Newsletter of the Mid-Valley Bicycle Club
The Mid-Valley Spin newsletter was re-started in 2020 during the pandemic to help membership stay connected while club rides were put on hold for safety reasons.
With return to “normal” club rides, the “Spin” will transition to a smaller newsletter featuring club members and their articles, sticking to our bimonthly publishing schedule.
We will also add the “Spin-off” consisting of time-sensitive, newsworthy items that could be of interest to club members and that are coming up on the calendar before the next regular edition of the Mid-Valley Spin.
If you would like to contribute your story of a favorite bicycle tour (or any bicycling-related topic!), please email it to newsletter@MVBC.com. Also if you have any skills in electronic publishing, your help is needed too! Please reach out.
Yes! When weather permits, it takes ounces off your bike, and the EPA estimates 2.3 million gallons of water and 3500 lbs. of detergent unnecessarily enter the waste stream because of washing of dirty bike jerseys every year (tongue firmly in cheek - truly fake news!).
No, this article is not about my clothing preferences. It is about whether you should convert your traditionally tubed tires to tubeless and vice versa.
First, definitions: A traditionally tubed tire has a flexible tube between the rim and the tire. Air pressure is maintained by trapping air within the tube. In a tubeless system, air is trapped between the tire and the rim. The tire adheres tightly to the rim, and liquid sealant is injected in the space where a tube might have been to seal a porous tire and any tiny cracks or holes where air might escape.
Unlike riding topless, you will need some special gear to ride tubeless. The rim needs to be sealed with tape to prevent air from leaking through the spoke holes. You will need a tire that adheres tightly to the rim, a “tubeless ready” tire. You will need a tubeless stem that will seal the stem hole in the rim, and you will need sealant.
While the first three are good for a long time, most sealants need to be replenished about every 2-7 months because they dry out with normal use. The more often you ride and the dryer the air with which you are pumping up your tires, the sooner you will need to add new sealant. To replenish sealant, remove the valve core, inject new sealant and replace the valve core. For this simple job, you will need three inexpensive items; fresh sealant, an injector and a valve core remover. If the valve core is gunked up you may also need to replace it, another inexpensive item. The whole job is under 10 minutes.
You can replace sealant about every 3 months. A less wasteful approach is to deflate your tire and pull the bead away from the rim to have a look at the sealant. A third approach is to take your wheel off your bike and shake it, listening for liquid sloshing around. This is less preferred because some sealants will separate, leaving a watery substance in the tire which will not seal holes but which sounds on shaking like sealant that is good.
The main benefit of going tubeless is that small penetrations of the tire are quickly sealed by the sealant. You might not even notice a puncture that with a tube would have caused you to stop riding and either patch or replace your tube. The more you ride on surfaces that could give you a flat, the better tubeless will be for you.
No flats is what attracts us to tubeless, but that’s not what always happens with tubeless tires. If your penetration is large or the sealant old, the sealant won’t be able to seal the hole or may only partially seal the hole. This leaves you with the same flat you would have had with a tube, only worse. If you carry a spare tube, you will have to remove the tire from one edge of the rim, remove the tubeless stem, insert the spare tube and place the tire back within the rim. But unlike with tubes, you may have to deal with a lot of gunky sealant that can mess with your hands and make it more difficult to properly seat the tube.
The tubeless folks have an answer for this problem; you can stick into the large hole a piece of webbing or a rubber strip coated with a chemical that makes the sealant seal better. The rubber strips are often brown and so referred to as “bacon”. Whether webbing or strips, these small, clever devices are easy to apply, and make the hole smaller and the sealant more likely to seal. If you run tubeless, these are a must-have for your saddle pack or fanny pack. However, even bacon will not help you seal the hole, if the hole is really big or your sealant has dried up.
All sealants are not created equal. Although manufacturers claim their sealants can plug holes as large as 8 mm (almost a 1/3 inch), in tests by BikeRadar, most seal 2 mm holes but a few have trouble with 4 mm holes. Only two, Caffelatex Mariposa (Italian) and Stan’s Race were able to consistently seal the 6 mm holes. Only Stan’s Race could seal an 8 mm hole. With other sealants and a big hole, you will need bacon.
Before running off to buy Stan’s Race, please read on. In bike stuff, usually “Race” means high end, more expensive but better. Stan’s Race is more expensive but whether it is better depends on how you cycle. It is great at sealing holes quickly. But the stuff is so gunky that it cannot be injected through a Presta stem. The large molecules and crystals, according to the manufacturer, will hang up in the stem and not get into the space where they are needed. You have to add sealant by cracking the bead away from the rim, a hassle. The manufacturer recommends that you check Stan’s Race every two weeks to see if the sealant has clumped inside the tire. That is more than a hassle to me.
