Fatbike Tubeless

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Update: Check out my updated Tubeless Fatbike Guide for the non-split tube method.  The method shown below is still relevant, and may be more reliable in situations where bead retention is of greatest concern, such as on rough rocky trails.  The non-split tube method described in the guide mentioned above is a little lighter.  For the most reliable tubeless system, consider adhering the split-tube to the tire bead to create an airtight unit, much like a tubular tire. (2/16/2014)

This is not an official guide to fatbike tubeless set-up.  Plenty of resources are available online and depending upon your equipment (tires and rims) and the tools at your disposal (including a compressor), there are multiple approaches.  This video is useful, and there is plenty of info to start with on this thread.  For use with almost any wheel and tire combination, the “ghetto” tubeless system is preferred for its reliability.  In short, a standard tube is cut into a rimstrip with the valve intact.  It is laid over the rim, and the tire is mounted over top.  The tire is inflated with a compressor to ensure that it “catches” the air.  If inflated too slowly, air may seep out from under the bead and the tire will remain limp.  Once the tire has seated onto the rim, the valve core is removed and liquid sealant installed to fill any micro-gaps in the system and to line the inside of the tire.  Some sealant will remain liquid to fill future punctures– this is the greatest value to me in the prickly southwest.  Each wheel lost about a half-pound of weight.

Fatbike tires are variable in dimension– some fit very tight to the rim, and some are loose.  To ensure a tight fit, a layer of foam was installed with duct tape to fill the cavity of the Surly Marge Lite rim.  I found a $10 sleeping pad at a camping and hunting superstore.  Similar product can be sourced from a home improvement center.  With the foam in place the tire was challenging to install onto the rim, but it easily held air and could have been inflated with a standard floor pump.  A compressor was used.

Pink duct tape was all I could find at the local drug store.  Stan’s sealant is preferred.  A 24×2.7-3.0″ tube was cut for the rimstrip, although a similarly wide 20″ tube may fit tighter.  The rim was drilled for Shraeder valve.  Jeff from Two Wheel Drive was invaluable to the success of this project.

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Mounted, uninflated:

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The tire is seated.  The white foam is window cleaner, used to help the bead slide into place under pressure.  Remove the valve core and inject liquid sealant into the tire.  Reinstall the core and inflate to pressure.  I used about 6 oz. of Stan’s sealant per wheel and inflated the tires to 40psi to ensure that they would roll nice and round.

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Carefully trim the excess tube with a blade.

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Heavy, but a bit lighter.  More importantly, I can safely crawl through the desert without fear of punctures.  Each wheel weighs about 7 lbs 12 oz (3.5 kg) with tires, cassette, and rotors.  The front hub is a Shimano dynamo hub with a 203mm rotor.

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Thanks to Trevor at Surly for the lovely tires– folding 120tpi 26×3.8″ Surly Knards.

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Need use of truing stand…

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My Surly Marge Lite rim and ultralight Larry tires have arrived in Bozeman, according to the recipient.  That part was easy.  Tracking down a rear 32h disc hub, of any kind, is a lot more complicated.  Bozeman has a half-dozen bike (and ski) shops, and none of them definitively have what I’m looking for.  I’d expected this hub to be easy to find, even common, as it’s the bread and butter of the mountain bike world.  One shop has two used Deore hubs with “loose axles”, which means I may or may not have a serviceable hub once the bearings are adjusted.  I’ve found a shop with a spoke cutter, so that part is solved.  Finally, I’m hoping to track down a truing stand for the finish work.  I can lace the wheel in the park while sipping a cold beverage, but I’d like to bring this thing into the world in front of a proper truing stand considering what I’ve got planned for it.  And as a small detail, the Surly 35mm axle spacer would be helpful for dialing in the dish of the wheel, but it’s not absolutely necessary.

These things are complicated while traveling, and ironically the weird snow bike with the offset frame and wheels has nothing to do with it.  The most common part, a 32h hub, is the hardest to find.  I’d hoped to spend my money locally and I’ve come across this problem before, but this is what happens sometimes when you rely on the LBS.  I don’t want to hear “we can order it”.  What’s the point of a physical shop that doesn’t stock bicycle parts?  There is a strong argument for the sale of bicycle parts on the internet to able home mechanics.

Note: All the bike shops claim to sell “wheels”, but none stock hubs.

