts and were initially pitched at a low price to get them moving. Choppers aside, cast wheels are unknown in 21-inch, while OE spoked tubeless wheels (as on many European 21-inch advs) are expensive. The new 2020 1100 AT Adventure Sport finally has a tubeless 18/21 set up.
MT or WM?
I’ve investigated various proprietary methods and, after 12 years and a lot more theoretical and second-hand knowledge, decided to give DIY sealing another go – but carefully this time and only on the back wheel (above, top) where it’s fairly easy to do. Like nearly all 21s, the AT’s front rim lacks the ‘MT’ safety lip or ridge which is important if planning to run tubeless tyres. Without it, a TL tyre seals less well on a regular WM rim (above, bottom) and may leak. And in the event of a flat, it will slip into the rim just like a tubed tyre with the usual undesirable results.
The only way around that it to get the rare, lipped, 2.15 x 21-inch Giant rim from CWC for £111. Add anodising, spokes, wheel building, their Airtight™ vulcanised sealing band (similar to DIY mastic) plus post and that’ll be nearly 400 quid. I could seal it myself and save £120, but 21-inch wells are narrow and curved and so are less suited to taping. So while CWC make my wheel, I may as well cough up for the Airtight and be done with it.
The high cost of a new wheel build is why DIY is so attractive, providing your rim is MT with the requisite safety lips. Most rear wheels, tubed or tubeless, have been like this for decades (they will be stamped ‘MT’ on the side, as opposed to ‘WM’). And the AT’s rear well is also nice and flat and 55mm wide which makes it easier to seal well.
Sealant tape such as 3M 4411N (not the 2mm thick 4412N). From £18 on ebay
Or some etching primer and mastic sealant like Puraflex about £6 for 300mm
A tubeless valve
Rim sealing procedure
If you’ll be in a wet environment, consider also sealing the spoke nipples from the outside.
The mastic sealant method is probably better. The tape adhesive might lift if it gets very hot; a black tyre and rim sat in the hot sun. But then, pressure building up in a hot tyre will tend to push the tape down.
Mounting and inflating the tyre
Mounting is easy as there’s no tube to worry about. Soapy beads help reduce the effort needed and tubeless tyres are actually quite flexible – or that’s how the Michelin felt. I know from cars and the Tenere years ago that home mounting tubeless tyres can be tricky. It took me most of the day to get the TKCs on to the Tenere, and that was with a pokey 2.5cfm 4×4 compressor. Because there is no inner tube pushing the tyre on to the rim, you need both edges of the loose tyre to at least make a partial seal with the rim and allow pressure to build up. When that happens, the seal improves, leakage stops and you’re on your way. Using a small car compressor and with the valve core removed to allow faster filling, nothing happened for a bit and then pressure slowly built up as input outpaced leakage. At around 35-40psi there were a couple of loud bangs as the last segment of bead slipped over the safety rim and into place.
I am fairly confident my gluing alone has made a good seal. The tape is probably redundant. Overnight there was no drastic pressure drop. If there is in the next week and I can’t fix it, I’ll swap back to the tubed wheel and will anyway take a spare tube. This time I’m not using Slime sealant, though I’m told it doesn’t affect the 3M tape’s adhesion.
I’ll be monitoring it with TPMS but a few days in it was about 8 psi down and the same again when I picked the bike up in Spain in March. So it seems to depressurised down the mid 20s psi. I seem to recall this was normal in the early days and so gave the back a shot of Slime in Spain. No more leakage.
Three groups did a similar 1200-km loop, mostly on G310Gs all with around 30,000 rental kms on the clock. The 310 engines and finish are still great in mostly dry Morocco, gearboxes work fine, but neutral is hard to select (as it was on the old Tornados) and the shock damping is not what it was (which was never that much). There are no leaks from the USDs and for wear and tear, that’s about it. The worse mpg was 75, best was an amazing 112 or 39kpl. We got 12 litres into the supposed 11-litre tank with ‘1km’ indicated on the range.
Bike problems over a cumulative ‘21,000km’ (1200 x 3 x 6) included a persistent flat battery on the same bike which we deduced must be down to an intermittent electrical fault somewhere, probably as a result of vibration from rough tracks. There were no punctures on the Mitas Terra Force TL tyres and one smashed front wheel from an unlucky fall which smacked into a square-edged rock. Oh, and another sidestand failure (a known 310 weak point and new frame warranty) literally coming to a halt back in the garage and even though they’ve been strengthened. So at this rate the 310s seem to be keeping up well with the old XR250 Tornados, but perhaps that’s because renters don’t take them onto the tracks the which Honda could manage easily.
