Category Archives: Tyres

Tubeless DIY: Techniques, Sealants & Tapes

Tubeless Conversion Index Page

I and others have come to the conclusion that the key to successful and safe DIY spoke sealing is using a rim with the safety lips (right). These rims are stamped ‘MT’ as opposed to ‘WM’.

SHORT VERSION: AT rear wheel: easy to DIY • Front 21s: use an MT rim

L o n g e r  explanation
All cast tubeless wheels have these lips, and just about all rear spoked, tube-type rims have them too, right as far back as IVJ Teneres from the mid-80s. These humps/ridges/lips keep a tyre’s bead seated on the rim and out of the well (but make tyre changing harder).

However, stock 21-inch tube-type spoke rims hardly ever have them. I don’t know why as having a flat tyre come off the rim is more perilous than on the rear. So with a typical 18/21 spoked bike, like my AT, DIY-ing the stock lipped back wheel is easy and safe. But the front requires tracking down a lipped 21. Giant and Takasako Excel (above right) make them from about £110 but you won’t find ebay flooded with them. Once you have laced that rim on you can try and DIY seal it too, or you can spend from £120 on a BARTubeless or Airtight professional sealing.


PU sealants
Way back in 2008 I bought the new XT660Z Tenere for a research trip in Morocco. I asked on Horizons if sealing the well of the spoked rims to make them tubeless (left) was a good idea. The discussion concluded it was do-able and had been done.


I like to experiment with new ways of doing things, so I went ahead. Full DIY XT660Z article here. Short version: the stuff I used (right) didn’t adhere that well, plus I didn’t do a good enough job in preparing the rim: and then on the road, I forgot all about it, tyre pressures dropped after 1500km and I dinged a rim and lost the seal.


Above: over a decade later Ian C. tells me he once had good results on his KTM V-twin with Ever Build Puraflex 40 PU sealant; about £6 for 310ml. This was after thoroughly degreasing and then spraying etch primer (right) on the wheel before applying a couple of layers of black Puraflex and screeding it down smoothly.


Cyb’s DIY procedure listed on the index page does it another way: carefully sealing each nipple with two types of sealant but not covering them in an overall band or even a tape. There’s much to be said to this: individual leaks can be more easily pinpointed and fixed. He recommends specific glues: which he seems to have researched rather than hoped for the best. First, two applications of runny Seal-All on each spoke nipple (see below). Runny – even like SuperGlue – is the key so it will seep down into the nipples’ threads and along the outer collar.


Don’t forget there’s a curved spoke washer (right) between the spoke nipple and the rim, so that’s an extra leakage surface to seal. Then, once cured, each nipple is capped with a thicker blob of Goop from the same manufacturer, Eclectic Products in Oregon.


In the UK Cyb’s exact products are hard to find or are expensive if bought from the US where Seal-All is just a couple of dollars. I found Goop for a tenner. There must be something identical here to Seal-All – is it so different from the Bostik 1782 I have in the desk drawer? I put a test blob of 1782 on a rim to see if it would peel off easily. It didn’t so I used it on my Africa Twin’s back rim, then cap with the Goop.


Others have used plain old Silicone sealant. Something that’s designed for tent seam sealing (Seam Grip, Seam Seal) will be runny enough. Another good thing with Seal-All and Goop (and 1782) is they’re clear so you can see any too-big bubbles or lifting. They definitely look better than the creamy texture of the 3M 5300 mastic I tried years ago.


The good thing is tyre pressure pushes these tapes and sealants into the rim, so improving the seal. But if you inject water-soluble Slime instant puncture sealant (right), that may not take to your sealants. As it is, water can seep down a spoke collar from the outside and get under your sealant. If you’re doing wet trip, like Siberia, there’s something to be said from sealing the nipple/rim/spoke contact area from the outside too. Just a smear of whatever you got ought to do.


Glass sealant DIY
Another DIY suggestion is using glass sealant again, being meticulous with your pre-cleaning and patient with your sealant curing – see below. Sounds similar to Cyb’s process.

