05 July 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant

In the year since a local shop gave us a couple of tires' worth of Effetto Mariposa's Caffelatex sealant to try, I've fallen in to and then back out of love with the the bubbly stuff. My long-term experience suggests that that it does have its place, but isn't the best solution for all conditions (including ours). I was first interested in trying Caffelatex sealant after hearing stories about the effects that ammonia-rich sealants can have on bikes' rims. When corrosive ammonia is exposed to unprotected aluminum, it can corrode the rims of which they're made. Or so I've heard. Seeing as the jury's still out on the chemical's effects when used on tubeless setups, it seemed as though a low-ammonia or ammonia-free sealant (like Caffelatex) might be a good idea over the long haul.

Also unique is the sealant's foaming action- rather than staying liquid, Caffelatex foams within the tire, ensuring that there is always some sealant everywhere. My initial impressions were very positive. The Caffelatex stayed liquid much longer than the Stan's sealant I'd been using and I didn't experience a single flat or slow leak for over three months. I now attribute most of my success to the fantastic TNT casing on the Geax tires I was riding at the time. It turns out that the tires' casing was doing much of the work at keeping thorns and spines outside of the tire and air on the inside. Because the bombproof casing was reducing the number of small punctures that the sealant was called upon to seal, it was staying liquid much longer as well and not needing the usual refreshing every couple of months. It was only when the Geax wore out and I mounted other companies' tires that problems began to surface.

Basically, because Caffelatex foams, there is always sealant everywhere. This is probably a very good thing for those trying to 'convert' non-tubeless tires, as the foam will allow the sealant to seal small pinholes all over the porous casing. When it comes time to seal anything larger than 1mm or so in length, though, there just isn't enough sealant where it needs to be. As a result, those ffft-ffft-ffft leaks in the tread don't seal themselves while riding like they often do with Stan's. It seems like every puncture I experienced using Caffelatex took far longer to seal than with other sealants and required me to get off the bike and add air with a hand pump. Easier than replacing a tube, sure, but still a pain.

Effetto Mariposa claim that the sealant's foaming property makes the Caffelatex better able to close sidewall punctures up to 6mm long. It's a neat thought, but those claims are usually made based on ideal conditions. At this year's 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, a nasty pinch created a pair of 3mm cuts in my tire (one at the bead, one at the tread) that Caffelatex would not seal. Granted, cuts near the bead are difficult for any sealant, but it seems as though a liquid (rather than foam) could have been shepherded to where it was in a position to seal the hole. In this case, I had to install a tube before I could continue my lap.

After having bought a second liter of Caffelatex and using more than recommended (2+ capfulls per tire), I haven't had much better luck. Small broken glass-induced punctures don't seal and I've had to blend it 1:1 with Stan's sealant to get a reasonably functional mixture. Which begs the question: why not just run something else? (The short answer: Because I have a half-liter of Caffelatex in the workshop.) The foaming action is a neat idea, but out on the trail it seems to ensure that there isn't ever enough sealant where it's needed. I really like the idea of not having ammonia in contact with my pricey wheels and tires- but not if I'm paying for that peace of mind with frequent leaks.

For anyone more focused on non-tubeless tire 'conversion,' Caffelatex could well be a good place to start. Here in the desert- and mountain-west, where rocks are sharp and abundant, it's just not up to the task. Maybe a reformulation with a bit less foaming agent and possibly some large particles (to help close bigger holes) would do the trick- when something like that is available, I'd love to try it. Thanks to our terrain, though, my rims don't last long enough to make the specter of corrosion worth the tradeoffs.


www.canitoeroad.com (US)

A big thanks to Stevie at Fat Tire for our test sample!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I’ve got the same opinion of the Caffe-o-lattex… I too have been mixing it… 2-1 Stan’s to Caffe… I do find that if I burp a tire the Caffe comes to the rescue before the Stan’s and many times doesn’t require me to do the shimmy-shake after re-airing the tire... other than that it isn’t the real deal.