Fat-bike.com field correspondent and bad-ass rider, Andrea Cohen, has had our test set of the Bontrager jackalope TLR wheelset for several weeks now. Here is her review!
I have been riding the Bontrager Jackalope rims for the past three weeks solid. Commuting, bushwacking, groomed trails, and everything in between. The tubeless ready wheel-set has served me well for the most part. Battling snow, mud, and my questionable handling skills I have managed to gain a better understanding of what Bontrager has created.
After the unboxing, weighing, and eyeballing I began the process of setting them up tubeless. Bontrager supplied me with every piece of the tubeless puzzle. Rim tape, valves, sealant, and even the Flash Charger pump were all ready to go. First things first I lined the single spoke bed with the included rim tape. Easy as pie. They included enough tape to do each rim twice. Next up, slide the TLR valve into place, and remove the valve core. So far we are maybe 8 minutes into this process.
I slipped the Bontrager Hodag tires onto the rim and inflated them with my Flash Charger pump, seating the bead on the first attempt. Releasing the pump I slowly poured the Bontrager TLR sealant right into the valve with core removed still. No syringes or measuring devices needed, the 2 ounce bottles of sealant are seemingly designed to let you pour straight into the valve, magical.
I then reinflated everything with the Flash Charger and I was ready to rock the TLR all over the place. Plus it only took me 15 minutes! MIND BLOWN. The Jackalopes lightened up my bike quite a bit, taking a total of three pounds of rotating weight off my Farley. The lack of ghetto fabulous gorilla tape helped with the weight cut. Also I didn’t have to struggle for an hour plus with compressors, straps, and Simple Green to get on the road. Just the magical Bontrager TLR experience. Check out Ryan Baker’s encouragement during the Flash Charger excitement.
Next up was the first ride, maiden voyage if you will. I set up the pressure around 10 in both tires to help the sealant and beads to get a little more settled. The aluminum hoops ran great. The handling was very similar to my stock Farley 7 set-up. The loss of weight was noticeable and the Bontrager Hodag tire was a great upgrade from my studded tire that I didn’t really need this winter! I commute on the fat-bike and I took a day of riding around a higher pressure to let the sealant really get in there. I started with 4 ounces of sealant.
It was time for the first shred session! Every Friday we ride our fat bikes on everything. Trails, stairs, and every ledge in between. I lowered my pressure to around 8 in the rear and 7 in the front to maximize the shred-ability of the Hodags. About an hour into the ride I started wondering if my rear tire was low, and indeed it was. Just by a couple of pounds, but that really makes a difference. The rim states that I shouldn’t go below 5 PSI, and I hadn’t started that way, but I was heading that way. I pumped up the tire back to my 8 PSI and continued onward, finishing the ride 30 minutes or so later. I should also mention that it wasn’t crazy cold, just normal 15-20 degrees of Iowa winter. I parked the Farley beast in my garage. The next morning the rear tire was completely flat. Maybe I just didn’t let the tubeless set up completely was my first thought. But then again I never ran into this problem with my ghetto tubeless set-up. I pumped those bad-boys back to the 8/7PSI and set off on some more adventures.
The same pattern of slowly loosing pressure until completely flat persisted. The sealant was leaking out of the seam opposite of the valve. I gave Trek a call and they mentioned that some people have had to file down that seam. I am not the best at using a file and have a terrible time convincing most of my co-workers to do silly things for me. So I just left it. I also didn’t want to undo my tubeless work just to possibly fix my problem. I wanted a real explanation before I spent more time fidgeting with the tubeless set-up. I added all of the provided sealant instead and ended up with 8 ounces in each tire, more than enough. I should also mention that I never tried any other brand of sealant. I wanted to see what the Bontrager TLR juice was like.
I tried to change out the rear tire for my personal choice of tires. I thought it was possible that a higher TPI tire would conform to the rim better. Not the case, I still had the same slow-leaking symptoms. Switching back to the Hodag I then fixed the problem by running a higher pressure than I wanted to. As long as I kept the rear tire closer to 10 PSI the slow-leak wouldn’t occur. The front had none of these issues and could safely be run even lower than 5, but I am on the smaller side so the lower PSI is great for me.
Overall, I was very happy with the easy initial tubeless set-up. Bontrager supplies everything you need to do that at your own house. The time I saved was great. I also saved my tiny arms from the struggle of gorilla taping the crap out of rims. The weight savings were the most noticeable change in ride quality, and a very welcome change at that. I never ended up filing down the seam. I just bounced around a little more on rides and fishtailed through deep snow some more. In a longer term situation or if we had more deep, fresh snow situations I might have tackled the seam, but I don’t like taking unnecessary tools to my bicycles because I tend to make things worse. I bet the TLR Jackalope rim would be amazing for places where you can get away with higher pressures such as groomed trails, winter commuting, or summer single-track slaying. Tubeless ready fat tire rims and tires are exciting developments within the fat-bike world and I can’t wait to see what is floating around soon!
The photos in this review (besides the outside shot!) were taken at one of the most fat-bike friendly shops around, World of Bikes in Iowa City, IA. If you are in the area stop by and say hey to Ryan and the crew!