1. Glass (windscreen) sealant
2. 16″ Harley inner tube or rim band
3. Glass cleaner or oven degreaser

• Clean the wheels with the degreaser/cleaner, wash with water to make sure that any chemical is washed off. Wait for a day in dry in a clean environment. Use a blast of air if indeed
• Apply the sealant to each spoke nipple, wait for a day to cure, apply another layer, wait again
• Apply sealant to the inner part of the wheel. One layer for one day, do it twice then wait until it’s completely cured
• Fit the rim band (or tape, see below)


Builders’ Sealing Tapes
One guy told me he simply taped up his rims with duct tape and topped up his tyres once a week. Using something more airtight might even enable a proper job.


I’ve seen 3M 4411 Extreme Sealing Tape mentioned (right; technical sheet). In neutral (N), grey (G) or black (B), it’s 1mm thick (more pliable than the 2mm 4412N) and comes in 50mm width for big bike rims, or 38mm (1.5 inches; product code: BLA193840). A 5.5-m roll of 38mm costs £20 and is enough to do three ~1.5m circumference rim wheels once.


Another mile-long thread on Advrider with some good ideas and solutions. This tape works best where the well/drop centre of the rim is nice and flat, as on a wide supermoto rim shown above left, or my Africa Twin (left, upper wheel). You’d imagine a curved profile will work less well with tape.


If I was doing such a DIY sealing job again, this time I’d consider forensically cleaning the rim with something like 3M Adhesion Promoter 111 (AP111; right; £20 for 250ml) (‘A quick wipe of AP111 on the ionomer is suggested for best performance of the overlapping tape. AP111 will approximately double Extreme Sealing Tape’s adhesion to its own ionomer backing).


But £20 for a half pint is quite expensive. I know from kayaking that brake cleaner, acetone (paint or nail polish remover) or any number of other highly noxious solvents like rubber or plastic-eating MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone, (right) or Toluene also work.
Then I’d seal each nipple with some runny glue so it seeps down into the threads. Let that cure, do it again then a dab of silicon like McNett Aquasure or Bostik 1782 or a mate tried EvoStik Sticks Like Sh1t. Then cap with Goop or whatever before letting it all cure again and taping it all up (so similar to Outex, then). I  note Cyb says silicone is not as oil-resistant as the glues he uses. 3M is a big name for industrial applications but there are all sorts of waterproof, self-amalgamating or self-fusing silicone tapes out there in rubber and plastic for household leaks.

All it’s got to be is soft and pliable to contour the rim well closely, be stuck on to a very clean, oil-free surface, exceedingly non-porous and darned sticky, come what may. I’d hope 4411 or the DuPont equivalent: Tyvek, have all these properties, but Tyvek only seems to come in 60mm widths, a bit wide even for a giant adv rim.
Another tape that’s been mentioned is Tesa Tape 4289 (above left). It’s tensilised (stretchy), like self-amalgamating tape for leaky-pipe-repair (right). Not tried Tesa yet either but at 66 metres a roll it’s a fraction of the cost of 3M if you have several wheels to do. Yes it’s only an inch wide, but at 12 quid a roll you can do a few taut wraps round a wider back rim to get a good seal. You might even want to try not bothering with the laborious individual nipple gluing. Worth experimenting with at home before a big trip. The risk with tape-only is they might start separating when things get very hot. Don’t underestimate the centrifugal forces working on the tape. Below, the original rim tape put over a DIY sealing ‘for good measure’ span itself into pieces and blocked the valve. Things need to be glued down securely.


Outex pads and tape
I came across Outex sealant tape which a mate has been using on his TTR for years. As with many of these DIY methods, some get on with it, some don’t as this post shows. Here’s another on adv. Central Wheel in the UK used to sell it but stopped, presumably due to unreliable results from customers.


Basically, it’s a set of sticky pads for each spoke nipple, a very sticky and wide double-sided tape applied into the rim well with as few creases as possible. And then a thicker protective tape over the top. Application video below; a higher-res video here. Costs from £90 to £125 in the UK which seems a lot when you see the other tapes, above. As mentioned, I was about to fit it to my WR, but stopped once I saw my rims lacked the safety bead I go on about. Take your time they say, to try and get all the air pockets out. Using an inner tube patch roller rasp (right) helps; you often get them with better puncture kits.