I’ve called a lot of shops today, but from my experience this is what you do sometimes:

Need use of truing stand… – $1 (Bozeman)


Date: 2012-07-27, 6:41PM MDT
Reply to: xnkkt-3167619481@sale.craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]


I’m touring through town and am building a wheel this weekend. I’ve got everything figured out, except the use of a truing stand for the finish work on Sat or Sun. Any help is appreciated. I’m offering a donation of some kind.
The long story:
I’ve ridden from Anchorage, AK on a Surly Pugsley that was my transportation through the winter. Thus far I’ve mostly been riding paved and dirt roads and have used a medium-volume Schwalbe Big Apple tire. I’m passing through Bozeman this weekend and will be putting the big fat tires back on the bike as the rest of the summer will be on dirt roads and trails through WY, CO, UT and AZ. I’m also building a new rear wheel with a Surly Marge Lite rim, which is over a pound lighter than the current Large Marge and should add to the fun. As such, I need use of a truing stand for about an hour on Sat PM or anytime on Sunday. Anyone have a personal stand they’d be willing to share for a donation of beer or cash or fresh food? I’m aware of the Bike Kitchen, but their hours are limited. Thanks.
nicholas
http://www.gypsybytrade.wordpress.com

  • Location: Bozeman
  • it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

I’m in Helena, MT and will check with local bike shops in the morning for a new 32h disc hub.  Between the resources of ten shops in two cities and a persistent cyclist, a wheel will be built.  Full fat, coming soon!

The live CL ad is here, and my listing for a new or lightly used 32h hub is here.

The Taylor and the Top of the World

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Tok to Tetlin, the Taylor Highway and the Top of the World Highway to Chicken and Eagle and Boundary and Dawson City.  Nonsense are the names of things around here, but there are only two roads into Alaska and this is the one to take.

The Taylor Highway was built to access the rural mining communities at Chicken and Eagle, and to connect them to Tok and the rest of the world.  The Top of the World Highway, once called Ridge Road, connects these and other mines to Dawson City in the Yukon Territory across the border.  Both roads are spectacular.

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The road from the Tetlin Junction on the Alaska Highway to Chicken is roughly paved, and features some good climbing some long fast descents– it’s a great road ride.  Chicken to Dawson is about a hundred miles along ridgetops and as you approach the border surface water becomes scarce, save for some melting snow.  The road rolls relentlessly atop mountains and is mostly dirt, despite some failing efforts at sealing the surface.  Grunt climb, fast descent to the next climb, BMW motorcycles everywhere and fuel trucks at 90 miles an hour.  A motorcycle rally in Dawson flooded the roads with two-wheelers and friendly motorcycle-style waves: two fingers casually down to the left to an oncoming rider, or skyward with the left hand like a turn signal when passing (or being passed).  Lael loves giving the “motorcycle wave”.

Leaving the bustling Alaska Highway behind for the road to Chicken, the Taylor Highway begin by climbing from the Tenana River valley.  No services for 67 miles.  Perfect.

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Chicken is quite an attraction for summer motorists, although the real story in Chicken is gold.  Mining activity is found up and down every creek, and generators can be heard humming in the bushes to operate equipment.  A real life miner makes his own jewelry for sale as a way to maximize profits.  Even on a bad day of mining, he’ll end with about $500 in flakes.  Maybe gold mining in Chicken is in my future?

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At Chicken the surface turns to dirt.  Hopscotching drainages, up and down, the road finally turns up toward the US-Canada border to Dawson City.  Superlative, as they say– the views, the road, and the riding.

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Close your eyes and hold your breath when these things are comin’ down the mountain.  These fuel trucks travel even faster than the motorcyclists as they drive this road every day.

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I had come from Chicken and at the Jack Wade Junction, a left turn leads to the end of the Taylor Highway in Eagle.  I stay the course to the Top of the World:

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Just a small dot on the map, there’s not much more to Boundary than an airstrip and this cabin.  Extensive mining can be seen in the valley below.

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Sunburnt shoulders are evidence that summer has finally arrived.  In my favorite touring shirt, a cutoff cotton Velo Orange t-shirt depicting a 50.4 bcd crank, I grunt and groan up to the Canadian border into headwinds and marble sized raindrops.  Despite their size, thunderstorms developed all around but I managed to stay dry once again.  The Canadian customs agents ask the usual questions.  Dressed in my Sunday best, or my “dirtbag jersey” as I call it,  I give the usual answers:

Anchorage, Alaska.

New York, Washington, Florida, Maryland, Alaska.

To Montana.

Yes, really.

No, I don’t have family or a job in Montana.

Actually, I’m going to Arizona.