Michelin’s Anakee Wild came out in 2016, replacing the venerable T63 which we used on Desert Riders in 2003 (with similar patterned Mich Deserts on the rear). Since then, adventure motorcycling – aka: touring on big trail bikes – has become a thing. The Wilds address the need to give heavier, more powerful machines some genuine off-road ability – or looks – without resorting to expensive competition tyres like the famous Dakar-inspired Michelin Desert. I ran these Anakee Wilds tubeless in Morocco and Western Sahara on my Enfield Himalayan: 130/80-17 M/C 65R TL on the back on a wider, sealed Excel rim, and a 90/90-21 M/C 54R TL on the front, initially with a Tubliss core, then tubed. Both wheels were initially Slimed, too. Best price new in the UK is £85 for the rear and £66 for the front. Unlike some new knobbly-ish tyres, on my Himalayan the Wilds rode and cornered normally from new, with no odd, K60-like squirming until bedded in. With the aid of Michelin’s new TPMS, I ran them at around 28 psi or 2 bar, dropping only a couple of pounds for long, multi-day off-road stages.
Let’s face it, there’s no great mystery in tread patterns – you can see the Wilds will work well on loose surfaces, while the shallow knobs won’t flex disconcertingly on the road. The Himalayan may be heavy for what it is, but it hasn’t got the power to put these Anakees in a spin. On good mountain roads I pretty much forgot about the reduced contact surface of the knobs and was able to swing through the bends up to the point of grounding the centre stand or the soles of my boots. They never budged. On the dirt it was the same feeling of reassurance tempered by a riding style aware of where I was (when riding alone). The Anakees never made any unpredictable moves, just bit down through the gravel and grit to help make the Enfield easy to manage. Perhaps the tyres’ biggest test was having to ride 250 clicks on a flat front when the Tubliss core packed up irreparably in the desert. To be fair the punctured core helped keep the tyre on the rim, making straight-line riding easy. But to keep the tyre from over-heating I kept the speed down to 30mph. I’m not so sure a non-premium brand tyre would have survived such use so well. It also suggests that the firmer carcass of a TL tyre is more robust, even if it weighs substantially more than a tube type tyre. On a long rugged ride with a heavy, tubed bike like a one-litre Africa Twin, there may be something to be said for running a heavy TL tyre, even with inner tubes. The extra meat will provide added protection against flats.
I did experience one flat on the front while running a cheap, paper-thin tube. I get the feeling a rocky off-road stage may have benefitted from slightly reduced tyre pressures to allow the tyre to form around the sharp stones, rather than press hard into them. It did seem to be a genuine puncture, not a result of hasty kerbside mounting (above), remnants of Slime or a duct tape rim liner. The rear also picked up a nail early on between the knobs, but I’ve left it there. By the end of the 3,700-mile trip, the last week guiding a tour of mostly 310GSs, the back had 5mm in the centre of the tread and the front a few mils more. It suggests at least 5000 miles from a rear with about 30% off-road use. As the miles have passed it feels like the smooth, stable edge has come off the ride in corners – normal with any ¾ worn tyre I’ve found – but the front knobs have no evidence of vibration-inducing cupping. The Himalayan’s front brake hasn’t got the bite to achieve that. The Anakee Wild is a harder-wearing 60/40 tyre than the ubiquitous, soft and similarly all-road performing Conti TKC80.
After problems with the original 2019 kits (explained below), Fit2Go (who sold the Michelin branded product) updated their TPMS software for 2020. They also redesigned the magnetic mounting following negative reviews on amazon. In 4000 miles of riding on and off road, the magnetic fitting wasn’t a problem for me. I tried the seemingly identical Mk2 version in March 2020. See pros and cons, below.
Update October 2021: The UK Michelin link is here but the Fit2Go page is a 404 so it seems this product has been discontinued following some scathing users’ reviews. You can still buy the remaining stock in some UK outlets for the full £80, and maybe elsewhere.
Where: Spain and Morocco 2019 and again in 2020 and 2021
Cost: £80 (kits suppled free by Michelin for review)
In a line: Once you discover TPMS there’s no going back. (More here)
What they said Introducing our first tyre pressure monitoring system (TPMS) for motorcycles, mopeds, scooters and all two-wheel modes of transport – bringing new levels of safety to riders for whom tyre condition is paramount. MICHELIN TPMS – Bike detects a tyre in distress through loss of pressure, fast leakage or an increase in temperature – often the sign of an impending blowout. Its compact display flashes as brightly as a mobile phone torch if it detects an issue, plus identifies whether it is the front or rear tyre affected. Our patented solution can be fitted in less than two minutes, bringing the same direct TPMS technology already proven in the passenger car and van markets to two-wheels for the first time.