Have I missed any ideas? Let me know.

Back to Tubeless Conversion Index Page

Tubeless: professional spoke rim sealing

Tubeless Conversion Index Page

These two methods are the only professional spoked wheel options I know of available in the UK. In the US Woody’s Wheel Works have been sealing rims for years, but even they admit it’s a tricky business. All will probably insist your supplied rim has a safety bead.

BARTubeless polymer band


A new idea I tried in late 2015 on my CB500X was permanent rim sealing by BARTubeless in Italy (left), as suggested by Rally Raid. I was one of the first in the UK to try this. They come with a 4-year guarantee. A polymer is applied and sets hard in the well of the wheel, which has been heated by steam. It gets done in Italy.
The tyre was a Golden Tyre GT 201 tubeless on the back and a similar K60 on the front. More here and here. One thing with Bart and similar thick linings is that they take up a bit of well depth in the rim which reduces the slack needed for easy tyre fitting or removing. I recall RR said the rear GT tyre was hard to fit.


I thought I had no air loss but tbh I don’t think I checked much, and over a couple of months there was quite a lot of leakage. Could have been the tyre bead, the valve, even the alloy rim might be porous. At an MoT weeks later they noticed the pressures were well down, but the stiff TL tyres disguised this, as they so often do.
Note in the picture top left the label says not to drop below 1.6bar (21psi) because the rims used by RR then did not have safety lips. They probably offer safety-bead rims now; certainly on the Africa Twin Bart rims they now sell. In the UK, wheel specialists Central Wheel Services near Birmingham will BARTubeless two wheels for you for £300.
Balance the cost of either of these proprietary rim sealings with the many hours but modest cost and possible satisfaction of doing it yourself.

CWC Airtight System: Vulcanised band


Central Wheel Components in the UK do a version of the BARTubeless spoke sealing. They call it Airtight. and again, as far as I know, I was among the first to try it on my Himalayan ride to Western Sahara. It costs £120 a wheel but it’s done in the UK (by ATS, a UK tyre outlet owned by Michelin).


A hooped band whose size matches the wheel rim is fitted to the rim and heated to vulcanise in two stages over two days. Alternatively, on narrow front wheels liquid rubber is applied in three stages and cures in air but takes four days.  The reason I use this is because the rim section is narrow. If I was to convert your rear wheel.
There’s not much more detail on this brief page. Because the band version is vulcanised – a form of chemically (sulphur) assisted rubber ‘heat welding’ – rather than just glued like tapes or sealants, you’d hope the seal will be more secure and permanent, certainly more than tape which can come away when it gets hot.

I had this system on the rear wheel of my Himalayan on an Excel rim with the safety lip and fitted with a Michelin Anakee Wild 130/80-17 M/C 65R TL plus a splash of Slime.
In Morocco I’d guess it lost a pound or two psi a week judging by the readings off my TPMS – though with elevation and temperature changes it was hard to evaluate accurately. This was with Slime plus a small nail in the back which I chose not to remove.

I think I prefer Airtight over the BARTubeless as the rubber may be lighter, would flex with the wheel and it takes less long.


Alpina sealed spoke nipples

The Italian Alpina system individually seals each spoke nipple with a rubber o-ring, and is sold for many road bikes and so must be considered road legal.
The benefits of this system is that spoke tension can be adjusted while maintaining the tubeless seal. But how often do you do that on a decent rim? The permanently sealed bonding systems above may not work so well doing this, but as we know we’re usually talking very small turns of the nipple to adjust tension, and should a leak develop it can be re-sealed. Also, there are 36 potential leak points. It seems a way over-complicated way of doing it compared to a single band like Airtight or BARTubeless inside the well.

Kineo wheels

Beautifully forged after-market Italian Kineo tubeless rims, popular with custom builders. They’re the only ones I know of and for a Transalp will be at least €1000 each. You’re welcome.


