New wheel, new tires

bicycle on balcony overlooking city

Following two spectacular flats in as many weekends, I knew it was time for the René Herse tires to go — or at least to spend some time on the floor of the Workshop in the Sky while I thought about alternatives. Despite a lot of effort, I’d never really solved the issue of the weeping sidewalls. And then, a couple of weekends ago on a ride with Fearless Leader Joe, with the front tire very low on pressure, I suffered a “burp” as I rounded a sharp turn and the tire actually came off the rim with a splash of latex sealant. Last weekend, just as we were riding into Okutama Station, a spoke snapped and tore through the rim tape, rapidly deflating the tire.

Rear bicycle wheel with broken, twisted spoke
I don’t think it’s supposed to look like that

Rim tape torn by broken spoke
Rim tape torn by broken spoke

The remedy on the spot was the same in both cases: clean up the remaining sealant; remove the valve from the rim; insert an inner tube (thoughtfully stashed in my saddle bag in both cases); pump it up and then go on my way.

Man fixing a flat bicycle tire on a grassy patch in a turning on a cycle path
From tubeless to fully tubed

In neither case did the sealant do what it was supposed to: prevent the leaking air (or at least seal it up after the fact). At Okutama I wasted only a few seconds trying to reinflate the tire, hoping the sealant would do its job, before discovering the broken spoke.

After the burping incident, I ordered a pair of new tires: Panaracer GravelKing SS. These are very similar to the René Herse, including the weight. But none of the reviews I’ve seen have mentioned any issue with weeping sidewalls. Once they’re on, they’re on good.

Next, after the broken spoke incident, I decided it was time to replace the rear hub. This is the second broken spoke since I rebuilt the wheel following the infamous chain in the spokes incident during the ill-starred Lejog attempt. Although an inspection of the hub showed that none of the remaining damage was likely to cause spoke breakage, I decided I’d had enough. After checking prices and seeing it would cost me as much to buy a hub and spokes and do the job myself as to buy a new wheel, I ordered a replacement wheel from the maker.

bicycle hub with scarring from spoke breakage
Cosmetic hub damage

Bicycle rim and parts
Mason X Hunt

With the new wheel and new tires in hand, I set about the ol’ switcheroo. I tried setting up the new tires as tubeless, but after three attempts at getting the rear tire seated with no luck, I gave up for the moment and inserted the inner tube. Along the way I installed the brake disc and the cogs (after a thorough cleaning).

Bicycle wheel and tire pump charged up for inflationBicycle rear wheel with new tire, cleaned cogs and brake disc installed
From newly mounted tire to completed wheel

For the front, I simply replaced the René Herse tire with the Panaracer — no cogs or brake disc change required. After mounting the wheels back on the bike and adjusting the brakes, I was done for the day.

bicycle on balcony overlooking city
Kuroko’s new shoes

I haven’t given up on tubeless quite yet. Despite the very sticky, sloppy experience of the past two weekends, I’d like to try again with the new tires. It simply awaits a time when it’s a bit less cold and windy on the balcony and I have more patience for repeated attempts to get the tires to seat tubelessly.

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