Vintage Bike Hacks: A Recipe For 1980s and 90s Mountain Bike Tubeless Conversion
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Vintage Bike Hacks: A Recipe For 1980s and 90s Mountain Bike Tubeless Conversion

When I listed the Ultradynamico Mars tires in my top ten product list last week, I received a handful of messages on IG, as well as emails requesting the “recipe” for getting them set up tubeless on 30+ year old rims. While I didn’t document the process in photos, I can give you a rundown below in an easy-to-recreate recipe so read on for more.

Why Tubeless?

Not everyone needs tubeless setups on their bikes. For me, tubeless isn’t about weight savings or decreasing rolling resistance. If you live in an area with goat head thorns it’s a necessity though. The tubeless sealant seals the holes made by goat head thorns and lets you ride uninterrupted.

What You’ll Need – Supplies:

-Gorilla Tape
-WTB TCS Tubeless Tape (width depending on your rims)
-Stans Schrader Valves
-Stans Valve core remover
-Rubbing alcohol
-Screwdriver and propane torch
-Needle Nose Pliers
-Tubeless Sealant *I used Orange Seal*
-Soapy Water or Simple Green Degreasing Foam
-A high-flow compressor.

What You’ll Need – Hardware:

-Tubeless 26″ tires.
-Wide rims. Narrow rims won’t work. I used Araya 1.75″ rims.

Procedure:

The general intent of this procedure is to build up the rim bed with Gorilla Tape and WTB TCS tubeless tape in order for the tubeless tires to “pop” onto the rim’s bead hook. Vintage rims have a very deep cross-section with a deep bed. You need to build that bed up to align with the rim sidewall.

I began this conversion by removing the rim tape and cleaning up the rim bed with rubbing alcohol. This removes any adhesive, grease, or other contaminants that could hinder the tubeless setup. Once it was clean, I pulled a 1″ strip of Gorilla Tape off and wrapped about 6 layers onto the rim. This builds the bed up and preps it for the TCS tape. Make sure you pull it taut!

Then, I used 1″ wide TCS tape for the Araya rims. From here, you can wrap two layers of TCS tape to help the tires “pop” into their proper bead seat. Make sure to pull the tape as hard as you can, to create a seal. Once that is done, heat up the screwdriver with a propane torch until it’s red hot and plunge the screwdriver into the layers of tape through the valve hole.

Immediately install the Schrader core so when the tape adhesive cools, it’ll bond with the core. Tighten down the core and its locking ring with the needle-nose pliers.

From here, it’s part luck and part magic. Spray the entire rim bed and inside of the tire down with soapy water or degreasing foam (more on this in a bit). Remove the valve core with a core remover and pop the tire on the rim. Hit it with a high-flow compressor head and the tires should pop into place. Quickly cover the Schrader valve with your finger and examine the tires. You want the bead to be properly seated so make sure the tire is completely on the rim bed. If it’s not, redo this procedure.

Remove your finger from the valve core and pump the tire with the normal amount of sealant for your riding conditions. It’s very dry here in Santa Fe, so I used a whole 8oz bottle per wheel.

Re-insert the core and hit it with a compressor. Be mindful not to blast 50psi in this setup. Try 20-30psi. If you used the degreasing foam to help lubricate the tires and rim bed, wipe down the excess foam with a rag and clean the braking surface. If you use soapy water, spray some degreaser on a rag and wipe down the braking surface of the rim and the tire’s sidewall. The last thing you want is tubeless sealant on the braking surface.

Examine for any seeping at the valve core and tighten if needed.

Once the wheels are clean, re-install them onto the bike and spin the wheels. You’ll want to ride them now if only around the block, to help the sealant get into the nooks and crannies.

If done properly, your tires will hold pressure and you can ride your vintage bike with a modern tech upgrade.

The Mountain Goat is almost done. I’m just waiting on a cable hanger for the front brake… stay tuned!