This wireless system needs no programming and features a compact LCD screen which fits into a magnetic mount placed on a prominent part of the bike. The fully sealed and buttonless device can be quickly removed for security and is small enough to fit in a pocket. The display offers a battery life of up to three months, with the USB-powered inductive charger making it simple to top-up. Once fitted, the unit displays the pressure of both tyres, in either psi or bar, toggling between the front and rear at set intervals. Riders will see a low-pressure warning if a tyre becomes under-inflated by 15%, an enhanced alert when the pressure either drops by 25%, or if over-inflated by 35% or more. There are also alerts for high tyre temperatures or fast leakage (at least 2 psi per minute).
What I think:
• Real-time tyre pressure data at last • USB rechargeable – should last a couple of months • No hard-wiring so fits in a couple of minutes • Magnetic retaining dish secure off road • Reads bar or psi • Rated up to 7.5 bar (100psi+) • Various warning displays • Mk2 2020 kit paired up fast and worked seamlessly
• In 2019 original and replacement units played up after a few days (see below) • Doesn’t live-read from a static start (e.g.: overnight). Wheels need to turn first • Expensive at £80, but there are both less elegant kits and pricier kits out there • Green/yellow on black background hard to read unless under your nose • Valve-cap lock-nuts complicate tool-free topping up of air • The valve caps can be too shallow (not enough threads to grip the valve body) • On the 2020 version the F&R display interval was too slow for a quick glance
Review There are some metrics I like to know while riding: speed, engine temperature, speed, fuel level are the obvious ones. Now wireless technology has enabled inexpensive TPMS kits to display live tyre pressure readings, too. This is something that’s really useful to.
I only realised how much I missed my Michelin TPMS kits once they both packed up mysteriously after a few days in Morocco. A few days later I hit Tubliss tyre troubles in the middle of the desert. Luckily I wasn’t alone, there was a road 25kms back, and I was able to ride on the flat tyre slowly for hours to the coast and fit an inner tube. But being forewarned of low pressures or other tyre anomalies is what TPMS is all about. I headed back north and a day or two later the tube slow punctured, then went suddenly after a dirt road short-cut pushed it over the edge. This time I couldn’t ride the collapsed tyre ten feet. Cue more laborious roadside repairs. This is why we like tubeless. Because you never, ever get just a single puncture, I’d wisely bought a spare tube and was back on the road in 40 sweaty minutes. But especially with a slow puncture, with a TPMS I’d have been aware of it much earlier.
Michelin TPMS The Michelin kit was made by Fit2Go TPMS, an official global licensee of Michelin. It was composed of two over-sized valve caps marked F and R. You screw them on finger tight to the appropriate wheel and lock them off with a valve stem nut (yellow tool and nuts supplied; left). The round display module sits in a stick-on magnetic dish fitted wherever suits your eyeline and an appropriate surface. Putting the module in the dish activates the display: usually battery level (said to last for 3 months) plus front and rear pressures which flash up alternatively every few seconds. You may not get a pressure reading until the wheels are turning. There are no buttons or switches; place the module in and out of the dish three times and the display changes between bar and psi, though it may take a few minutes to read.
Playing up The first kit I had was fully charged by me, but on fitting in Spain took many hours of riding to pair up and show pressure readings. That would be inconvenient if you regularly removed the module to save it getting pinched. Once things worked, I left it in place. (As I was only out for a month, I’d not brought the USB recharge dish.) Fitted flat like a plate on a table, it didn’t budge on rough tracks but was hard to read at a glance; at an angle like the bike’s clocks would be better, and probably still secure. Or there’s always the tank bag. I’d also find black digits on a light background easier to read – like my Trail Tech temperature gauge, below right. Ten days in, after briefly removing it, the module went blank. A replacement kit was brought out to Morocco, appeared to show a nearly full charge, and this time paired up in seconds and flipped to psi with no bother. But it also went blank after just five days. Neither unit was more than half discharged. I decided to put the original unit into the USB recharging dish from the replacement kit on the off chance, and it responded by charging from ¾ full (as it had been when it went blank). After just half an hour it was fully charged. Back on the bike it showed pressures in the original bar, and on changing to my preferred psi, displayed that too after about 20 minutes of being blank. This suggests the display modules might discharge in a few days rather than three months, but while still indicating they’re more than half charged. Popping it in the recharge dish revives it, but it can be slow to pair up. This discourages you from removing it, if it indeed discharges when immobile. The blurb doesn’t advise removing it when not riding, but if it does discharge unused, it’s not reflected in the battery level status display.