Back to Tubeless Conversion Index Page

Tubliss and similar tubeless cores

Tubeless Conversion Index Page

Systems like the US-made Tubliss liner are primarily made for dirt bikes running low-psi. They are not recommended for highway use in the US by the manufacturer, most probably due to homologation issues rather than safety. But I know people who’ve run Tubliss for years on the road with no problems. The main limitations: they’ll only seal properly on WM3 rims (2.15”) or narrower, and they only come in 21, 19 and 18-inch sizes. So like they say: most suited to dirt bikes where such rim widths and sizes are the norm.

With nothing better available for a 21-inch wheel, in 2019 I reluctantly ran Tubliss on the front wheel of my Himalayan in Morocco. A few days in I’d noticed Slime coming out round the high-pressure core valve body which suggested it was getting from the tublessed tyre cavity past the Tubliss core seal.
Then, after about two weeks riding at road pressures and having checked the Tubliss at 7.5 bar just two days earlier, the core went flat in the middle of Western Sahara. It would not hold air and so neither would the tyre. But by luck, the body of the collapsed Tubliss core kept the flat tyre on the rim, so I was able to ride slowly 250km to Laayoune on the coast and fit a tube.


Removing the Tubliss (left), it was hard to tell what was wrong as five hours riding at 30mph had probably pulled the valve out of the tube and anyway, I wasn’t planning on refitting it and bought an inner tube instead.
I never was that keen on Tubliss for travelling as opposed to recreational dirt biking. Even though mates have used it on the road without problems, I’d not risk it again. Next time I’ll seal a rim.


Tubliss and similar work by fitting an inner tube-like ‘core’  (‘HPC’) which inflates up to 110 psi to expand and seal the bead of the tyre firmly against the rim and so sealing off the tyre’s air chamber from the spoke nipples where leakage occurs – the key to converting wire wheels to tubeless. The core is a thick, plastic highly pressurised non-elastic red casing, but it’s kept away from the tyre sidewall or tread where punctures come through.


Years ago I fitted a pair to a GS500R project bike running custom 19″ spoked rims. Click the link. Short version: lube the possibly hard-to-fit core with 303 Protectant (right: £15 a pint; same as Armor All in the US). It’s much slippier and longer-lasting than soapy water which is good for the HPC inside. Then run Slime, Stans or similar to ensure sealing (about the same price as 303 but you can MYO). Me, I wasn’t convinced they’re suited to long-range overlanding compared to other simpler systems because of the need to maintain the very high 110-psi pressures in the red HPC with humble mini-compressors. You also need to drill another hole in the rim for the HPC valve/rim lock; no one likes doing that.
Long Tubliss thread on advrider; mostly dual-sporters. Some get on with it, some don’t. In 2019 I rather reluctantly fitted a Tubliss to the stock front steel rim of my Enfield Himalayan. But I’m on the lookout for a 21-inch alloy rim with the safety lips to seal myself with adhesive and tape.


The Swedish T-Lock system is very similar as far as I can tell: the same non-elastic core (blue, left) presses the tyre bead against the rim with very high pressure to seal the tyre’s pressured chamber from the leak-prone spoke nipples.
The kit includes a separate rim band (green) and, if I understand correctly, the blue tube utilises the rim’s valve hole. This means that unlike Tubliss with its two valves, the tyre must be filled with Slime-like sealant before final mounting and then pressurised by spiking the tyre carcass with a needle and then letting the sealant plug that hole. This seems to imply that you set the tyre pressures once. To reduce pressure you’d have to puncture the tyre briefly, and to increase you’d have to spike-and seal again. Even more than the Tubliss, T-Locks are intended only for motocross use, as the website’s imagery implies. Clearly then not at all suited to overlanding.

Back to Tubeless Conversion Index Page

Tubeless: OEM Spoked Tubeless Wheels

Tubeless Conversion Index Page

Thinking of using these OE TL rims for your conversion?
Be aware that on these rims spoke nipples are in the hub, not the rim.
You’ll need to convert the whole wheel to fit your forks / discs / spacers and so on.
Suddenly it’s all a bit complicated.


Many flagship travel bikes run ‘adventure-look’ spoked wheels, but OEM spoked + tubeless is only slowly catching on. Usually, they’re non-Japanese premium brands like BMW, Triumph or KTM. I update a list here.


