Given the time of year, the first thing I purchased for my new Trek Fuel EX 8 (29er – 2014 model), were some tyres I felt would better suit the current seasonal conditions.
The Bontrager XR3 Expert tyres (tubeless ready) that come with the bike as stock look fine, but may be more suited to summer and autumn trail conditions. A quick internet search reveals some favourable feedback on them but confirms this.
Normally I would go for something from the Maxxis range having had good experiences with them in the past. New bike new tyre choice perhaps? With that in mind I researched other options and recalled having recently read a positive review (in Singletrackworld magazine by Benji Haworth) of the Bontrager XR4 Team Issue. Benji rated the tyre very highly as a good all-rounder, just what I was looking for for the front-end. Fit and forget.
The XR4 comes in a 2.3″ width (only) in the 29er model and is tubeless ready (TLR). All boxes ticked.
After a further quick search on the internet I decided to try the XR4 up front and use a mix of the XR3 and a more mud specific tyre on the back depending on the conditions.
Mud Tyres For Winter?
For more muddy conditions I’d just bought a Bontrager Mud-X 2.0 for my 26″ hardtail (before making an unplanned purchase of a 29er) and though I had not ridden with it on my LBS had sold me on using them in muddy conditions. Simple choice then, I decided to buy the 29er version of the Bontrager Mud-X (not in stock) over something like the Maxxis Beaver (in stock) that the shop also suggested.
After I picked up my new bike I gave it a quick ride and then decided to swap the front tyre to the XR4 before riding that weekend.
The rims are tubeless ready, as are the tyres fitted but the bike comes with inner tubes fitted as stock. No big deal, I’d just swap over the tyres and go tubeless at a later date.
I found the Bontrager tyres more difficult to seat than Maxxis tyres I’d use in the past. Getting the bead over the rim was more of a challenge and required the use of some sturdy Pedros Tyre Levers. With most Maxxis tyres I’ve used in the past I’ve been able to seat them by hand.
Get on there you Fecker!
Once the tyre was finally on I had trouble getting the tyre bead to seat correctly against the rim, at certain spots. A number of attempts and some frantic pumping later I still couldn’t get the tyre right at one spot. When mounting the tyre with no air in the tube (or just a little) the stiff rubber bead (for a folding tyre) continously caught in the deep centre well of the rim and despite inflating to higher pressures I could not easily get the rim to ‘pop’ into the correct position.
Given the awkwardness of mounting the tyres and getting them seated I quickly dreaded having to change a tube on the trail. Going tubeless would mitigate some of that risk (though not eliminate it) so I decided on going tubeless sooner rather than later. In the meantime the LBS helped get the tyre seated correctly, more great service from Leisure Lakes Bikes – thanks guys.
There was some confusion at my LBS on whether the rim tape (unseen by the shop) as stock on the Trek models (they are an authorised dealer and apparently sell a lot of them) were suitable to go tubeless at stock.
Though the rims and tyres come as ‘tubeless ready’ as stock, turns out you have to buy a set of rim strips and valves from Trek in order to actually run a tubeless setup. For the price of the bike you could argue that these should/could have come supplied, if not fitted, but regardless a little over £20 and almost a weeks wait I had the necessary kit.
Stans do a kit called Flow which they specifically state will work with these rims, but since Bontrager do something specific and they made the rim I decided I might as well go with that. Especially since I recall reading the Flow kit required using a drill to widen the inner valve hole on the rim (no thanks to voiding a warranty in the first week of owning a bike).
For any readers with Bontrager Duster 29er tubeless ready rims then the parts I ordered were as below (confirmed with Trek dealer by phone first).
- Rim strip #406892 (x2)
- Rim strip valve #250324 (x2)
Trek have produced a handy 5-part video guide which helps make fitting straight forward. I’ve converted the front tyre to tubeless following the videos. The tyre seated itself correctly (without a loud pop) at around 50 psi and I checked it was seated correctly all the way round before using the recommended amount of sealant (around 120ml for a 29er). I got the sealant into the tyre by removing the valve core as suggested in the videos, though I used a smaller syringe and the funnel from a hip flask. Not as ideal but it got the job done.
The tyre hasn’t lost any pressure yet so I’ll be testing it out this weekend.
I’m holding off doing the back tyre. Despite the weather the last few weekends haven’t been too muddy out on the trails so I might hold off on the mud tyre on the rear for now.