Especially when travelling in the AMZ where – as I found – tyre troubles can leave you up the creek, knowing the state of your tyre pressures is less a convenience and more an important safety measure. Now, when I could swear I have a puncture, I glance at the TPMS and relax; it’s just the road surface and my paranoia. Very reassuring. Best of all, the easily fitted and recharged Michelin TPMS kit now makes maintaining your tyres at optimal levels a whole lot easier. But because my two kits seem to play up, I’d wait a bit before buying one. They sort of work, but not as they should. I sent both kits back to Fit2Go for analysis and will update this review with any news.
Updated kit – 2020
Fit2Go sent me their revised kit which I used on my Africa Twin ride in Morocco in March 2020. The kit was welcome as again, I’d DIY converted my rear tyre to tubeless and so wanted to keep tabs on pressures. (The wheel lost 20% over a few days – fixed by adding Slime). The kit looks identical but no problems at all this time. Without making an angle bracket, I couldn’t find a secure and legible position on my AT (red arrows, left inset below) so put the display and dish inside the clear lid of my tank bag (below right). The opaque vinyl made it hard to read easily but there was no danger of it falling off. Had that ride not ended prematurely I’d have worked out some legible-angle bracket in the cockpit or stuck the dish on top of the tank bag.
The only complaint is that the display intervals seem slower than before: 10 seconds on Front then 10 on the Rear. It means you need several glances to ascertain both pressures, whereas a higher flip-count might mean you catch both in one glance. I still think the display could be brighter, too. Other than that and the high price (which dropped for a while), all good.
Update 2021 I got my AT running again in October 2021 and needed to recharge the TPMS unit which after 18 months would have been flat. It recharged in less than two hours. But when it came to topping up the tyres after 20 months, I had to faff about with that cheap valve cap locknut removal tool, and then found the rear TPMS valve cap wouldn’t screw on to the rear tyre’s valve body. I remember having this problem last time I topped up in Spain, February 2020. It felt like the TPMS valve cap was too shallow: there were not enough threads to bite onto the tubeless tyre valve before the pin in the cap pressed on the tyre valve stem and let the air out. It could be a problem with whatever TL valve I have on my tyre. In Spain I’d managed to over-inflate the tyre and then cram the cap on before too much air escaped. This time in baking hot Marrakech, I didn’t have the patience to re-learn the knack and gave up on re-fitting the TPMS. But travelling alone on road and trail over the next week, I sure did miss not knowing what my tyre pressures were doing, just as I’d miss not knowing what my fuel level or engine temperature were. I’m not finished with TPMS yet: in a few weeks I may give it another go.
With back up from Mark in a 4×4 sat alongside Colin on a Nikon, we set off for the 1100-km ride from Assa through the Western Saharan interior to Dakhla via Smara and the Digtree (left), a fuel cache I had buried in 2015.
The fuel may have been getting a bit ripe by now, but all was going well until I hit irreparable tyre troubles just 100km from the Digtree. I limped back 250km to Layounne, got fixed up and, now out of time before I meet my tour group, we settled for a leisurely drive north up the windswept Atlantic coast. Not for the first time, my Sahara plans slipped through my fingers.
Hooning about on a clay pan.
The century-old Aéropostale base at Cape Juby (Tarfaya).
Inside the base.
Cap Juby in its heyday.
Tojo wheels + jerries – the only windbreaks for miles.
Watchtower on a berm just 50km from the Mauritanian border.
Hot steam and rubber. Cleaning out the Slime.
‘Moto – Landrover – Layounne?’ I point to each and try and persuade a Saharawi to transport my bike to the coast.
Churned up, sandy gorge at MW6 KM246. The Himalayan meets it’s limit.
They like the word Sahara out here.
Crossroads where MW6 joins MW7. Came from the left on the WR in 2017.
Khnifiss Bird Lagoon.
Topping up for the day. A can will do me at least 500km.
Desert dawn near Gueltat Zemmour.
A Dakar Rally mound. Pushed up every kilometre or so as landmarks right along our route to the Digtree and beyond.
Most of the riding is easy, as above. But it only takes one lapse in concentration.
Removing the punctured Tubliss core in Layounne.
The mouth of the Draa which rises near Ouarzazate in the High Atlas, but very rarely flows in its entirety the 1000-odd km to the ocean.
Out of Tiznit we took an interesting track along the Oued Assaka to Fort Bou Serif ruins for a spot of lunch and some filming.