Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole ValleyMuddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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WTB TCS tyres… I don’t get it!

Posted by Matt | May 3, 2019 | 7 comments so far

WTB Nano 700x40c pin leak of Muc-Off in sidewall
This past few months I’ve found myself with more experience of WTB tyres and rims than I’ve had for the last 10 years and… the jury is out!

First some background…

WTB have their own philosophy when it comes to rims and tyres, in particular when it comes to supporting tubeless running. They make specific rim beds which have a slight inner lip, intended to hold the bead in place and they produce tyres with a couple of different sidewall options – a Light option and a Tough option. All this is marketed under the TCS moniker which stands for Tubeless Compatible System.

My experience has been solely relating to the Light casing option of tyres with various WTB rims; three different wheelsets and three pairs of tyres in fact. With the Light casing, the sidewalls are so thin that the tyre flops around all over the place when you are trying to mount the tyres. I’ve managed to get one wheel/tyre to mount with a track pump but the rest have needed the Beto air can in support.

WTB Vigilante 27.5x2.3 on i25 rims

I first came across WTB tyres and rims with my Bird AM Zero build. The donor Pinnacle Iroko came with 25mm rims and WTB Vigilante Light casing tyres, in a Fast Rolling compound. They were a saga all their own but this post is specifically talking about the tubeless aspect of WTB products.

In this respect, they turned out to be troublesome but did eventually seal up after several efforts. I have used Muc Off sealant after reading good things from Guitar Ted and fancying a change from good old fashioned Stans; finding a fur ball in my last set of wheels/tyres that was more like a golf ball convinced me to try something different.

With the pink goo in play, the WTBs proved to need several re-inflations to seal up and leaked small pin pricks of the goo through the sidewalls for an hour or two until they sealed properly. Since then they’ve been good and have not caused me any trouble, but the experience didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

WTB Vigilante 27.5c2.3 on i25 rims showing tread pattern

My next encounter was with my new Cannondale Topstone gravel bike which came specced with 700x40c WTB Nano tyres on WTB i25 rims. Like the Vigilantes, the Nanos were very floppy off the rim but actually mounted up quite easily with the Beto booster, snapping nicely into place.

The problem has been keeping them sealed. I’ve put extra Muc Off sealant in to try and overcome the fact the tyres deflate after every ride (I’ve managed 160 miles on them so far).

WTB Nano 700x40c tyre with Uberbike purple valves

On each occasion I can see small pin pricks of goo coming through the sidewalls but it’s hard to tell if that’s because the sidewalls are getting cut when I take the gravel bike ‘off-road’ (we’re talking smooth-ish trails here and the Nanos don’t look damaged) or if it’s a problem with a weak, porous construction. I say that because I can see the threads through the tan sidewalls!

Either way, I’ve not had anything like this with any tubeless MTB or road tyre in over 10 years, so it’s extremely disappointing. I just don’t expect to get any punctures riding some pretty rough terrain – that’s the point of tubeless in my mind.

WTB Nano pin leak in sidewall showing Muc-Off sealant

At one point this week, I was re-airing the rear tyre after 17 miles of a mix of tarmac and non-rooty, dusty hardpack trails and could hear air whistling out from somewhere in the in the sidewall. After turning the tyre round the Muc Off sealed it immediately but am I unlucky, or is this just a poor product?

My final experience with WTB tyres and rims was converting my brother-in-laws’ gravel wheelset. It has WTB i19 rims with WTB 700x37c Riddler tyres.

I taped the rims better than I’ve ever achieved before, using two wraps of Hunt’s Black Shield rimtape with brand new tubeless valves. The front tyre went up as expected with the Beto boost, but could I get that tyre to seal?

I put in loads of pink goo and found myself re-airing the tyre 6 times before it finally sealed around the rim and sidewalls. I can tell you, pumping a tyre to 50psi 6 times is annoying and tiring (pardon the pun!).

The rear wheel was impossible to inflate on my own. I could not get it to seat at all – in fact it’s probably the baggiest tyre I’ve ever handled. I needed two extra pairs of hands to pull the sidewall to the rim and someone to dump the air can with 160psi in it to get the beads to seat. Again, pumping the air can to 160psi multiple times quickly gets old too!

Eventually beads seated, lots of goo in and the tyres sealed up after a couple of re-inflations but honestly? I think I’m at the point of saying the WTB TCS system is pretty weak. These tyres too fail to hold air for any sensible time period. I now have no faith in WTB really and am worried about what will happen with a problem on the trail. I won’t go anywhere without a pump and multiple spare tubes at the moment!

WTB Vigilante 27.5x2.3 Boost fork clearance

The shame about the whole thing is that the tyres are actually quite good. I really like the grip and profile of the Vigilantes and the Nanos roll well enough for me to average 17mph on a road only flat-ish commute home, with plenty of supple grip too. The Riddlers also have a nice tread that combines grip with traction by the look of things.

