Sedona Update and Ghetto Tubeless First Test

After being out for a while due to tire and chain issues, the Sedona is back up and running!

As mentioned in my previous post, a couple things happening here. The Giant Sedona’s chain got all crossed and twisted up – very similar to what happened to the 1987 Free Spirit Pinnacle. So I couldn’t go for a ride until that was sorted out.

I bought new rubber for the Sedona. The stock rear tire was damaged and I decided to replace it with a new Schwalbe Marathon. And, yes, you read the title right. I was able to perform a so-called “Ghetto tubeless” setup on the Marathon.

I originally installed the Marathon on the front tire, as most cyclists put the new tire on the front and move the old front tire to the rear. (Because the rear tire has more weight on it, it usually wears quicker.) After performing the Ghetto tubeless installation, I figured out that testing something risky on the front tire probably isn’t the best idea.

So I removed the Marathon off the front rim and purchased a new 20″ BMX tube to perform another Ghetto tubeless install on the rear rim. This time, instead of buying the higher-end Goodyear tubes, I decided to cheap out and test it with a thinner, cheaper Bell/CST/Acimut tube.

The new 20″ BMX tube used. They look so tiny in comparison to the 26″ tubes I’m used to seeing.

This time, the 20″ tube was a lot easier to get on the rim. After that, I cut it and bent the sides over the lip of the rim – just like before. Then I mounted the tire. Just like before, this setup is a dry tubeless setup: there’s no sealant.

This time, the Marathon wouldn’t inflate. The air just constantly leaked out of the side. After about ten minutes of trying different things, I held the tire in one spot and it started to take some pressure. The bead sealed just like before. As with before, this was all done with a floor pump – no air compressors. The Marathon is now on the rear rim.

I got the tire up to 55 PSI and threw it on the bike. But I couldn’t take the bike for a test spin until I fixed the chain.

Thankfully, a friend knew someone locally who could help fix the chain and get the bike back up and running. So, I loaded the bike in the trunk of my car and took it to him.

Times like this I wish I had a truck or SUV…

Attempts to untwist the chain on the bike proved to be futile. The chain somehow found a way to really turn itself into a pretzel. The only way we could fix it was to remove a link, take it off the bike and straighten it out.

One of the parts where the chain was bunched up at, right near the front derailleur.

After getting the chain all straightened out, we got it back on the bike. Meanwhile, I carefully cut off the excess tube from the Marathon’s Ghetto tubeless installation using a box cutter. There are still visible parts of excess tube as I didn’t want to damage the tire, so aesthetically it’s not perfect. But it functions fine.

We got the rims back on the bike. The front brake went back into its normal operating position just fine, but the rear brake was being a real PITA. We couldn’t get the cable to snap back into its quick-release. After some finagling with some adjustments, we got it back in. But then it wouldn’t budge – the brake was constantly locked up. Then I found the culprit: at some point, the brake cable came out of its hook on the top tube. After fixing that and readjusting, it worked fine.

After getting back home, I inflated the front tire to around 55 PSI – which I just inflated to 20-30 PSI earlier that day. This time, I actually had more pressure in the front than the rear. The rear was inflated to around 50 PSI.

Then I took it for a test spin. At this point, it was dark outside. But I slid on my handy headlight and taillight and took it for a test spin. My first real ride on the Schwalbe Marathon, and my first test of Ghetto tubeless. Will they hold air? Will they burp?

I didn’t go far, but I didn’t have any issues getting there. In fact, the bike handled and felt a lot better. I’m not sure if that’s because the new tire, or them being ran tubeless, or just because I haven’t ridden in a while. Whatever the cause, the bike felt a lot better and rode a lot smoother.

The reflective white stripe on the sidewall of the Marathon not only makes it look great, but also helps in visibility.

On my way back home, I decided to run the ghetto tubeless and the Marathon through its paces. Give it a torture test of sorts. Both on my way there and back I did some hard cornering and didn’t have a single problem.

I decided to jump off a couple curbs. I weigh about 330 pounds and most of that weight is on the rear wheel, so I was worried. But in both instances it held up just fine, no burps or issues. One jump was even so harsh that my taillight came apart from its strap.

I tried jumping off a step and it handled it just fine. Lastly, I locked up my rear brake a couple times. Got some skid marks, but no burps, pops or anything.

