Tech Q&A: Switching to Tubeless Wheels

Honda Shadow Aero

Q: I want to purchase a 2004-2006 Honda 750 Aero, with driveshaft and spoked wheels, or a 2004-2006 Yamaha 650 V Star, with driveshaft and spoked wheels. But I would like to change to tubeless cast wheels. Do you know who makes a tubeless wheel for either bike? I have been told to seal the spokes with either 3M tape or silicone. I do not know how safe that would be or how long that would last. Any info would be appreciated. – Rufus Deloach, Milton, Florida

A: Ralph, you don’t say why you want to go tubeless, but odds are you’re wary of tube-type tires’ rapid deflation when punctured and attracted to the slow leak-down and easy roadside fixability that a tubeless radial offers when it picks up a nail. You also get a lot more choice in terms of tread pattern and purpose when you switch to tubeless radials, but first your wheels need to be ready to accept them. Aftermarket cast hoops for either the Honda or Yamaha you’ve listed don’t exist as far as I’m aware. You may be able to retrofit something from a different model, but modifying the bike’s stock spoked wheels is probably easier. As you mentioned there are numerous DIY options, and any adventure-bike forum is liable to have a good rundown of techniques and outcomes. However, you should be aware that many tube-type rims aren’t meant to mate with the beads on tubeless tires, which could pose a safety hazard. I also feel obligated to tell you that you’re not supposed to switch between bias-ply tires (which is what likely comes stock on the Aero and V Star) and radials since the tires have different handling characteristics. With that caveat out of the way, I think your best option for going tubeless is to get a tubeless-type rim laced to your bike’s stock hub. A company like Woody’s Wheel Works (woodyswheelworks.com) should be able to take care of you, or at least point you in the right direction.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

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