Tubeless Tire Valve Stem Repair

Back on the bike today, first time in a week. Since the weather turned cold I have been riding mainly on the weekend. During the week its too cold in the morning and too dark after work to ride. Unfortunately the valve stem on my front tire started to leak and I was only able to ride for a short time.

This also prompted an emergency visit to a local bike shop as I don’t have any tools for repairing a valve stem. On a bike with inner tubes this isn’t as big of an issue since you can just change the inner tube. My bike is equipped with tubeless tires, which are really awesome, but I did not have spare valve stems for tubeless tires.

Why tubeless?

Bicycles typically use inner tubes as they are easy to maintain and remain inflated longer. However the inner tube has difficulties at lower and higher pressures. At lower pressure they can pinch flat and at higher pressure they explode before a tubeless design does. This is why most cars use tubeless designs.

The drawbacks to a tubeless tire is that they are more complicated and messy. The tubeless tire has to seal to the rim tightly since it needs to seal the air in the tire with no inner tube. This means the rim of the tire also needs to have better sealing capabilities. The rim also needs to have a seal over the spokes. Finally a valve stem that seals to the rim has to be used. This valve stem is tightened snug to the rim.

The repair

My bike is pretty old. So when things like a little valve stem start leaking I am not surprised. I am also not surprised that the repair is probably going to involve a replacement. Once I found a local bike shop open I was happy to hear they would try to repair it, but was ready to hear they were going to replace it. We are talking about $5 for the part so not a huge deal.

I was just happy that the bike shop was full of people wearing their masks, and that the mechanic dropped what he was working on to help. Little interruptions are the bane of getting projects done. While a valve stem replacement isn’t a huge project it is messy.

This is because tubeless bicycle tires are filled with sealant to repair small punctures. Every time I see it work I am amazed and really happy that I don’t need to change an inner tube. When something small like a thorn punctures the tire the sealant swarms around it. When you pull the thorn out the sealant seals up the hole and you keep riding.

The sealant is super sticky and messy and no matter how many times you do it, you will make some amount of mess. I was just happy that someone else was getting messy this time.

The good news is that this mechanic was a pro and made very little mess and got my tire back in action! I bought 2 additional valve stems from the shop so that if I have another issue now I can repair it myself. While I appreciate having someone work on my bike I don’t like spending the time driving to the shop and then paying someone to fix me up.

The other good news is that tomorrow is supposed to be much warmer than today.


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