If you’ve ever ridden tubeless tires, you probably know that the little details matter in creating a reliable setup.

Whether you think tubeless tires are only appropriate for mountain bikes, use them only in cyclocross training, or rely on them to finish fourth at CrossVegas or in the top 12 at Worlds, reliability in your setup puts a lot of pressure on your oft-neglected tubeless valve.

Despite their small stature, there are several details of tubeless valves worth considering. Each represents a potential area for failure. We’ve heard them all before, and experienced most of them:

  • Sealant leaking from the rim’s valve hole due to an ill-fitting rubber grommet
  • Clogged valve cores
  • Stuck nut preventing valve removal when you want to insert a tube out on the trail
  • Broken valves during pumping, or while removing a pump head
  • Valves that sit taller than rim beads
  • Difficult tire seating due to restrictive bore diameters
  • Lost races due to heavy, non-color coordinated valves

Okay, maybe we’ve never heard or experienced the last one, but we won’t diminish the confidence a touch of color or shedding a few grams might offer a details-obsessed racer.

Not all tubeless valves are the same, and different companies take different approaches to materials, fitting components and of course, colors. From L to R: standard brass tubeless valve, Slime's STR alloy valve, American Classic's alloy valve, Boyd's alloy valve with wingnut, and Orange Seal's new RVC valve. Tubeless tire valve comparison and review. © Cyclocross Magazine

Not all tubeless valves are the same, and different companies take different approaches to materials, fitting components and of course, colors. From L to R: standard brass tubeless valve, Slime’s STR alloy valve, American Classic’s alloy valve, Boyd’s alloy valve with wingnuts, and Orange Seal’s new RVC valve. Tubeless tire valve comparison and review. © Cyclocross Magazine

Sure, tubeless valves come in different materials, lengths and colors, but even bore diameters vary greatly, which can impact the speed and volume of the blast of air from your compressor or charging pump.

Bore diameter matters when you're trying to seat a loose tire with a charging pump or compressor. From L to R: "standard" brass valve, Slime alloy, American Classic alloy, Boyd Cycling alloy, Orange Seal alloy. © Cyclocross Magazine

Bore diameter matters when you’re trying to seat a loose tire with a charging pump or compressor. From L to R: “standard” brass valve, Slime alloy, American Classic alloy, Boyd Cycling alloy, Orange Seal alloy. © Cyclocross Magazine

Thankfully there are several companies working hard to address the other issues, and today, for Mechanical Monday, we’re taking a close-up look at some tubeless valve options from Slime, American Classic, Boyd and a new design just released by Orange Seal. See the slideshow below.

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Boring Brass Stays Strong

Most standard tubeless valves, if not aluminum, are made from brass. Brass might be boring and heavy, but you might sing the praises of the musical metal when reaching for your mini pump, or when reaching for a replacement pair at your local shop.

Either golden in color or silver, standard brass tubeless valves aren't sexy or ultralight, offer more strength than aluminum alloy counterparts. © Cyclocross Magazine

Either golden in color or silver, standard brass tubeless valves aren’t sexy or ultralight, offer more strength than aluminum alloy counterparts. © Cyclocross Magazine

How much heavier is brass over alternatives? For a single valve around 44mm long, a brass valve is typically a whopping 4 grams heavier than a similar alloy version (like the green Alloy STR valve above, by Slime).

Let’s think of a few other ways to shave four grams.

  1. Clean old dirt off a tire
  2. Literally give a few tire knobs a close shave
  3. Use 5% less sealant
  4. Visit the Porta Potty 30 seconds closer to your race start

While a shiny anodized alloy valve certainly adds some bling to your ride, we’ve broken off enough alloy tubeless valves when under various forms of duress (with hand and floor pumps) that four grams seem like a minor compromise for durability in such a key component. Sure, it’s rotating weight, but weight that could keep your wheels rotating without an unwanted pause to insert a tube, or worse, begin a long walk home.

The minor weight savings of alloy valves comes not only with some risk but an actual cost. In the case of Slime’s tubeless valves, alloy valves come at a $3 premium. Sure, weight weenies might rejoice when learning such weight savings dip below the holy $1/gram saved benchmark, but hopefully such obsession comes after studying the specific gravity and gram per lasting sealing power of sealants. We’re not smart enough to tackle that (yet).

Even if you’re content with brass, it’s worth stating the obvious: Look for tubeless valves to have removable valve cores. We’ve run across some brass valves without this essential feature, which makes adding sealant and replacing clogged valves a royal pain.

It’s also worth noting that some of the other bells and whistles of alloy aftermarket valves (including the ones below) can be swapped onto a “standard” brass valve if strength is a priority.

Keep reading for a look at alloy tubeless valves from American Classic, Boyd Cycling and Orange Seal on the following slides (Click Next)

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