The first tubeless tire was created by Mavic back in 1999. Since then, they’ve become massively popular as they suffer fewer punctures. People started using tubeless tires on mountain bikes first, and now almost all bikes have them!
How Tubeless Tires Work
Tubeless tires are similar to traditional tires; just that they don’t have a tube inside. Instead, the air is retained between the rim and the tire with the help of an airtight seal. These tires can even run at low pressure.
In these tires, one pours a sealant in the tire during mounting. When the tire spins during riding, this sealant coats the tire, and when a puncture happens it pours through the puncture hole and seals it. At best, the liquid seals the hole completely; at worst it leads to slow leakage of air so you are not stranded with a flat tire on the trail. If you ride in an area where the roads or trails are full of pointy objects, tubeless tires can be a lifesaver!
Why Should You Upgrade to a Tubeless Tire?
1. Liquid sealant instantly seals the tire.
If a sharp object pierces a hole in the tire, the sealant (liquid) in tubeless tires oozes out and seals the opening, thus preventing the air from leaking. Thus the cyclist doesn’t experience a tire that deflates suddenly due to a puncture.
2. Tubeless Tires are free of ‘Pinch Flats’
Tubeless tires are also free of “pinch flats” or “snake bites” (snake bites are a pair of pinch holes together) that occur when the tube is pinched between the rim and the tire wall.
3. They have the ability to run at low pressure.
As air changes its pressure inside the tube, most tires are compelled to run at low pressure. This increases the chances of the tube getting pinched with the wheel. Tubeless tires can run at lower pressure than tubed tires, which results in better traction, especially in corners.
4. Tubeless tires have a lighter weight.
Removing a standard tube from your tire can reduce the tire’s weight by 200 grams. The advantage of reduced tire weight is that since it’s a rotational component, you will have to spend less energy while riding. It will keep your legs feeling fresh even after a grueling, long ride!
5. They are more stable at high speeds.
Tubeless tires offer stability during high speeds since the air is contained within the tire itself, and not in a separate tube. With a tube, there are chances of uneven pressure that can make your bike vibrate unsteadily at high speeds. As a tubeless tire has just a tire and a rim, compared to a tubed tire that has more components (tire, tube, and rim); it gives better performance and efficiency.
Read our article: 15 Ways to cycle safely
The Downside of Tubeless Tires
The downside is that you have to keep “topping” the tires with sealant. Some level of maintenance is involved. But for many cyclists that is a small price to pay for a puncture-free ride. If you ride frequently and maintain your bike well, then tubeless tires are a great option for you. You can keep whizzing on trails without an unwelcome flat. But beware, if the sealant in your tires has dried, and you have not topped it, then your tires won’t seal in case of a puncture.
PANARACER TUBELESS TIRE REPAIR KIT
- Cement (8cc tube)
- Rubber patch
Steps on How to Make Your Bike Tubeless
1. Remove The Tires And Tubes.
- First, release the air pressure from the tires, and then try to remove the tire. It can be done by hand, but if you find it difficult, you can use a brake lever instead. Take the help of tire levers, and carefully lift one side of the tire off the rim.
- Ensure that the tire lever doesn’t pinch the deflated tube, as you will be using the same tube later. However, if you have spare tubes then you need not worry. Once you’re done freeing the tire from one side, remove the existing tube.
2. Remove The Rim Tape.
Rim tapes are applied to wheelsets so as to protect the tube from pointy objects. Pick out the edge of the tape or cut the rim tape until it’s loose. After the rim tape comes off, scrub the insides of the rim thoroughly with the help of soap and water, and then leave it to dry. Make sure that there’s no dry glue stuck to it.
3. Apply Tubeless-Specific Rim Tape/Gorilla Tape
- Measure the outer width of the rim and make a cut that’s 2mm less than that on the gorilla tape. You can do so with the help of a razor or knife.