The original one-litre Africa Twin and Yamaha’s XT700 were two bikes where youd have expected tubeless. The 2020 1100cc AT now features tubeless (right). Front 21-inch wheels seem to be a problem, but it must well be a cost thing too. Spoked tubeless fronts in 19″ are much more common, even on Jap travel bikes.
These days manufacturers use spoked wheels on adv bikes as a signifier of ‘off-road adventure’, as well as the perception of being repairable, lighter, stronger, more shock absorbent and cool. Meanwhile tubeless is just plain safer and infinitely easier to repair flats. On a CRF450R motocrosser running rim locks at 10psi, a tube is probably a better idea and the van’s nearby. On a quarter-ton Adv battleship halfway down Ruta 40, getting a flat is a pain.

OEM spoked tubeless wheels


Making a spoked tubeless wheel rim is expensive but it”s been done for years, right back to the mid-1980s Honda XL600M (left), and almost certainly before that.

xadv - 5

Recent bikes that come with them stock include the BMW 1200GSA, the original Aprilia Caponord (below), Suzuki V-Stroms, Yamaha XT1200Z, KTM V-twins, some Triumph Tigers and Explorers (top of the page) and now 1200 Scramblers. Even Honda’s oddball X-ADV scooter (right) has small spoked TL wheels. 


The picture below of a 2005 Caponord shows the main ways of designing a spoked tubeless rim. On the rear: spokes hook to ‘outboard’ flanges on the rim. The front uses a less well triangulated single ‘inboard flange’; V-Stroms (left) have paired inboard flanges up front. Note that the nipples (spokes tension adjustment) are at the hub, behind the rotors.


BMWs, including the 850GS twin  (below), run 40 straight-pull spokes directly into the protruding rim edge – there is no flange. I’ve noticed this relatively exposed edge can get scuffed about from stony terrain, although it would take a lot to damage the spoke mounts.

Such wheels can be heavier than same-sized cast wheels. Weight is saved by not using inner tubes, but the additional unsprung weight on any wheel is the last place you want it. It takes more force to get that mass turning, more braking to slow it and better suspension to control it.


Trials Tubeless


You could try and track down tubeless trials bike rims, but they’re usually 32 spoke. They do it two ways: one is the usual inboard flange with hub-end nipples, as below left. The other is a flat well with a groove to either side (below right) which lets a thick, tight rubber rim band slot into place and help and seal off the spokes – a sort of much simplified Tubliss system.


You do wonder if this trials rim band plus some sort of added adhesive might work on a regular rim (with lips but without the side grooves). It sure would be a simple way of doing it but clearly, a flat well is best. I think Morad does rims like this in 36 x 18.
A 2017 KTM 1090 Adventure (left) has a similar system: a regular 21-inch Akront rim but with a band rather crudely vulcanised or otherwise glued into the well.

Most road bikes run 36 spokes or more. DID 36-hole TL rims do or did exist, but so far only in pictures or cruddy, corroded used ones on ebay. When changing the spoked rim you’re constrained by the number of spoke holes in the stock hub because changing a hub is a much bigger faff. Fitting a new rim is dead easy. Missing out a few spokes to make a standard 36-spoke hub use a 32-spoke trials rim is a bodge too far, even for me.


Branded or otherwise, it’s hard to find less expensive spoked TL rims off the shelf. The only ones I’ve seen are in China: Risun (Risen?) outboard tubeless rims in 17 or 18 inches only (left) and just $60 a shot. Problem is, you have to order a minimum of 200 units. And there is still the hub-nipple problem.
Especially with 21-inchers, finding an OEM TL rim is difficult or expensive. With 21s you may be better off buying a safety lipped rim (also rare) and sealing it by hand or using the processes described here.

Back to Tubeless Conversion Index Page

TPMS – a good idea

Updated Summer 2020

Tubeless Conversion Index Page
Michelin TPMS review and my special offer


It’s not impossible to get a bit cynical about the flood of gimmicky gadgets, products or optional features which modern technology has enabled, not least when associated with ‘adventure’ + ‘motorcycling’. But I believe that for the:
• price
• ease of fitting and
• non-interfering redundancy
a wireless Tyre Pressure Monitoring System is a worthwhile addition to your bike, whatever you do with it. 

