Mechanical Monday: Prepping Your Tubulars for Off-Season Storage

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The Challenge Limus tubular tire, in 700x33c width, 300tpi casing. © Cyclocross Magazine

The care and keeping of tubulars can mean the difference between lasting one season or two. © Cyclocross Magazine

by John Gatch

Just like good wine, your expensive cyclocross tubulars require a little care and proper storage.  “Ridden hard and put away wet” should never be how you describe your equipment at season end.  Here are a few tips to help you summer-ize your cyclocross tubulars.

Wash your wheelset using water with dish soap or diluted Simple Green.  Avoid harsh scrubbing of the delicate sidewalls with a stiff-bristled brush. Instead, use a sponge or softer brush. Stiff bristles are OK for the treads.

Thoroughly dry the wheels by hand with a clean towel and let air dry completely. Tip the wheel on its side and tilt slightly one way then the other to let any water trapped in the rim drain.

Inspect the tread of the tires for cuts, glass, little bits of stone, and abrasion. Check if any lugs are loose or missing. Small cuts can be repaired and filled with Super Glue. Check out the valve cores. Are they bent, loose, dirty? Unscrew and dry them before tightening.

Look at the sidewalls. If your tires have cotton casings (Dugast, Challenge and others) they should be sealed to protect them from and moisture. An unprotected cotton sidewall will rot if wet and dry out if stored unsealed. If they are already sealed, inspect the sealant for peeling or bubbles. Dark or black spots indicate moisture and rot. If you need to re-seal, I recommend removing the old before applying a new coat of Aquaseal. Make sure the sidewalls are completely dry before sealing, otherwise you are just sealing in the moisture. If you do re-seal, wait until the sealant is dry before proceeding to the next step.

Inflate the tires to 30-40 psi and check the glue job by trying to roll the tire off the rim. Don’t check just one spot, go all the way around the rim. If you have to re-glue, I suggest waiting until late summer or whenever you are a few weeks out from your first race.

Store the wheels either in wheelbags or on your bike. In either case hang them – bike on a hook or wheel bags from a hook.  Leave some air in the tires and check them every month or so. This will help the sidewall hold its shape and avoid pinching or folding. Latex tubes will lose some air over time. Lastly, whether the wheels are in bags or on your bike, put them in a temperature controlled, dry environment out of direct sunlight like a basement (or garage if you live somewhere where it does not drop below 45°).

Follow these steps and your tubulars will be ready to go when September comes.

About the Author:
John Gatch races bikes, promotes cyclocross races, and podcasts in Cincinnati, Ohio.



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The author makes a suggestion of removing old aquaseal before applying a new layer if needed. I can't imagine how to actually go about doing that without damaging the sidewalls. Care to share your secret?

I applied a layer of aquaseal to my dugast tires after gluing them to the rim. Over the course of the season some black spots started creeping up from the rim, indicating moisture was getting in. Would you suggest applying a layer of aquaseal prior to mounting to the rim? My suspicion is that there must have been a slight gap between the base tape layer of glue and the aquaseal on the sidewall, perhaps as a result of only sealing once the tires were mounted. Water could creep through the spoke holes into the rim and potentially make it's way to the gap. One season later and my Dugast tires may not have what it takes to last another season. I'd like to avoid this with my next pair!

Thanks, Mark

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