Looks like the Marathon and ghetto tubeless setup are working perfectly fine. Now I’m hoping to test it on the streets.

If all goes well, I plan on purchasing another Marathon to install on the front. I’ll do a Ghetto tubeless there, too.

EDIT (11/24/2019): I did some more torture testing today. Unfortunately, this time I blew it.

Okay, no I didn’t blow it. (That was my failed attempt to be punny.) But I wanted to see how the tire would react to lower pressures. Only one problem: I accidentally let too much air out – the tire was practically flat. Since my portable hand pump couldn’t inflate the tire, I had to do the “Walk of Shame” back home. There was nothing wrong with the installation, but rather the operator.

The 20″ BMX tube (inner) compared to the 26×1.95 tubes I ordinarily run.

Even back home with my floor pump I couldn’t get the tire to re-seat. So I repeated the process with another tube, and it’s holding air fine. This time I used another Goodyear tube, which doesn’t seem to require as much holding the tire in the perfect spot with your fingers crossed to get it to seal.

I managed to get some photos of the process:

The inflated 20” BMX tube stretched around the 26” rim.
The tube after being carefully cut down the middle, with its sides flapped over the lips of the rim.
A look at the tube. While most people use some soapy water to wipe off the talcum powder on the inside of the tube, I skipped that step. Maybe when I add sealant I’ll wipe the powder off.
Mount the tire and inflate. It seems like the Goodyear tubes are a lot better at sealing the tire/rim, so I didn’t have to do a lot to get it to take pressure.
Inflate to the normal pressure. I eventually inflated the tire to 60 PSI, but it seems like 50 PSI ran fine when I tested it. 55 PSI even feels really hard, so I’m probably going to drop it back down to 50 pSI when I go for a ride.

But the chain is back to being twisted/crossed up again. I’m not sure why it keeps twisting up every time I take off the rear wheel, regardless of how careful and delicate I am with it.

Ghetto tubeless FTW! Just got to get the chain problem fixed… again.

EDIT (11/30/2019): A couple days later and the ghetto tubeless setup is still rock hard. Checked the pressure and it appears to only have dropped a couple pounds, which is probably the result of removing/installing the pump head.

I topped the tire off around at 60 PSI last night. I’m interested to see how well this dry tubeless setup holds air over time. The bike is being stored indoors, so it’s not being exposed to the elements. While I normally run 65 PSI in the rear, I may actually have to let some air out when I ride as even at 55 PSI this tire feels like its made of wood. The 50 PSI I ran when I actually did the test ride actually felt pretty good, so I’m going to start there and (more carefully) experiment with pressures to find that perfect pressure.

I do plan on purchasing a new front tire sometime before spring, but I still want to do some testing before springing for the new tire and some tubeless sealant. As I’ve mentioned, I plan on converting this bike to being fully tubeless if the tests go well. I plan on adding sealant, but I’m interested to see how well a dry setup (without sealant) works.

Unfortunately, I haven’t got the chain back on. And my next couple weeks are going to be fairly busy, so it may be a couple more weeks before I can get the Sedona back up and running. Stay tuned for the next update.

EDIT (12/4/2019): I had the chain fixed again today. So the bike is back up and running once more.

The rear derailleur appeared to be the culprit this time, causing issues with the chain.

The ghetto tubeless Schwalbe dropped about 15 PSI since I last checked it/topped it off last Friday, November 29. Which equals to an average pressure drop of 3 PSI per day. Not bad for a dry ghetto tubeless setup – there’s no sealant in this tire (yet.)

The Schwalbe’s pressure on December 4… somewhere in the realm of 45-50 PSI; a drop of ~3 PSI per day. Not bad for a dry ghetto tubeless!

The bike has been stored inside, so it’s been kept comfortable around 70 degrees. It’s supposed to be really cold next week. Part of me wants to park the bike out on the bike rack and see how much it drops over the course of the week after sitting out in the bitter cold. I just have to be careful – I’ve found that you have to start all over on a dry setup if the tire looses its seal after you removed the excess tube.

Obviously, adding sealant will improve the pressure retention. But 3 PSI is much better than I was expected… I was anticipating something in the ballpark of 7-10 PSI per day, if not more.

If you’re interested in doing a ghetto tubeless setup yourself, your mileage may vary. Different tire casings, rims and even the tube have an effect on the pressure retention.

