Fitting a set of tubeless inserts to a road, cyclocross or gravel bike is a great way to ensure that your tyre isn’t going to roll off the rim at low pressures, it adds some protection when riding over rocks and roots, and it means that you can continue riding should your sealant be unable to plug a hole. But branded inserts are very expensive, so we made our own.
What you need
PU Backer Rod - we’re still not 100% sure what this is actually for in the real world
- Tubeless valves - Come with most wheels these days
- Tubeless sealant - We used Stans
- Tyre levers
- A pump
- A can-do attitude - not essential
The PU backer rod comes in 5mm diameter increments and you want the size below the tyre you’re installing. So for our 33mm cyclocross tyres, we got the 30mm size. You can get larger sizes for gravel tyres here, but after 30mm it comes in 10mm increments.
It is a closed-cell design and waterproof, so it shouldn't soak up all of your sealant.
The process is very simple so I won’t bore you with too much detail. First of all you don’t start doing this in the living room. In the bath, outside or anywhere that has a wipeable surface is how you avoid getting into trouble with husband/wife/parents/housemate/partner. You have been warned.
You pop one side of the tyre off and start just to one side of the valve. Tuck the liner all the way around, making sure to roll it onto the rim before cutting so that you finish just short of the valve. That’ll allow air to pass freely.
> Tubeless inserts - the next big advance in road tubeless tech?
Then it’s simply a case of pushing the tyre bead on. This will be tight, so make sure you push it down into the rim well and finish at the valve.
Drop some sealant in and you’re good to go.
It is worth pointing out that buying a set of tubeless inserts will usually mean that you also get some sealant and tubeless valves. Our budget version doesn’t come with those things, but if you have sealant and valves lying around already, then you shouldn’t need more.
10m of the backer rod cost us £7.29, so we’ve got enough to do roughly 5 wheelsets and that, compared to a set of Vittoria Tubeless Air Liners at about £70 for one wheelset, is a rather good bargain.
Even if they need changing more frequently, you’re still going to be making a saving.
To test these out we jumped on the cyclocross bike and rolled down to the local park. Conditions were dry, so there was plenty of grip, but we slowly lowered the tyre pressures to those that you’d only ride in the muddiest race. Cornering at a decent speed didn’t cause any burping of air and neither did some poorly executed hopping of a makeshift barrier.
> Review: Vittoria Air Liner Tubeless Inserts
So if you’re looking to reap the benefits of tubeless inserts but the cost has always put you off, give ours a go and let us know how you get on.
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