I just don’t feel confident about them. The Tough casing alternative is only available on the Vigilantes and they tend to be over 200g heavier in any case.

I am watching these closely but my patience is wearing thin and I suspect I’ll end up with a different brand fairly soon! I can’t recommend WTB tyres at this point.

My advice is to think carefully before you try WTB Light casing tyres especially with some sealant products like Muc-Off; maybe stick to Stans for the sealant but at this point I don’t even know if that would work.

Filed under Lifestyle, Mutterings in May 2019


About the author

Matt is one of the founding Molefathers of the Muddymoles, and is the designer and main administrator of the website.

Having ridden a 2007 Orange Five for many years he's now running a YT Industries Jeffsy 29er and a Bird AM Zero Boost.

An early On-One Inbred still lurks in the back of the stable as a reminder of how things have moved on. You can even find him on road bikes - currently a 2019 Cannondale Topstone 105 SE, a much-used 2011 Specialized Secteur and very niche belt drive Trek District 1.

If you've ever wondered how we got into mountain biking and how the MuddyMoles started, well wonder no more.

There are 7 comments on ‘WTB TCS tyres… I don’t get it!’

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  1. Jemster says:

    How frustrating Matt. I haven’t had any experience with WTB tyres.

    It’s bizarre really as back in the day when I opted for tubeless, for grip rather than weight saving (as some folk thought that was the reason behind the mystical tubeless). Tyres that were tubeless ready (in my case Maxxis tyres) were quite heavy and had heavy duty side walls and sealed very well.

    Then ghetto tubeless emerged in various guises using standard tyres that were designed for tubes and lots of sealing tape and sealant eventually stopped the tyres hissing and letting sealent out.
    In my experience that seems to be the case with modern tubeless ready tyres, rather than specific tubeless tyres.

    My personal favourite brand is Maxxis, as they just seem tougher. Specialized grid tyres are also not the best when it comes to sealing and they slowly let the air and sealant escape and also damage easily on the side walls.

    There is certainly a trade off for tough tyres that seal well in being they tend to be quite heavy. They certainly are an advantage though, when tackling rocky or heavily rooted trails IMHO.

  2. Matt says:

    The saga continues. Yesterday I did a 35 mile ride on the Canondale/Nanos and immediately beforehand the front tyre was soft. I pumped it up to 45psi and put 50psi in the rear which was still nicely aired up after a couple of static days.

    After 35 miles with some mild off-road for about three miles, the front remained firm but the rear was softening; three hours later the rear Nano was at 14psi!! I pumped it up, heard air hissing out and turned the tyre to get the sealant to it – that’s the picture you see at the top of this article.

    This morning, it was flat yet again. I aired it up and the hissing started (again), from about 2cm further around the tyre, so I’ve turned the tyre and re-sealed the Nano (again). I just can’t understand how the Muc-Off seals the holes quickly, but they keep occuring in different places, and always on the junction between the tanwall and the black rubber.

  3. Elliot says:

    Just to be annoying the WTB Ranger TCS Fast Rolling Light tyres that came on my Kona Unit last year were dead easy to inflate and had no pin holes in the sidewall. Actually they stood out because I didn’t use the bike for months and months but the tyres stayed up. Used with WTB rims, tape and valves which might have helped.

    I’ve had leaking sidewalls with Specialized before. Schwalbe in particular were odd for having quite thick sidewalls but leaking straight from the factory like a disgruntled employee sat there poking pins through all day.

    I kind of assumed modern tan wall tyres were just coloured over in some way but those do look threadbare. Almost like they’ve done away with one of the outer layers where the colour changes?

    As I may have mentioned before Orange Seal is considerably thicker than Stans. It properly coats the inside of the tyre so might help with this sort of problem. It does dry up sooner, not into a ball, more like it keeps adding layers to the inside of the tyre, so best keep on top of replenishing.

  4. Chris says:

    So frustrating…

    Topstone here too. Around 1k miles on the front WTB tyres. No issues at all on that one.

    On the Rear though, I managed to split it open on a gravel descent (5mm hole). Surprised me as they were new and I ride that route a lot. Needed tubes.

    Then switched rear to Panaracer Gravelking Slick. which is on now (about 500 miles) and holds air fine, but leaked air out of tiny porous holes on the sidewalls for the first annoying days.

    I had to take the wheel off and leave it overnight angled on the worst sidewall leaks. Eventually it held air. (Orange Sealant fwiw.)

    Not sure of the moral of the story. Are there any perfect tyres out there?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Chris, I think my tyres are finally holding air properly. It’s taken a while but I am not seeing significant air loss between rides which is great.

      I do worry about the longevity of the WTB on the Topstone though – your cut on the rear is exactly what I’m worried about but today I took it down some pretty rough tracks and it was fine. Fingers crossed.

      Those Panaracers are on my list of possible replacements though!

  5. Pingback: Searching the Stickless | Lifestyle, Mutterings | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

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