With this all said, I’ve watched some more videos of people doing their own ghetto tubeless setups. The “split-tube” method (what I’ve done) seems to be pretty popular but obviously has its caveats (likes to burp, etc.) There’s other methods – I saw one involving gorilla tape (in lieu of the expensive Stan’s No Tubes tape) and another involving a foam insert. I think I’ll just stick with the split-tube method – it’s cheap, fast and easy. And it seems to be holding up just fine. I’m not a harsh rider in any way; if it holds up to the abuse a BMX’er or street trial throws at it, I’m pretty sure it’ll work wonders for me.

EDIT (12/7/2019): Finally, a day with good weather so I can get out and give the ghetto tubeless, the Marathon and the chain fix a good test.

Yesterday, I rode the Sedona to my class and back. Ever since around 9:30 a.m. yesterday, the Sedona has spent its live outside – I didn’t feel like lugging it back up to my room last night as I had to go on a trip and didn’t get back until around 10 p.m. Besides, a perfect opportunity to see how the ghetto tubeless handles in colder temperatures.

According to Weather Underground, the temperatures dropped and stayed around the mid-20s last night. The good news was the ghetto tubeless handled fine – just dropping the expected couple of pounds. (They’re still dry – 100% no sealant.)

Today, I decided to hop on and do some riding. After all, it’s in the upper-40s today and is one of the last nice, “warm” days we’ll have for quite some time.

This was also a great day to test Strava*. In the spring, I purchased a cycling computer that tells you your speed, ride duration, etc. But it seemed to be super clunky and its reliability was questionable at best. It was held on the bike using zip-ties and the sensor wire mostly just flaps in the breeze while I cross my fingers that it doesn’t get tangled up in something. The magnet for the hall effect sensor was screwed to a spoke on the front wheel, but the sensor itself would always fall down the fork – causing it to not work. The whole thing seemed to be cheaply made (after all, it was sold at Walmart for $13.)

The friend who fixed the chain was telling me about Strava, a free app you can download on your iPhone. So instead of messing with the Bell Dashboard 150 and crossing my fingers that it worked and the cable didn’t get caught in something, I’ve been using my iPhone 6S and the Strava app. It tracks your ride and speed using a GPS signal. It’s actually pretty sophisticated and gives a lot of good insights. It stores your max speed, average speed, elevation change and trip duration. Better yet, it stores all of that for each ride so you can retrieve it later – complete with a trip map. I plan on eventually getting an Apple Watch so that I can track my heart rate during a ride.

A screenshot of Strava

Back to my ride, the ghetto tubeless held up well – better than I did. I’m really out of shape, so this ride really battered me (despite only being 2 miles long.) My goal is to get back into shape so I don’t need to take a break every other block and I can actually get through a ride without feeling like I’m going to die.

When I got back, I checked the pressure in the ghetto tubeless. (I did not check before leaving.) It turns out it dropped to 40 PSI. As I mentioned earlier in this edit, it seems that the (dry) ghetto tubeless didn’t mind the cold at all.

Pressure dropped to ~40 PSI. Sorry for the poor photo – had to use my frame pump to check the pressure, and had to hold the phone at a weird angle as the sun was reflecting right off the gauge.

Lastly, I went ahead and purchased the replacement front tire (same tire – 26×2.0″ Schwalbe Marathon) and some tubeless sealant (Stan’s No Tubes) to finally replace the front to make a matching pair of ghetto tubeless Schwalbe Marathons. This time, I’ll be adding sealant – at least to the front tire, initially. When I install the new front tire I’ll split it into a separate post and try to get some photos of the process.

EDIT (12/9/2019): The Sedona spent a couple more days and nights outside. The Sedona has been out in the cold Missouri weather between around 9:30 a.m. Friday until 5 p.m. tonight.

I took another pressure reading on the tire. This time it appeared to have stayed steady around 40 PSI, which was around the same pressure I took just two days ago using my frame pump. I topped off the tire at 45 PSI.

It seems like 45 PSI is probably the best pressure – as it gives me the best of both worlds. It’s not so soft where I have to worry about burping the tire or flatting, but it’s not so hard that I can feel every bump in the road. I’m currently testing 45 PSI and 40 PSI in the front (which still has a tube.) Doesn’t seem like a bad combination.

*This post/blog is in no way, shape or form endorsed by Strava.