Himalayan: Out of the Western Sahara

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dig treeWith 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.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHooning about on a clay pan.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe century-old Aéropostale base at Cape Juby (Tarfaya).


him-capjubyCap Juby in its heyday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATojo wheels + jerries – the only windbreaks for miles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWatchtower on a berm just 50km from the Mauritanian border.

him-steamHot steam and rubber. Cleaning out the Slime.

him-sarawi‘Moto – Landrover – Layounne?’ I point to each and try and persuade a Saharawi to transport my bike to the coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChurned up, sandy gorge at MW6 KM246. The Himalayan meets it’s limit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey like the word Sahara out here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossroads where MW6 joins MW7. Came from the left on the WR in 2017.


him-jerryTopping up for the day. A can will do me at least 500km.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADesert dawn near Gueltat Zemmour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA Dakar Rally mound. Pushed up every kilometre or so as landmarks right along our route to the Digtree and beyond.

him-chatMost of the riding is easy, as above. But it only takes one lapse in concentration.

him-blissRemoving the punctured Tubliss core in Layounne.



Ex-Dakar track.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe 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.

him-fbj-route.jpgOut of Tiznit we took an interesting track along the Oued Assaka to Fort Bou Serif ruins for a spot of lunch and some filming.

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Himalayan: Impressions at the edge of the Sahara

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust got to the desert about a 1200 miles in. Two wheels on my wagon and the Himalayan still humming along. Hard to believe it hasn’t missed a beat running down from Malaga over the High Atlas and down here to the edge of the Sahara. The tension is unbearable!
Fuel economy has slowly improved and is now averaging 77mpg Imp (about 27.2kpl; 64.1 US). Bear in mind since leaving the autoroute from Tangier I rarely go over 60, where that’s possible. At yet at these modest speeds the REH is a very satisfying and undemanding ride. It’s an ideal low-profile machine for Morocco, if not so much the getting here. That’s because the seat still needs work; an easy enough fix.


I’m really impressed how well this thing rides on the dry stony mountain tracks which sum up most of ‘mainland’ Morocco. It’s so effortless you don’t even notice at first. Can’t say the same of a 310GS which I’ve also ridden out here a lot: more concentration required on the dirt. The 310 motor and brakes are more suited to shredding tarmac canyons – another adventure-styled bike that’s not really an off-roader. The REH doesn’t look like anything you’d know – maybe a civil partnership of Rokon and MZ.
It must be down to the Him’s combination of low CoG, torquey, long-stroke motor, wide gearing and 21-inch front, plus on my bike, the Anakee Wilds and YSS shock which help make it one of the best bikes I’ve ridden in Morocco for years. On one epic high mountain day I even managed to zing the centre stand on the supermoto track they call the to Sidi Ouaziz.


Brakes are fine on the dirt. The weak-on-road front is as you’d want; the back a tad sharp, but that’s normal, easy to manage and even useful.
To me the ABS is not an issue at the speeds either I or the bike can manage on the dirt. If it engages you probably need to slow down. Both wheels lock easily on really loose stuff before the ABS even reaches for the alarm clock. On the road I’m sure there will come a day when I welcome it.


