Technical FAQ: (Not) Running tubeless clinchers, Belgian tape and Morton’s Neuroma

Zinn on mounting ’cross tires with Stu Thorne's Belgian tape, limiting Morton's Neuroma pain, and dangers of running clinchers tubeless

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Editor’s Note: Lennard Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.

Dear Lennard,
If I remember correctly you stated in a long ago article that you have used Mavic Ksyrium SL wheels with a tubeless road set up. If I do this do I still need to use the Stan’s base tape? Also, do you stay strictly with a “tubeless” tire? Or will a really good quality (non tubeless) clincher work? I weigh about 190 pounds; are heavier riders more prone to problems with tubeless road set ups?
— Kevin

Dear Kevin,
Your second question is very scary, so I’m answering your note right away.

On Mavic Ksyriums, there is no need for Stan’s base tape, because there are no holes in the rim bed for spoke access. They seal up just fine. I’ve ridden for years with Hutchinson road tubeless tires and sealant on Mavic Ksyriums and never had a single flat, I believe. I have only had two flats with tubeless road tires in many years and tens of thousands of miles of riding them, so forgive me if I cannot remember for sure which wheels the second one happened on — I know that the first one was not on a Ksyrium.

The downside of a Mavic Ksyrium relative to a tubeless-specific rim is that there is no ridge (or hump) on the inboard edge of the bead shelf. This ridge not only adds an additional structure for the tire bead to seal on, but it also effectively locks the square bead onto the rim, so that if you get a blowout, the rim is more likely to stay on the rim. Since I never get flats with tubeless road tires, it has not come into play for me.

As for your second question, read my lips: DO NOT EVER, EVER, EVER MOUNT A ROAD CLINCHER TIRE WITHOUT AN INNER TUBE UNLESS IT IS SPECIFICALLY LABELED AS A TUBELESS TIRE! While you can get away with doing this with mountain bike tires, the pressure is too high with road tires, and the tire will blow off of the rim. (There is a reason that tubeless road tires have carbon-fiber beads with sharp, square edges.) Worse yet, since the tire comes completely off of the rim on both sides and is lubricated with the sealant that was inside of it, the rims will be sliding around on the disengaged tire carcass, so braking will have little to no effect — the rim will just lock up and slide inside of the tire carcass. And if you are traveling at any kind of speed, your front rim will slide out from the tire casing and hit the road, and the likelihood of you not hitting your face on the road is very low.

Believe me, I tried this and am lucky enough to be able to tell the story, but it scared the crap out of me when the front tire blew off of the rim and started sliding around uncontrollably on the slippery tire casing.

Finally, yes, bigger riders are more prone to problems with road tubeless. That’s because up until recently, the only tires available were Hutchinsons (Specialized tubeless road tires, for example, were made by Hutchinson), and the biggest Hutchinson road tubeless tire you could get was a 23mm. I know that the Intensive is labeled as 25mm, but all of them that I’ve ever measured were 23mm. That’s not a very big tire for a 200-pound-plus rider. The tread also wears rapidly under big riders. And finally, it’s hard to find tubeless-specific wheelsets that hold up for long under riders over 250 pounds.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
Having recently purchased a set of HED Belgium C2 rimmed wheels, I was curious about what procedure to follow when gluing them up for ’cross season. I know that Belgian tape is often used when gluing up tubulars to ensure better contact in the center of the rim’s tire bed on normal 19mm rims. With the greater radius, and better gluing surface of the 23mm tire beds on new tubular wheelsets, is it still necessary to add the tape, or do you think the tire would benefit from the tape either way? I have been charged with gluing up several sets for my teammates… and I want to ensure their safety as well as my own.

Last year I rode a set of Zipp 404 wheels, which were glued sans tape, and they seemed to hold just fine. Maybe I’m just a worrier, but I wanted to cover all my bases before I forge on ahead.
— Patrick

Dear Patrick,
What I can say is that Stu Thorne, the guy I trust the most about this, uses Belgian tape along with Vittoria Mastik 1 rim cement when gluing cyclocross tires onto Zipp rims. Thorne is the owner of and mechanic to the pro team, which is sponsored by Zipp.

I know that the wider rim holds the tire better and reduces chances of rolling it off of the rim. The tape adds further security, I believe, but only if you use Thorne’s “Belgian” tape. I’ve used other gluing tapes along with glue and that was a far less strong adhesive junction than with glue alone.
― Lennard

Dear Lennard,
The recent responses from both Zipp and Enve regarding rim width and tire profile changing can be achieved without changing rims but with changing tires. Both Vittoria and Maxxis make 700c radial clinchers that when mounted on standard width rims give a profile very much like a standard 23mm tire on a wide rim. Wouldn’t a radial tire be a better solution to achieving the same result?

Response from Vittoria product manager Gianluca Cattaneo:

My recommendation for these cases is to use at least a 24mm tire width like our new Diamante Radiale. This generous width section together with the radial casing is the perfect choice for wide rims. It will guarantee at the same time good aero performance, less rolling resistance and better comfort. — Gianluca

Dear Lennard,
You just mentioned in a recent “Technical FAQ” about cleat placement that rearward placement was one of many things you do to keep your Morton’s Neuroma in check.

As I myself suffer from the same ailment, I am very curious to learn what else you do to prevent the MN pain?
— Jean-Charles

Dear Jean-Charles,
I use shoes that are wider in the forefoot (so they don’t pinch my metatarsal heads together), custom orthotics with a metatarsal arch support pad to lift and spread my metatarsals, especially while riding or cross-country skiing with classic technique, and spacers between the toes at the sore metatarsals (also to spread my metatarsal heads apart).

The funny thing is that the things that makes the most difference and provides immediate relief are the spacers, and I just cut them out of the foam toe spacers my wife and daughters come home with after having gotten a pedicure. I just cut two single-toe units out of a spacer for one foot and I stack both of them up on my third (middle) toe, as it is the one that has zinging pain on either side of its metatarsal. By the way, the Band-Aid around my big toe in the photo has nothing to do with it; it covers a cut created by stumbling and kicking a drawer last night.

I wear these foam toe spacers all of the time except when I’m sleeping. They make the difference between constantly having pain and almost never having pain. I’ve been to a lot of foot experts and nobody ever recommended this to me. I just started messing around with some of the stacks of these pedicure spacers we have around here and found relief.

I also spend some time every morning stretching and exercising my toes. And a chiropractor wrote to me and recommended shoving my third metatarsal up near its base at the heel. I’ve been trying that and either am not doing it correctly or have yet to feel an improvement from it.
― Lennard

Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder, a former U.S. National Team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance, including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance,” available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

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