The unlikely secret to fixing flats: glitter in sealant. © Chandler Snyder

The unlikely secret to fixing flats: glitter. © Chandler Snyder

by Chandler Snyder

Riding tubulars for cyclocross is one of the best feelings in the world. The grip, the “cush” … but then, the getting a flat. It has happened to the best of us, and often at the worst possible moment  Right as you get to pass your local nemesis, or you’ve just made the holeshot, there it goes. The first question you have is, “Did I put sealant in, and if so, then why didn’t it work?!”

In a previous Cyclocross Magazine article, several methods of flat repair were gone over. Typically, if it comes down to repairing/replacing the tube or casing, I recommend my clients send their stuff down to Tire Alert and let them handle the dirty work.

As for the standard questioning of “Why doesn’t sealant seem to work by itself?” and, “What’s the difference in sealants, Caffelatex and Stan’s Notubes?” I will show you a method I picked up years ago that not many people know about to this day, as well as tell you the difference in the two main sealants used by cyclocrosss riders out there.

The question comes up about from clients more often than not: “What’s better, Stan’s or Caffelatex?”

In my experience, the answer comes down to what kind of tubes are you running: latex or butyl? The big difference in Caffelatex and Stan’s is the use of ammonia. Stan’s has some in their formula, used as an anticoagulant, while Caffelatex uses CO2, hence the bubbles you get from it. If the tube is latex, go with the Caffelatex, as the ammonia in the Stan’s will degrade the tube over time. Latex is already porous enough, adding something that is corrosive to a porous tube doesn’t make the most sense. Butyl tubes are safe when it comes to the use of Stan’s, and I would say its the preferred sealant amongst clients/riders.

Sparkly Sealant:
A few years ago, I had the honor or working under one of the finest mechanics I’ve ever met.  He was nuts for cyclocross and the team that the shop sponsored was known for focusing solely on it. We used to make our own “Secret Sealant” that people would drive an hour to buy when they knew we had it!

One simple additive to your favorite sealant and we saw increases in performance 10 fold at times. In a word … glitter!  Yep, that’s it. The sparkly stuff princesses love, and the “rave” kids bathe in. Think blood platelets. That’s the idea. Platelets help our body clot wounds faster than just the liquid stuff alone. Glitter acts the same way.

The size of the glitter matters. Too big, and it won’t even go through the injector you use, and too small, well, you may as well not even use it. I’ve found that glitter roughly about the size of the tip of a ball point pen is best.  It still allows ease of use and injecting, while providing the maximum amount of sealing performance.

How to mix/use:
Begin by prepping your injector of choice, and removing the valve core to your tire.  A good valve core remover is a good purchase to make.  The standard plastic versions are out there, the ones that come with Vittorias, and Tufos back in the day, and work OK. I like to spend a couple more dollars and use the nice Stan’s Valve Core tool. It won’t round out and can remove both Presta and Schraeder cores.

There are many injectors out there to buy and many homemade versions too. I start by putting about a teaspoon of glitter in the red plastic cup that comes with a new 32oz bottle of Stan’s. Next, I add the sealant to the cup (if I’m using a mini squirt bottle, I add the glitter first then then sealant). If you’re using the cup and syringe method, use something stick-like to swirl the sealant/glitter mixture, then insert syringe and pull the mixture inside.

If you have the wheel in a truing stand, or are holding it on a bench, I like to have the valve in the 8 o’clock position as you’re looking at the wheel from the side. I then take a rag and wrap it around the valve in case there is any leakage from the injector. Right before I insert the injector, I give it a good shake one last time. Insert, inject and remove. Clean up any excess, reinstall the valve core, inflate and go. Just remember to take your injectors apart and rinse/clean with COLD water.

Hopefully this will be a nice new trick for many of you out there, and you see an improvement in your sealants qualities.  If you have a special sealant trick, please send it to us, we’d love to hear the cool side tips/tricks that are out there!

See you at the races!

Are you and your tubulars heading to Worlds or Nationals? Pro Bike Express, a Colorado-based bike transport company, and Snyder Cycling Services, a Colorado-based service company, have teamed up to offer the Pro treatment at Cyclocross Nationals and Worlds. Find out more here.