My proof-of-seat concept (2 x 20mm foam sandwich under a Cool Cover) is an improvement but not there yet. Two days over 400km more or less non-stop and I wonder if the foam slabs are crushed out already. It’s worse on rocky dirt where I tend to stand only when I must. The aerated Cool Cover may help, but it’s slippery and tends to slide me forward. Next version wants to be more level and maybe more foam.
I think what’s still a short distance between seat and footrest (for me) makes levering the body upwards harder that it would be on a KTM450 for example. Removing the footrest rubbers will add an inch more leverage while the 2-inch rise in the bars is nearly just right for me.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though I’m wearing a Bell Moto III I don’t find the buffeting from the short screen intrusive at 65 – my self-imposed max until I know better. It needs to be about 4 inches higher to push the wind over my head but I wonder if one of those air lip/dams might also help lift the airstream. I bought the MRA one but it was too wide to fit without drilling or other bodging. Of course on the dirt the screen is as unobtrusive as you want which is why a spoiler is a better idea than adding height.
The Enfield catches you out with firm stock suspension – the opposite of most of my recent bikes, especially the Jap ones. I bought a YSS shock and fork preloaders as soon as I got the bike, and the YSS shock works as well or better than the Hyperpro (XCo, WR), Tractive (CB500X) or Wilber (XSR700) I’ve run out here recently. All it needs is a pricey HPA to be truly useful, because adjusting preload will be a right  pain (unlike a 310GS, for example).
I suppose they’re now a bit shown up by the YSS shock, but road and trail the RWUp forks are just right for my sort of speeds and load. The preloaders are set on zero – rats! that’s ten quid down the drain.
Because my Anakees are knobbly I tend to leave them at road pressures on  the trail, which makes the suspension feel harsher than it is. I know dropping just a few pounds will make a difference, but I tend to endure rather than fiddle, until necessary. Fyi I’m 95kg (210lb) and my gear is probably another 20%.

My tubeless tyres hadn’t lost any air on collection but the back (vulcanised band) lost a couple of pounds after a few days then settled down. The Tubliss front was doing the job until I saw a bit of Slime oozing from the red valve which means it’s getting past the 7-bar high-pressure core. I tried to top it up, but the crumby garage hose was split and purged more air than it put in. Don’t meddle until you must! Now I realise my pressure gauge doesn’t read to a lofty 7 bar (100 psi) and my Cycle Pump has no gauge. I pumped it up for 3 minutes which hopefully has got up to 7 bar until I find a better garage pump. I said this years ago when I fitted it on the GS500R:  Tubliss is a pain for overlanding rather than rec dirt biking. Or maybe I should have anticipated the need for a gauge that reads 7 bar +…
Out of Malaga the fully charged Michelin TPMS took many hours to pair up and show readings, but since was very handy in monitoring the experimental tubeless tyre pressures. Sadly, 10 days in it appears to have packed up – not even the battery level is indicated.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow I’ve refined the strapping, the slim Kriega OS20s throwovers sit tight and are easy and quick to access. Total demounting would be easier with the HDPE Kriega platform, but I just pull out the white liners if I need to strip the bike overnight (rare). Their slimness is a real benefit on some narrow and gnarly canyon tracks where catching the cliffside with metre+ wide alloy cabinets risks being ejected into the abyss.

Even with bivouac camping gear (everything bar a tent) there’s no need for a tail pack because the nifty 6-litre Lomo bags either side of the tank take up the slack and help spread the load evenly. A very handy spot for gear and, with the Kriegas, a sacrificial crashbar for when that days comes.


So, after 10 brilliant days in the mountains managing to dodge hail, bandits and lightning, all is good with the Himalayan and pretty good with my adaptions. It’s somewhat nerve-wracking but then it always is as I tend to come out here on a wing and a prayer with roughly adapted bikes I’ve barely used.
The XCountry came with the various lip-chewing issues of that series (but nothing went wrong) and the WR250R had dodgy fuel pump activity when hot (but with care got me round OK). Clapped-out Tornados only had age- or user-related issues. Even a Husky 650 Terra, a 701 and an F650GS loaner and 700GS rental with 100k did me a week. Only the Tenere 660Z CB500X and tasty XSR700 came with- and delivered absolutely no worries. You can’t pay enough for that (bodes well for the XT700, too. You can see where I’m going with this).
I met a gnarly KTM450 overlander carrying a spare injector, fuel pump and clutch. Me, I have spare underpants. In fact I brought two by mistake. One will have to go.

Time to see how the Himalayan manages several hundred miles of desert piste.


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Himalayan in Morocco: High Atlas

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Has it really only been six days in Morocco? Seems like ages.
A few photos from the ride so far.

Balleria: €83 open-return at the counter.

Nice boat mister.

Gibraltar: Rule Brexannia!

Big advs as far as the eye can see. And a chimney stork.

Pointy bridge – no stork nests on there.

Bell Moto III + Qwik-Strap. Good combo on the non-ballistic Him.

In to the hills.