Yes.  Really.

It’s a snow bike.

Yes, really.  All winter.

Oh yes, the Germans have lots of stuff.  I swear it’s all here.

This is the tent.

Thirty-nine dollars American, but a couple thousand in the bank.  Well, more than a couple.

Bank statements?  No.  Sorry.

Last time…I entered at the Thousand Islands Bridge and exited Ontario at Sioux St. Marie.  Then again at Wild Horse and Rooseville.

Hmmm, I just like the Canadian countryside.

Ok, bring a bank statement or ATM receipt next time?  Thank you, sir.

Next time I’ll be sure to bring bank statements and Ortlieb panniers full of stuff to facilitate passage.  Maybe some sleeves will help too.

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Looking back.  They say the Alaska Range is visible on a clear day.  The road reaches a maximum elevation of 4127 ft, which is higher than Maclaren Pass on the Denali Highway.  In fact, this is the second highest road in Alaska.

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And on the night before the solstice, I camped on Top of the World.  This is all the darkness you get these days, which is a dream on a bike trip.

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I’m becoming quite attached to some of the new Revelate gear.  The Gas Tank is quite handy on the bike and the “Pocket”, which I use in conjunction with a waterproof compression sack, is easily detached.  For a quick trip away from the bike the shoulder strap helps keep all my essentials close at hand– Steinbeck’s Log from the Sea of Cortez, a fully-charged can of bear spray and my camera.

The Surly Pugsley hybrid rolls well on dirt roads at about 20psi, although the Big Apples are a bit unsure on pea gravel.  However, the smooth tire rolls like a dream on pavement.  I’m hoping to procure a Marge Lite rim to build a lighter rear wheel.  Absurd wheel weights are killing me and fat-lite is the way to go.  There’s no reason to be riding a forty pound bike with thirty pounds of gear.  I’m not sure of the actual figures, but I can assure you the bike weighs more than my kit.  I’ve sent home three pounds of cold-weather clothing and rain gear from Dawson and I’m tuning the bike for a full summer of lightweight travel.   As much as I’m enjoying Alaska, I’m looking ahead to some of the more challenging riding ahead– I’ve still got the Colorado Trail on my mind and am planning to fit 45North Husker Du tires in Montana.  Is a 65mm singlewall rim such as the Marge Lite suitable for touring on rough surfaces?  Nobody seems to know, but given the quality construction and the doublewall sections in the corners, I think it’s up to the task.  I’ve become obsessed with tire volumes and the weights of things, specifically fatbike wheels.  A 690 gram Surly Marge Lite sounds a treat to my knees.  I like climbing, but I’d like it much more with the Marge Lite.

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The bike, the gear, the wheels, the packing, and the food–it’s all getting sorted out after a few weeks on the road.  The legs are coming along too, although not where they were last November.  My kitchen on the road and the Alaskan pantry: raisins, peanuts, oat meal, coffee, lentils, pasta, peanut butter, honey, salt, pepper, garlic and curry powder.  Add fruits and vegetables when available, and cheeseburgers and ice cream in town.  The plastic water bottle is filled with alcohol to fuel the “Penny Stove”.  Fabricated out of beer cans, stainless steel bicycle spokes and aluminum ducting, I’ve been using this design for almost three years.  I’ve built a handful for others, but have only required two for my travels.  The first one was made from the Heineken keg-shaped cans, which are no longer available.  The current stove was made in Steamboat Springs, CO last fall on the Divide.  Trailside, it was made with a small Swiss-army knife.  The blue enameled steel camping mug has been with me since the summer of 2009, and is a personal luxury.  I’ve also begun to fill the 64 oz. Klean Kanteen when surface water is less plentiful or spoiled by mining activities.  Cradled in the Salsa Anything Cage it is held securely even on the most rattling washboarded descents.  Just be sure to tighten those straps!

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A final push to Dawson on the third day is rewarded with a long descent to the Yukon River and cold beer in town.  The river is crossed by the free George Black ferry and Yukon Gold brew from Whitehorse flows like water in this real-life frontier town.  This is also the start of the Dempster Highway up to Inuvik.  Some other time.

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Spring comes late: Riding Petersville Rd.

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The Petersville Road accesses the southern foothills of the Alaska Range, to the west of Talkeetna and Trapper Creek.  Once a wagon road for miners from the Talkeetna area to reach gold claims, including the Cache Creek Gold Mine, the road is now passable up to twenty miles by standard motor vehicle in season.  In winter, the area is criss-crossed with snow machine routes.  In spring, which comes late, it’s a bit messy.