Caffelatex makes Vitamina CL, a powder additive for its sealants, to plug larger holes and to plug holes more quickly. It does all that but it, too, cannot be added through a Presta valve and decreases the lifespan of your sealant. The manufacturer recommends its use for racers who replace tires more frequently and who check the sealant before a race.
Most sealants are latex based, either non-allergenic synthetic latex or natural latex. It’s the latex that dries out and requires replacement. Finish Line and Peaty’s have non-latex sealants that are marketed as good forever. No checking sealant! No adding new or removing old sealant! That’s great but alas they do not seal holes well. Not recommended. Caffelatex also makes a non-latex sealant, Vegetalex, which has a few good reviews but no objective testing. It is touted to seal holes up to 5 mm quickly and to stay liquid and active for longer than sealants with a latex base. It’s made of olive pits and xanthan gum, both highly biodegradable.
Another sealant to consider is Muc-Off from the UK. Their sealant is generally but not universally well reviewed. They have some cool packaging that allows you to pack sealant on your ride and add the sealant directly from the package to your Presta stem. Their sealant also glows under UV light, allowing you to see where there are small holes or cracks that have been plugged. You can buy their sealant with a small UV light. I am not certain there is a benefit to this technology, but it is cool. I rank Muc-Off lower only because their sealant came out after BikeRadar’s tests so that its hole-plugging ability has not been objectively tested like Stan’s Race and original Caffelatex.
All sealants have more difficulty plugging holes and keeping them plugged with greater tire pressure. Also, the smaller your tire, the less air you can lose before you must pump or add C02. That makes tubeless better for mountain bikes and gravel where lower pressures and higher volumes are common. If you are running your road bike with pressures north of 100 psi and widths of 23 mm (i.e., 700X23) or less, you may want to stick with tubes.
Weight might be an issue for some riders. For mountain bike tires, you will probably need about 4 oz. of sealant. Slightly different amounts are recommended by different manufacturers. Four ounces is generally a little less than a tube. But remember you will have to inject more sealant every few months, so it adds up. You could remove the old sealant before injecting the fresh stuff. That helps deal with the weight issue but is another hassle. Some manufacturers recommend old sealant be removed about once a year. I doubt most riders do that. You can remove dried sealant with your hands, pulling it off the tire and rim tape, or you can use a sealant remover for this job.
Money might also be an issue. Though we are not talking about large sums either way, using tubes will save you a few bucks on rim tape, tires, sealant and all the paraphernalia that comes with tubeless. Adding new sealant and removing old sealant adds a little to the tubeless price tag. For most riders, replacing or patching punctured tubes will be less expensive.
Lastly, most tubeless tires lose a little air over time. You will need to check pressure more frequently and pump more often with tubeless.
Should you ride tubeless? That depends on what kind of tires you have and where you ride. Larger, low pressure tires are more suited for tubeless. The more frequently you ride rough surfaces that can give you a flat, the happier will be with tubeless. Tubeless makes more sense for gravel and mountain bikes, but some roadies do use and like tubeless as well. It also depends on how much you hate changing a flat versus the hassle of maintaining sealant in your tires and dealing with the occasional tubeless tire that nonetheless flats. Like riding topless, whether tubeless is best for you remains a matter of personal preference.
While some MVBC members will know the name Josh Capps from his role as active transportation specialist for the City of Corvallis and regular contributor to The Spin, what you might not know is that he is passionate about bikes and has been restoring them since about 2008.
“I used to be in the marketing world in Portland. It was a good life for me but I started realizing there was more I cared about: I realized what I cared about was transportation and how it affects our environment. I realized Portland was built for cycling and decided to buy a real bike and start commuting a little bit. I decided to ride on a Friday and thought I would ride on Fridays. Then I ended up riding every day!”
While he was in Portland, he commuted 6-8 miles and spent the weekends bikepacking. His first bike was a 1970s Motobecane. Early on, he realized he didn’t like rattles, clinks and likes a product that is working well.
“A bike needs constant updating and upkeep like a car. I could do it myself or take it to a bike shop. I realized doing it myself was a better way to go and started with YouTube videos. Then I looked into classic and vintage forums: just reading about what people were doing: brands, components of quality bikes. I read books and started dabbling into some maintenance.”
He realized if he wanted to learn, he needed to practice and bought a Schwinn Suburban from the 70s. All it took was a hammer, screwdriver and wrenches to start learning. He spent after-hours at some bike shops and talked with mechanics and just started tinkering with the Schwinn. Once he had fixed that bike up, he realized he didn't really want it, so he sold it. He soon decided to buy another one.
