Tire Balls

SpeedyManiac

New member
Hi guys,
I switched to Tire Balls this season and thought I'd let you know how they work. While at the races and riding I've had many people ask me about them, so hear it goes.

For my preparations for the ISDE, I've been working on doing fast tire changes, and minimizing the chances of getting a flat tire. Few riders at the ISDE run tubes; most use Bib Mousses and a few use Tire Balls. I did a lot of research on Bib Mousses and Tire Balls and ended up going with Tire Balls. Here's why:

-Mousses wear out fast (you can expect to have worn out mousses by the end of the ISDE). Tire Balls need to be lubricated (same as Mousses) but I can expect to get many seasons out of them.
-Mousses are a pain in the ass to install in a tire and change tires with. Yes, there's no risk of puncturing the Mousse, but it takes big tire irons and some muscle to get them changed fast. The Tire Balls are relatively easy to change in comparison. The balls are filled with air so there is some give.
-I talked with the Tire Ball company and their customer support is top notch, plus they offered to help me out.

Installation:
I ordered 6 sets (3 front, 3 rear) - 4 sets for the ISDE and 2 for my BC race bike. The cost was substantial, but it would have been the same to go with Bib Mousses and those wear out. Each set comes with a warranty card. I can't remember the details of the warranty - I'll post again later. The Tire Ball set came with: 30 or 40 balls (depending on Front or Rear Tire); Ball and Carcass lube; Bead Lube; Rim Tape; Inflation needle; Inflation Needle lube; Warranty card; Instructions. You can also get a bead clamp and valve stems.

The instructions were very clear and easy to follow. I removed the tire from my wheel, put new duct tape in the center of the rim (alternatively I could have used the strip they included with the balls, but I like duct tape), installed a valve stem (for seating the bead) and rimlock. NOTE: stock GasGas Rimlocks do not work with tire balls. Get some motion pro rimlocks and you're set.

Next, I lubed the tire carcass and balls and installed the balls in the tire (33 front, 27 rear was what fit in my bike). It can get a little tricky getting the last couple balls in the tire.

With the balls in the tire, I lubed up the bead and started to install the tire. I use 3 15 inch 'Michelin style' tire irons and 3 MSR Terry Cable irons. Getting the first bead on was no problem - I've seen a video of Jeff Fredette doing it completely by hand without tire irons. Next, I started at the rimlock, forcing the bead into the rim. Here is where a bead clamp or tire changing stand with bead breaker helps to hold the bead in place. I don't have either (yet - both are on the way) so I kneeled on the tire and tire irons (1 under each knee holding the bead in place) while I got the rest of the bead started. Getting the final part of the bead on the rim is pretty tough (big tire irons are a must unless you're huge - I'm 160lbs so I use 15" irons) but manageable. Using a bead clamp or tire stand helps. Once the tire is on the rim, I used an air compressor to seat the bead, then tightened the rimlock. For time, I can get a tire off the rim in about 45 seconds (sometimes less for ISDE rubber) and installation takes about 90 seconds, sometimes less.

NOTE: Doing front tires or ISDE tires is no problem without additional tools. Big knobby rear tires (I use Kenda Milvilles and Maxxis ITs) are tough, but I've still done them using only tire irons.

Riding Impressions:
The tire balls feel like a tube (there's still air in them) but there's a difference. I can run a lower tire pressure, get better traction and not worry about getting a flat tire! My bike handles way better with tire balls thanks to better traction. This really sold me on them.

Durability:
I pinched a tire ball in half with a tire iron. It didn't pop. That's impressive right there. The only way I can see one going flat is if I puncture it with a nail or similar pointy object. Under normal riding and racing conditions there's no way one will pop.

Conclusions:
I won't ride with tubes again. No, the tire balls aren't cheap, but they're cheaper than Bib Mousses, easier to install and don't give any quirky handling characteristics. For the serious rider, I think they're a no brainer. Check out www.tireballs.com for more info.
 
We dont use rimlocks with mousses so you shouldnt need them as well.
 
I can think of a reason to leave in the rimlock. If you get something puncturing the tire which stays in place - like a nail, etc. Then one tire ball will be punctured, at least in theory. With no rim-lock - As the wheel slips on the rim the tire balls will "roll" around inside the tire. Multiple tire balls could and probably would come in contact with the nail and be compromised.

Run with a rim lock and you get no wheel slippage in the rim and reduced chance of losing multiple tire balls...

jeff
 
Thats a good point. How often does that happen though? Almost all flats are pinch flats or torn stems, many pinched on the rimlock.

Wonder how they would work with a trials tire?

Steve,

Are you allowed to pre-prep a tire full of greased tireballs to save time?
 
Regarding rimlock: I don't feel comfortable not running one, so that's why I use one. Jeff Fredette still uses one as well.

Yes, I'm allowed to have tires pre-prepped with greased up tire balls. I'm taking enough tire balls for 4 tires (2 rear, 2 front) plus spares to Chile so that the new tire will be ready to go. My goal is 4-5 minute tire changes.
 
Just an update. I've now been using Tire Balls for close to a year with plenty of races and rides on varying terrain. I'm extremely happy with how they work and will never go back to tubes or bib mousses. I do pop balls from time to time, especially in rough desert riding (I popped 4 front ones at the desert 100 - no damage to the rim). On average I might pop a ball every second race, maybe once every couple weeks riding 3-5 days a week.

Tire changes are quick and easy (5 minutes not including swapping the balls from tire to tire). The bike handles exactly the same as running tubes and air expect you can run a lower pressure to get better traction.

I highly recommend these for anyone concerned about flat tires.
 