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At the intersection with the Parks Highway at the Trapper Creek Inn and and gas station at milepost 115, ten miles of pavement are found toward the west with minimal elevation gain– simply follow the sign towards Moose Creek and Peter’s Creek.  Thereafter the road turns to dirt and the scenery flourishes.  On a clear day, the views of Denali tempt further travel as it peers higher and higher above spruce at each successive body of water.  Crossing Kroto Creek and several other drainages presents a few short, challenging climbs, and a mild net elevation gain.  An upward turn in the road and several structures mark the settlement of Peter’s Creek at mile 19, and the road becomes less suitable for standard automobile traffic, although it is easily passable on a hybrid or mountain bike.  In the spring, or after recent rain events, the road may be muddy and rutted.  What I found in late May, after a record setting snowfall, were melting snowdrifts and mud.  And, lots of locals enjoying the holiday weekend on roaring ATVs.  A nice weekend with the family includes driving a truck until it can pass no further, then the ATV until blockaded by snow and mud.  Crack a beer, shoot a gun, then come roaring back for dinner.  Welcome to Alaska.

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Despite the busy holiday weekend, it’s still wild out there and the road continues at least 12 miles beyond the melting snow piles that stopped me.  It passes through the Peter’s Hills, and provides access to several gold mines, and it is said that some routes eventually end at the National Park boundary.  There is also rumored to be a scenic canyon as you pass through the Peter’s Hills, about thirty miles in.  I made it about 27 miles until I was pushing through snow more than riding.  I retreated a few miles for the night and made camp high above Kroto Creek, which was flush with spring melt.

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The last set of ATV tracks.  I later learned that they had traveled only a few hundred feet further before encountering an impassable snowfield.  Aside from wet feet and a heavy bike, passage by foot was tolerable.

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This was the end of the road for me, about two miles short of the abandoned settlement at Petersville, and only a few miles further into the Peter’s HIlls, pictured in the distance.  It would have been a convenient time for fat tires on the Pugsley.

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Camping:  Private lands surround the paved road until mile 10, at which point the dirt road is dotted with turnouts suitable for camping.  Some private lands are signed along the roadside, although they become less numerous as you go.  There are public restrooms at Kroto Creek and a large parking area, full of RV’s on holiday.  A map will not be necessary if you stick to the main road, although there are some interesting side trails which were flooded with mud this time of year.  There were very few junctions, although the road may become less defined as it diverges toward gold mines and hunting camps further in.   I wasn’t even a bit concerned about how to find my way back in the first 27 miles.  There is plenty of surface water along the route.  Certainly, bear deterrent and proper food storage are advisable.

Retreating the next day, I found sunny skies and quick passage as I lost elevation back toward the Parks Highway.  I became successively happier when I returned to dry dirt road, then graded roads, then finally pavement and 20 mph riding back to Trapper Creek for a coffee and a mid-afternoon breakfast sandwich.  The Trapper Creek Inn has free wifi and great sandwiches.

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Schwalbe Big Apple 26 x 2.35 tires on Surly Marge Lite 65mm wide rims.  The low-profile tread rolls well on pavement, and the tire volume and wide footprint do well to smooth bumpy dirt roads and float over mud and loose sediment.  I was especially impressed at how I was able to float over wet spongy sections of unconsolidated glacial till– silty, sandy, gravelly stuff with a mix of clay that swells with water.  Traction on heavy, melting snow was terrible, but that didn’t stop me from trying to ride through every section of snow in my path.  I did little to adjust my tire pressure, which may have helped, as traction and ride quality were generally quite good.

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Plenty of existing campsites along the road.

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And views of Denali, especially between Trapper Creek and Peter’s Creek in the first 20 miles.  The views would have been incredible from atop the Peter’s Hills, beyond mile 30.

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Detail of the area, posted inside the Trapper Creek Inn.  It’s a good reference to look at before you go.  They also sell maps of local snow machine routes, and the DeLorme Alaska State Gazetteer.  I was about two miles short of the Petersville, indicated by the number 9 on the top left of the map.  In dry summer conditions, medium volume tires would be adequate for most of the Petersville Rd.

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An idyllic homestead only a few miles from Trapper Creek.  Views of Denali, The Great One, are inspiring and precious.  Many park visitors never see the peak due to the unique weather patterns in the Alaska Range.  This home has no shortage of amazing scenery.  A sign indicated it was for sale, if you’re interested.

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