“I bought another bike only because I wanted to practice. I want to be sustainable for riding myself and I also decided if I was able to fix and repair bikes I could help someone on the fence about getting and riding a bike by removing barriers for them to start riding. I started seeing the benefit of removing barriers of people around me. If they needed a bike, I probably had one.”
Josh was drawn to vintage bicycles and started his website https://simplicityvintagecycles.com in 2012. He has restored and sold many bikes through the years and especially likes to learn the story of a bike that he is restoring. His first bike, the Motobecane, he bought from an old bike wrencher that was selling his last upright bike and was changing to a recumbent. Of all the bikes he has sold, this is the one he may wish he hadn’t sold.
“It had custom paint and was unique component- and frame-wise. I sold it because I graduated and traded up. That bike didn’t really fit but I made it work. I kinda don’t regret selling any of them.
“I know a lot of vintage bike people that have a bit of a bike museum. I don’t want that. Bikes are meant to be ridden. There’s bikes out there that are hanging on the wall and have never been on the pavement. The soul of the bike needs to be fed. If I’m not riding it or my wife’s not riding it, it’s not doing justice to the bike and someone else could use that bike. It’s hard for me to regret other than sentimental reasons.”
While he has had many positive experiences, there have been a few disappointing ones: in the early years, he sold a bike and then it was stolen off the buyers balcony after only three days! In another more recent experience he had restored a 1964 hand built Yrago (French) bike. He spent a great deal of time sourcing parts including custom head badges and decals.
“The market to sell certain bikes is very slim. This was a very tall bike too so it really had to be the right buyer. When I sold it to a person in Portland, she ended up parting out the bike and selling the parts because you make a lot more money that way. It really bothered me. Even though once you sell something it’s gone and I get that but it was a fine bike and that was really disheartening. A person in Georgia bought the frame and is rebuilding it to an even higher quality. So in the end it worked out and I’m happy to see where it goes.”
One of the challenges of working on vintage bikes is finding the tools to work on certain bikes or parts.
“Sometimes there are old bike tools that you can’t even get anymore. It’s old technology that nobody uses. There was a French tool that I had to buy that someone in Arizona made.”
Josh is not a bike snob: he’s not opposed to newer bikes. He likes all bikes and has focused on different bikes at different times.
“I used to be really lured towards Italian racing bikes. They are powerful, look fast just standing still and have beautiful lug work. That’s what I gravitated towards. I even rode them. I started thinking about them like cars: Porsche/bike good for going fast & straight. That’s when I started seeing Italian bikes as one trick pony.”
Now he has gravitated to the 80s and 90s mountain bikes and all terrain bikes. “They are terrible mountain bikes but they are amazing at being urban ramblers: they are “go anywhere” type of machines.``
“Right now, I’m riding a yellow Schwinn High Sierra. I can hop curbs, hit a chip path and drop back onto the street. I can also go for a longer ride with my son in the trailer. Those mountain bikes are the next resurgence: Stump jumper, Rock Hoppers hard tails.”
“I love buying them in person: I get to know the bike’s story and the person behind it. They know that I know how to handle the bicycle and treat it well and it’ll be in good hands going forward. I”m the keeper of the flame and the steward of that bike. When they go from me they are in great shape and ready to be ridden for a long time. It’s important to get it back on the road and have it ready for someone to hop on and enjoy.”
While Josh looks for leads on bikes every day, he admits that he only has so much space and time with a full-time job and a wife and 3 year-old son. He has worked with people to refurbish and rebuild their bikes and he has sourced bikes for other people.
“I’ve been doing it long enough that I try to find the real interesting pieces out there. I just want to save them all: they’re like puppies. I do like hand-built bikes, particularly Bruce Gordon. I’ve been looking at some oddball bikes: a Nishiki with bottom chain stay removed and elevated: it has an alien look. There’s all kinds of beautiful Italian bikes, Davidson, that are hand-built in Seattle. I’m looking at a magnesium bike right now: trying to find it locally. It’s a British made Kirk Precision. I’d like to build it up but I wouldn’t keep it. I just think it would be fun to work with.”
Josh also fills an important role with the City of Corvallis. He is mostly involved with outreach, education and program development and maintaining the different types of systems in place for bikes and pedestrians in Corvallis. He is involved with developing new things that help people get around by foot and wheel.
He is also involved in some external development: when different companies, business want to develop a blank parcel or do some revamping of land. They take a multi-faceted approach, including water, fire and other city services.
“We take a fresh look at the land and see what can be done to bring it to a standard to be effective going forward.”
An additional role he fills is to help maintain the vegetation that is growing over sidewalks and bike lanes. If there are any Blackberry vines stretching into bike lanes or trees that are too low on sidewalks, those reports come to Josh. To report any hazards or problems, you can use https://www.corvallisoregon.gov/publicworks/webform/report-problem-public-works