For as long as I’ve been on the road, tyre makers and road safety tsars have harped on about the importance of maintaining correct tyre pressures. They’re right of course: doing so is a major contribution to road safety for the reasons illustrated vividly in the videos below. But modern bike tyres are so good that I’ve often inadvertently ridden on drastically under-inflated tyres for weeks and not even noticed. 


Add the fact that on some bikes the valves can be awkward to access with tyre gauges which themselves are hard to read or flakey. Plus it’s all grubby down there and your knees/back are no longer like Nureyev in his prime. Unless you’re a certain type of ATGATT swot, for day-to-day riding it’s all a bit of a faff to check tyre pressures as regularly as they advise. And yet your bike’s other vital signs: oil pressure, battery charge, temperature, lights and even which gear you’re in – are all conveniently lit up right there on the dash.

Tyre Pressure Monitoring System
The problem has always been how to read the pressure inside a tyre that’s spinning around at 1050rpm. Solution: inexpensive wireless technology. A TPMS is ingeniously composed of two replacement valve caps fitted with centrifugally activated pressure sensors.

They pair wirelessly with a watch-sized display mounted where you can see it (or beamed to your indispensable smartphone; right). The TPMS display is either powered off the bike’s battery or is rechargeable in some way, so it’ll work on anything else with a regular Schrader valve, even a pushbike.
Result: real-time tyre pressure and even temperature monitoring (right). And best of all, the USB rechargeable ones like the Michelin-branded one I tried, don’t interfere with the bike’s systems in any way. If the caps play up, just refit the old ones. They weigh as little as 8 grams so are unlikely to cause tyre-balancing issues at normal road speeds.
Over the years I’ve found DIY, as well as other tubeless conversions like Tubliss and BARTubeless, have gradually lost air pressure faster than a regular tyre, tubed or OEM tubeless. And this is even when not run at very low psi where the tyre could conceivably ‘burp’ out some air over a bump. With any sort of DIY tubeless conversion, I highly recommend fitting a TPMS; certainly in the early days until you know how good the seal is.

Tyre pressures increase with elevation as ambient pressure falls, but they also drop as temperatures fall. For every 2000 feet (600m) you climb, the pressure will increase by 1 psi and will fall by the same amount for every drop of 4°C (10°F). But as temperatures naturally drop with elevation, things kind of balance themselves out.


Riding Off-Road
As we all know, lowering tyre pressures greatly improves traction on loose surfaces and can transform a bike from a mindless shopping trolley into a hyper-sapient roller blade. But when you lower tyre pressures, temperatures in the tyre carcass soar as it flexes and influxes much more on each rotation, just as you get hot exercising because your muscle tissue is rubbing. And as tyres heat up pressure readings climb. (This is why cold tyre pressures should be your baseline). In this hot, rubber-softened state a tyre is much more prone to punctures and other woes.

Off-road I tend to keep pressures as low as necessary but as high as possible. Usually erring on the high side at the cost of a comfy ride, so weary am I of repairing flats on tubed tyres in the middle of nowhere (left).
A TPMS won’t stop punctures but at least you’re able to observe how pressures climb from a cold start and what they’re actually doing on the dirt, so helping eliminate the guesswork of ‘press valve for 2-3 seconds’ or the nagging feeling of ‘should I stop and inflate a bit?’

You can buy obscure-brand TPMS kits for your bike off ebay from £30 for the smartphone-only ones. About £50 seems a good price for a decent one. Here’s an Advpulse review on a hardwire Cyclops TPMS (above left) which sells in the US for $130. Cyclops aren’t tyre specialists, they just sell gadgets and a near-identical looking kit can be bought on ebay UK for about half that price (above right).

A TPMS is one gadget I wish I’d had on my Tenere back in 2007, if not all my desert bikes over the years. I fitted Michelin’s one to my all-tubeless Himalayan and semi-tubeless Africa Twin in 2020. Read the review.