Windy and 6°C.

Popcorn and peanuts for lunch + a tub of Vache for emergencies.

Anergui – always wanted to visit.

Mule bridge.

Up the Assif to MH18. Easy enough if not too wide.

Follow the river.

Two mules on a bridge.

No way through to Taghia they say. Fair enough.

2900m – highest sealed road in Morocco. Probably.

Ait Bou’ valley.

Overpriced kasbah. You live and learn.

That centre stand needs bending before it gets bent.

Low route to Demnate. Glad to have the grippy Michelin Wilds.

Old Bedford AWD – an Enfield among lorries.

Back in the clouds on the Demnate crossing trying to outrun a forecast downpour.

Never ask a duck for directions.

Himalayan just laps it up.

I appear to have soiled myself.

Young Berber ninja patrol.

Back down to Skoura.

Your classic Moroccan lunch.

Goat in a crate + some seasoning.

Leatherman sugar breaker.

Midday at the oasis. Boots nearly dry now.


Next – a couple of day trips back into the hills, then down to the Sahara for some desert biking.

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Tubeless DIY ideas: adhesives, tapes

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Outex pads and tape
I belatedly 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 outexwith 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 doubled-sided tape applied into the rim well with as few creases as possible. And then a thicker protective rollerrasptape 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 others tapes, below. 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 (seen love left). 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.

Bathroom mastic
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 (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: I don’t think this stuff adheres well enough.

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

1. Glass (windscreen) sealant (right) tl-windsealwhich you can find in any hardware store.
2. 16″ Harley inner tube on ebay. 1″ smaller that our wheels to make it tight fit.
3. Glass cleaner or oven degreaser.
4. Loads of spare time…

• 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, clean environment, blast of air if indeed, a great help.
• 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.
• Cut HD inner tube to size so it covers the inner part of the wheel. Cut a hole for the valve and you’re good to go.


TL-tapewheelBuilders’ 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 also 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 or 38mm (1.5 inches; product code: BLA193840) widths; the latter about as wide as you want to tape up a smaller rim’s well. A 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, like on a wide supermoto rim shown above. You’d imagine a curved profile will work less well with tape.
ap111If I was doing such a DIY sealing job again, this time I’d forensically clean the rim with 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 glu-mekdouble Extreme Sealing Tape’s adhesion to its own ionomer backing).
I know from kayaking that brake cleaner, acetone (paint or nail polish remover) or any number of other highly flammable and noxious solvents like rubber or plastic-eating MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone, right) or Toluene will also work.
tltapesThen I’d seal each nipple with a dab of silicon like Aquasure before lettingaquasure it cure and taping it all up (so similar to Outex, then). But 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 glu-tyvecDuPont equivalent: Tyvek, have all these properties.
I may try this on the front of the Himalayan as long as I can source a 21-inch rim with the requisite safety lips. (I did).

Have I missed any ideas? Let me know.

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Tubeless: professional spoke rim sealing

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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 insist your rim has a safety bead.

BARTubeless polymer band
cbxL311A 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 bonded to the well of the wheel which needs to sent off to 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 Bartubeless-logo 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.x2k04
I thought I had no air loss in 2000 miles, 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. An an MoT weeks later they noticed the pressures were well down, but the stiff TL tyres disguised it, 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. I think they probably offer safety rims now; certainly on the AT 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.

tl-airtightAirtight: Vulcanised band
cwc-airtightCentral Wheel Components in the UK do a version of the BARTubeless spoke sealing. They call it Airtight. It’s now £119 a wheel but takes less long as it’s possibly done by ATS (a big UK tyre outlet owned by Michelin), so doesn’t require sending abroad.
All I know is what I can read on the right: a thick rubber band is vulcanised into the rim’s well, sealing off the spoke holes. Because it’s vulcanised – a form of rubber ‘heat welding’ – rather than just glued like tapes, you’d hope the seal will be more secure and permanent.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe only restriction is that the band can only be applied to a 3.00-inch (WM5) rim or bigger. I have this system on a rear wheel of my Himalayan project bike on an Excel rim with the safety lip and 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 until later.


