Typically when I return from a ride, I throw the bike in the corner and forget about it until later; sometimes ‘later’ is the next time I ride it. In this case I rode the bike with the tubeless tires and when I got home, I felt the tires: the rear was soft. In no mood to deal with it then, I put it off until the evening. I hate having to deal with bike repair issues when I’m tired but in this case I figured it wouldn’t take too long. I cleaned the tire and managed to pull out flints and small sharp objects embedded in the rubber. Then I felt the air rushing out and knew it was a simple, small puncture. But why wasn’t the sealant working?
I removed the valve core, which was semi-clogged with sealant—another issue I should deal with, and stuck a probe into the tire; it came out dry. Well, that answers that: I had allowed all the sealant to dry up and apparently hadn’t topped it off in recent months hence the leak. With Stan’s Sealant I wouldn’t have been surprised since in my experience I have needed to add Stan’s about every three or four months. But I have been using Orange Seal Endurance since giving up on Stan’s and this stuff lasts much longer, something like eight to ten months. Had it been that long since I had added sealant?
So here are a few words of advice if you’re running tubeless tires and sealant. First, mark down when you’ve added sealant or make a note in your calendar to check it at regular intervals. Despite my best intentions I never do this but I am sure that if my phone nagged me to do it, I would at least give it a second thought before ignoring it!
Second, put in more sealant than you think you need—I mean, a LOT more. That extra weight in your tire? Honestly you won’t feel it. And anyway, it’s going to evaporate more quickly than you realize leaving you with less weight and the joy of experiencing flats again. Also, putting more in means you can ignore it for a really long time until it dries up completely!
Third, just because you’re using sealant doesn’t mean you can forget about your tires. The previous rear tire I wore down to the casing. Was it because I’m a cheap ass? Well, yes partly. But it was also because I had gotten lulled into ignoring it as I wasn’t giving me any problems. I just happened to notice one day while out on a ride that I could see large sections of casing! So look at your tires every now and then. I also do this to pull pieces of glass, wire, and flints out, giving me the satisfaction that running tubeless plus sealant was a good decision.
Back to the flat tire: of course after I pulled a piece of glass out of the tire, the air rushed out as there wasn’t any sealant left in the tire. Adding more sealant was easy. I don’t like to pull off the tire bead and pour it in because it’s just asking to be spilled all over when I try to get the tight bead back on the rim. However the advantage of doing that is I can see more accurately how much sealant I’m adding. Instead I prefer to remove the valve core and attach a tube to the stem to pump the sealant in. Less fuss, no mess. The disadvantage is I have no idea how much sealant I’m adding. So I just pump a lot in because having ‘too much’ is kinda impossible. When I did this and then aired up the tire, the puncture started to spit sealant—thank god it was a tiny puncture because otherwise it might not seal and I’d have a bigger problem. All I had to do now was roll the tire so the puncture was at the bottom. In a few minutes it was sealed. I went to bed. Next day I checked the tire: still hard, so success!
In this case I was probably very lucky either to have had a very slow leak or to have punctured close to home because it certainly didn’t feel soft when I was riding. The last time I made this same mistake I flatted about a mile from home, so it was pretty easy to get back to the manse to deal with it. At least if I had been far from home with a flat and had to put a tube in, I wouldn’t have gotten covered in wet sealant unlike the last time.