Tubeless tyres hold a lot of benefits; so many in fact, that we wrote a blog on the 'Benefits of going tubeless'.
Many riders are phased by the prospect of ditching their inner tubes though, so we thought we'd produce a guide to show you how easy it really is!
The benefits of tubeless bike tyres
First of all, let's recall the main benefits of going tubeless on your road bike, mountain bike, or cyclocross bike (in fact, on any bike)!
A reduced risk of punctures.
There are two main types of puncture on a bicycle tyre: One is where you get a foreign object protrude through the rubber tread of the tyre, and put a hole in the inner tube. The other is when you hit a large hole, and the tyre bead squeezes the inner tube, and creates a "snake-bite" pinch-flat puncture. With tubeless tyres, you can potentially eliminate both of these: firstly there is sealant within the tyre, which seals around potential obtrusions; second, there is no risk of pinching the tube, because there is no tube to pinch! The result, is a lot less punctures; particularly on rough terrain, and with low tyre pressures - when 'pinch-flats' are very common.
Increased grip and comfort.
A good tubeless set-up can be a lot more comfortable, and provide more grip than a tubed combination. This is because the tyre is allowed to conform to the road surface to a greater extent; so rather than bouncing over it, you remain firmly planted.
There is actually more friction when a tyre is bouncing over a surface, than when it is in contact in it. This means that a tubeless tyre, which conforms better to the road or trail surface, will actually have less friction. Additionally, there is also a surprising amount of friction between an inner tube and the tyre (the reason that latex inner tubes are popular with racers, because they are more malleable); so with tubeless, you eliminate this friction too. The result of less friction? A faster bike!
How to go tubeless
Search this topic online, and you'll find all kinds of references to "ghetto tubeless" and "tubeless conversion"; in essence, these are when you convert a normal rim (and/or tyre) to run it tubeless. We're not massive fans of this, because we prefer to do the job properly. We recommend that if you want to try tubeless tyres, and give them a fair test, then you use a proper tubeless ready wheelset, and tubeless specific tyres. Here's how…
What you'll need
- Tubeless ready wheelset (preferably with tubeless rim tape already applied)
- Tubeless valve
- Tubeless sealant (such as Stan's NoTubes or CaffeLatex)
- Tubeless specific tyre
- Tyre levers
- Floor pump - preferably a 'Charge' pump
Step 1: Clean and prepare the wheel rim
First of all, you need to make sure the rim is ready to go tubeless. If you haven't got tubeless rim tape installed, then install this first: take off the old normal rim tape, clean the surface with rubbing alcohol, and apply the tubeless tape with plenty of tension, to ensure there are no air bubbles beneath. Detailed instructions on how best to apply the rim tape should come on the manufacturers' packaging.
Step 2: Install the tubeless valve
Insert the tubeless valves into the rim, and firmly tighten the locking collars.
Step 3: Install the tyre
Mount up the tubeless tyre of your choice (make sure you have it the correct way round). Mount up one bead first, then mount up 80 percent of the other bead - leaving just enough bead un-mounted to allow you to pour in the sealant.
Step 4: Measure out and pour in the tubeless sealant
Measure out the correct amount of sealant for your tyre size (on the manufacturer's instructions), and pour this into the open section of the bead. The best way to do this is to hang the wheel from something, so that the tyre isn't flat at the bottom of the wheel, then you can pour the sealant into the empty tyre cavity.
Step 5: Mount the second bead fully
Rotate the tyre so that the sealant moves round to a section of the wheel where both beads are seated (to avoid it spilling out of the open bead section). Then finish mounting the second bead.
Step 6: Check and position the valve
Check that the valve is between the two tyre beads on the inside of the rim. Rotate the wheel so that the valve is at the 6 o'clock position for a while, so any sealant that might be inside the valve drains out. Then, move the valve round to either the 5 o'clock or 7 o'clock position. Attach the pump head to the valve.
Step 7: 'Charge your pump'
In order to get the beads of the tyre to 'pop' onto the rim, and create an airtight seal, you need a sudden blast of air. You can try this with a standard floor pump, but we strongly recommend you invest in a 'Charger' pump: with these, you can fill up the cylinder to create a 'charged' canister of air, then release it in one big blast into the tyre. We recommend the Lezyne Digital Over-Drive Tubeless Floor Pump, or the Lezyne Over-Drive Tubeless Floor Pump.
Step 8: 'Release the charge!'
Release the charge from the pump cylinder, and watch the tyre inflate, and satisfyingly 'pop' onto the rim bead.
Step 9: 'Shake it!'
To ensure that the tubeless sealant fills in any small gaps between the tyre and the rim, or around the value, give your newly mounted wheel and tyre a good shake! Shake it until you can't hear any more air coming out!
Step 10: Go Ride!
Tubeless really is that simple. There is a reason this technology has been used by mountain bikers and in car tyres for years; it provides you with a more reliable, more puncture resistant set-up, which delivers far better performance than a tubed set-up.