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.kineotl

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Tubliss and similar tubeless cores

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Updated April 2019

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 tublelessed 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 the 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 Layounne on the coast and fit a tube.


Removing the Tubliss (left)him-bliss, 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 planing 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-sectionTubliss 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.
303Years 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 tubeless-slimerconvinced 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 look out for a 21-inch alloy rim with the safety lips to seal myself with adhesive and tape.


tlokkThe 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 tlokfinal 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.

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About Tubeless Tyres & Wheels

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Tubeless rims are more commonly solid alloy wheels with a lip or ridge (left) to help locate and seal the tyre bead securely on the rim. This lip is also considered a safety feature which stops the tyre coming off the rim should it deflate on the move. In my experience the lip works. You will feel the softened tubeless tyre long before it comes off the rim.
But this lip also makes removing and mounting the tyre difficult by the roadside. It varies from bike to bike and tyre to tyre, but usually, with tubeless you only need to remove a tyre to replace it, not to fix endless punctures. And unlike punctures, fitting a new tyre is usually done at a time of your choosing and in a tyre shop which has the know-how and tools, including a powerful compressor and lube to force the new tyre over the lips and into the rim’s groove with a nice ‘pop’.


Oddly, for years and years bikes running tubes also have this safety lip. Old Yamaha XTs had it on the rear wheel. Out of interest, this disproves another tubeless urban myth: you can only stick a tube in a TL rim to ‘get you home’ because it will eventually rub on the lip and explode with terrible consequences. Well clearly not on a stock tubed ’86 Tenere with a lipped DID rim (above). I know because I remember putting that bike on a crate with the rear tyre removed, sticking it in gear and ‘hand-lathing’ off that safety lip with a chisel so that I’d not get stuck in the desert trying to break the bead to fix a puncture. And as importantly remounting it properly with – back then – just a bicycle pump. All this faffing is why we like tubeless.

tlrimsBut to convert spoked tube rims to tubeless, this lip is actually a good thing and my 2008 Tenere (above) also had them on the back wheel. The front rim was normal which is a risk when converting to tubeless. But can it be any worse than a tubed tyre puncturing? Tubed tyres deflate faster and therefore more dangerously than tubeless tyres, so even without the safety lips or humps on the front, with tubeless you’re already ahead. But, as I found, you can get slow leakage along the seal.
Pictured left: the top rim has no sealing lip; the lower rim does. Note also the angle of the tyre bead–rim interface surface; the lower rim with the lip is flat which helps make a better seal. The upper lipless rim slopes in making it easier to change by hand, but it won’t holed or seal a tubeless tyre half as well. I think my 2008 Tenere front-wheel sealing problems where because the rear wheel was like the lower rim – good for tubeless. The 21-inch front was like the upper rim; less good seal.

21-inch spoke rims with safely lips
tl-RRAThubI have spent hours online tracking down a 21-inch alloy rim with the safely lip suited to converting to tubeless. They are quite rare.
giantTaiwan-based Giant – the biggest bicycle and motorcycle rim manufacture in the world – makes such a rim with the normal 36 holes (bigger BMWs have 40; lighter trials bikes have 32). In the UK Central Wheel Components can get one for £135 (2.15kg). It may be branded SM Pro. Rally Raid use this rim on their own wheelsets with BARTubeless conversions for Africa Twins (left) for over grand each. They’ll probably do the same for the 700 Tenere which also comes inner tubed from the factory.
A quote to build that rim onto my Himalayan hub and seal it with BARTubeless (done in Italy) came in at £420. Balance that against the cost of buying a rare OEM tubeless 21-inch rim. No sealing required, but it’ll cost you even more.
tl-supermotocivitanova21More research unearthed Japanese Excel Takasago rims also make a 36H 1.60 x 21  rim (left; p/n ICK408), Talon in the UK import them at £165. This rim has an unusually deep well which should make for easy tyre mounting even after you’ve sealed it whichever way you choose.
I’ve just bought a pair of these rims (below) from a place in Italy and hope to fit it to my Himalayan.tl-exellp21.jpg

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