For what its worth...here's a link to a Jeff Fredette helmet cam video from the 2006 ISDE doing a rear tire change with Tire Balls. The video is actually of his complete work period at the end of Day-two.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVl6grp3Sww

I know some of you have seen it but I thought Jeff's technique with working with Tire Balls was worth looking at again for this thread.
 
I've modified my technique slightly from Jeff's and found it a little easier. I'll have to show you in Greece. My technique also does not involve the 'Hulk' move of getting 1 bead on without using tire irons. I still haven't managed to do that with a rear tire.
 
It's not uncommon to turn the rotor side of the rim down a little which makes it easier to "muscle" the tire on. I know Jeff's done that in the past, not sure if he did it for New Zealand.

If you do shave the rim down you need to be very specific which tire you are going to use as the the tire beads can vary slightly between manufacturers. Of course once you've shaved the rim down a little you absolutely have to use a rim lock.

As far as tire balls over mousse inserts go I would be a little concerned about them standing up in Greece if its going to be a rocky as they say. In Chile Fredette eventually changed over to an insert when he started to loose (puncture) 6 to 7 tire balls a day.

He actually had to switch over to a tube at one of the checks when too many tire balls went flat just to get back to the parc ferme where he switched to an insert for the rest of the event.
 
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Hmmm, never thought of that. On day 1 I had 1 rear tire ball go flat all day...

I use a lot of lube on the tire balls so they can move around a little without wearing too bad.
 
Most of the experts will tell that over lubricating isn't necessarily better.

I've been told by both Michelin and Metzler reps that the proper amount of lube is usually applied with a stiffer brush (foam paint brush works best) to the inside of the tire only, not to the insert.

No globs of lube should be present just a nice medium coating to the inside of the tire.

When preping a used insert care should be taken to remove any excess lube with a rag. Leaving a thin, light coating is OK. In fact a new insert should have no more then just a light coating as well.

I'm not sure about what Tire Balls recommends but if their not specifically asking for liberal amounts of lube I most likely wouldn't automatically use more.

One of the problems that I've seen with using to much lube is there is no friction between the insert/tireball and you can actually have troubles mounting the tire properly or at least efficeintly (time wise at least.)

Usually what happens is the tire bead and insert/tire balls becomes too slippery and the tire can be pushed off the other side of the rim or the tire balls will stack up on each other and interfer with getting the bead to fall into the drop center of the rim.
 
With Tire Balls the balls need lubrication as they rub up against each other. I lube the tire carcass fairly generously, then lube each ball as I install them. Installation is a non-issue as long as you don't use gallons of lube when installing the tire. Never had a problem with the tire balls stacking up either.

I think the Tire Balls are a great system. No weird handling effects and good insurance about no flat tires.
 
I believe Tire Balls are a good system other then their weak point with rocks. They definetly look easier to mount for the novice.

If I had to make a choice the Tire Balls would be the one for me for 90% of the riding conditions I see.

Inserts are better but become very expensive over time as they only last so long. By the way I personally use heavyduty and utlra heavy duty tubes as needed.

As far as Greece is concerned and the rocky conditions we keep hearing about I would consider using inserts or at least have a spare tube and compressed air available at each check.
 
tire balls

My thoughts on tire balls,I am a 50 year old vet. enduro rider, sick of changing flats in the woods for the last 35 years. Bike, Gas Gas 300/06.Adv. ride 70 miles.
#1 Weight savings 5 lbs. I currently have been using Michelin heavy duity inner tubes, front and rear. This is a high quality tube that strikes a nice ballance between good strength and excessive unsprung wheel weight. Rear tire balls are 1.25 lbs lighter than the tube, front saves .5 lbs. My moose front fender pack, with spare inner tube, tire irons, co2 cartages and back up patch kit weigh in at 3.5 lbs. if you run extra heavy tubes you will save more weight.
#2 I live in north west nj ,alot of rocks and big hills. Rear traction improvement was dramatic. The frontend bites much more aggressively. The bike handles much better than stock.
#3 Thrity five years of woods riding my hands and forearms are shot. I dont get arm pump, but the hands always seem to go numb, some days worse than others. To my surprise the dampening effect of the balls work much better than any bar devise or rubber mounting system I have tried.
#4 Finally no more hopping up on a fallen tree to change a pinch flat, only to realize when you get home to clean your bike, that you just bent the elbo of your new expansion chamber.
THE END RESULT: With increased traction,handling and dampening effects of the balls, Iam able to carry more speed, be less fatigued and have greater control through out my ride.This is a great product! I should have purchased sooner.
FRONT KIT #1105 36 Balls 8 lbs.
REAR #1102 25 Balls 8 lbs.
This is a soft set up.
 
What's wrong with (Bib) Mousses?

They seem pretty good to me, especially Michelin. I get much more life out of them than manufacturers suggest, they cannot puncture at all, seem to find traction ok even in a wet Welsh forest (think Seattle) and are easy to fit. They are pretty much standard issue for all the top European riders. Why aren't they popular in the US?
 
My issues with Bib Mousses:

-wear. I can go through a couple in a season. Tire Balls last longer.
-traction. Unless you run a 120 bib in a 140 tire, then traction is reasonable. Tire Balls can be ran at a lower pressure giving GREAT traction.

Things I like about the mousse:
-absolutely puncture proof
-rim protection. No more dings in the rim.
 
How about that new tubeless system that's basically a high pressure rim lock that goes all the way round the rim? The 18 inch version should be on the market now. I would think it would last as long as the bike.
 
My buddy tested them out for the local dealership - they're great until you rip a knob off or puncture the tire carcass. We're not sold on them for trail riding. Maybe motocross...
 
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