Ask me anything: road tubeless sealant

Since the video I shot today (lacing a wheel) came out not quite ready for prime time, we'll do a quick ask me anything. Today's question:

"I'd really love to hear about your experiences and thoughts about different tubeless sealants for road bike tires. I've only tried a couple, and what I've noticed is the one that didn't dry out quickly also didn't seal very well. And the one that sealed really well dried out fast and get sticky and hard to remove. I'm wondering where the happy medium is. Especially since it can be really hard to remove road bike tubeless tires to get the goo off before adding more sealant."

As we've said before, we're not the world's foremost advocates of road tubeless. It's okay, and it's gotten better than it was, but it's still not a layup decision. I have actually just made the decision to re-try it, after an atypically tortured decision paralysis about my next tires (going with Schwalbe One 28s - the tan wall sealed the deal). But typically my take has been if the tire has knobs, I go tubeless. If the tire uses more than about 55 psi or somewhere in there, I go tubes. Why?

When I replace a mountain bike tire, I typically find a whole whole bunch of "stanimals" in there, the little coagulated booger asteroids that let you know that you had a flat that you never knew about. Same more or less with cross/gravel tires, but less so. With road tires, I've known when I've gotten almost all of the flats I've had. Because road tires are so low volume, any air loss gets noticed. Because what air volume in there is relatively high pressure, when you get a puncture that air wants to get OUT. Even effective sealants have a hard time up against that. But, in the immortal words of W, fool me once and shame on you, fool me twice and... you can't get fooled again. So I'm going to try again. 

We've used all of the shown sealants (and a few more) and they all work to some degree and they all fail to some degree. We have not ever gone to "November length" testing on this. I'm going to start with Orange Seal on the new tires. The knock against Orange Seal is that it goes stale quickly (6 months +/-) in tires. Well I can live with that, if the payback is effectiveness. I use the Continental goop in mountain/gravel tires lately, and quite like it. Stan's is the old standby.

The one I can tell you that has universally disappointed everyone I've heard from is Finish Line. Haven't used it personally, and not likely to based on reputation. 

One thing I will recommend is reading the Slowtwitch articles on tubeless sealants. They do a nice job looking at them. Here is their latest update, but within that they link to earlier stabs at it, and they are worth a read.

Any time you say the word "tubeless" is like kicking a hornet's nest, so I will hit "post" with some trepidation here...


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  • binx on

    Had good luck with regular Orange Seal, and being able to get it through the valve by just taking out the core is a plus. Most effective solution for me so far has probably been a 1 to 3 ratio or so of Stan’s endurance to regular Orange Seal, but I don’t always do it because I don’t enjoy popping the tubeless bead on and off once I’ve got a nice airtight seal.

    Starting to rely more on a pocket pump and dynaplugs for the rare flat rather than carrying a tube.

  • Dave on

    Everyone – Thanks for the comments and input. I have to say, even though we court questioning and skepticism, the civility and spirit of all the interactions we’ve had of late are really terrific.

    Chris – I wrote this recently regarding tubeless – “It has to be something that almost anyone who owns cycling shorts is completely comfortable doing for him- or herself.” Unsurprisingly, you and I are in complete lockstep on that.

  • Scott Booth on

    Thanks for the detailed info on your experience with tubeless. Agree with all points… one experience – did NOT like Slime sealant. Keep em’ coming!!

  • Chris Petron on

    Dave, I switched one of my road bikes to tubeless this past fall. I’m a big fan of Orange Seal (I have it in several dozen customer bikes) both for its ability to seal and for its easy cleanup and handling. I am going to try Stan’s Race next. I don’t recommend Stan’s Race simply because I don’t have any personal experience with it. It’s a little more complicated to use but the pros may outweigh the cons.

    I don’t push road tubeless in my shop because most people struggle with changing tires so the thought of them being out in the wild with the high possibility of needing to phone home for a pick up service isn’t something that sits well with me. So, I only recommend it to my clients who I think can mount/dismount tubeless tires without assistance.

    I’m liking it so far but haven’t had a flat. I do still think a nice clincher with latex is more comfortable though.

    My tubeless set up is a GP5000 700×25. My clincher set up is GP5000 700×25 with latex tube. Both are on the same brand rims.

  • Patrick on

    I don’t get enough flats on my road bike to make tubeless worth the trouble. Besides, I can change a tube fast and easily and I’m not even good at it. On my mtb and gravel bikes of course I’m tubeless. I spent a few years using Stan’s and it was very good but then I got a small hole that wouldn’t seal so I tried Orange Seal and found that it’s even better.



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