- Now, try to find the location where the valve stem used to be on the inside of the rim. Start applying the gorilla tape 2” before that location. Make sure that you complete the circle 2” after the valve stem, so that there is an overlap of 2” on each side of the valve stem.
- While applying the Gorilla Tape, make sure that each section is centered. Try to avoid any cuts in the tape midway. You’d want to have a clean, continuous strip of tape throughout till you’re finished.
- Keep pressing your thumb lightly against the applied tape as you go, so that the tape sits well with the rim. Continue taping, and once you overlap the starting point by 4”, make your final cut.
PANARACER DRIVERPRO TUBELESS MTB TIRE
4. Insert The Valve System.
- Find the location of the original valve system through the Gorilla tape. (This should be in the middle of the area where the Gorilla tape overlaps.)
- Make a cut of the shape “X” with the help of a razor or a knife. Insert the valve stem of the tube into the hole, and keep twisting the nut till the valve stem is secured.
- Start mounting one side of the tire over the tube. Be extra careful if it’s directional. Proceed to fix the tube in the tire and ensure that there are no twists.
- Now mount the other side of the tire. Make sure that the tire bead doesn’t pinch the tube; you may want to use tire levers again if need be.
- Pump the tire to the desired pressure, and then deflate the tire ensuring that the bead remains seated on the rim. You can also rest the wheel sideways so that there’s no weight on the tire once it is deflated.
- After you’ve deflated the tire, only dismount one side.
- Insert the tubeless valve stem after removing the tube from the dismounted side. Then, mount the tire for one last time!
5. Fill In The Sealant And Pump It.
- Start pumping the tire up without any sealant first. You might have to rapidly pump in the air or use an air compressor. The trick is to make pumping much easier by getting both beads seated on the rim so that it creates a temporary seal.
- Once both the beads are seated, use needle-nose pliers to remove the valve core from the stem. There are two flat sections on opposite sides of the valve core, along the threads. You can use these for grip.
- Avoid resting the wheel on the tire. It’s advisable to rest the wheel horizontally and then continue working on it.
- Take a syringe and fill it with 2oz of sealant. Insert it over the valve stem and squirt the sealant completely into the tire. Now, shake the tire thoroughly so that the sealant forms a firm coating throughout the insides of the tire.
- Make sure that there’s no weight resting on the tire, and pump it to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
- The tire may have lost some pressure the following day, so check it and pump it again the next day (while the sealant was drying). Usually, 20-25 psi is the sweet spot.
- Reapply the sealant every 6 months. You might want to reapply it more frequently if you live in a dry and hot climate.
PANARACER CLOSER PLUS FOLDING BEAD TIRE
Pro Tips for Mounting Tubeless Tires:
Go gentle on the tire levers.
Levers can kink the bead which can create a leak, especially if they’re made of metal. You can use a soapy water solution while coaxing the tire bead over the rim.
You can use an air compressor.
You don’t have to inflate the tire rapidly to quickly seat the bead onto the rim if you use an air compressor. You can also try using a CO2 cartridge, however, it may be pricey if you have to do multiple inflations.
Also, if you’re having trouble inflating the tire even while using an air compressor or tubeless inflator, try removing the valve core on the tubeless valve.
This allows the air to enter the tire faster. Be careful while removing the inflator nozzle from the valve, as all air will rush back out of the tire. Be vigilant so as to hold the air in with your finger and quickly replace the valve core with your tool!
Insert a tube.
You can insert a tube and leave it inflated in the tire overnight, to help the tire regain its original shape.
Let it stay under the Sun.
Mike Curiak, an adventure rider, and photographer says in an article from Bicycling, that he first uses a tube, inflates the tire to normal pressure, and then lets the wheel stay under the sun for an hour. He says, “This does three things at once. It gets the tape stuck down uniformly to the rim, it pushes all the air bubbles out of the tape, and it seats at least one bead of the tire.”
Prevention is Better Than Cure.
Although the sealant does a great job in preventing the air from leaking out in case of a puncture, a large tear or hole can be a problem. Always carry a spare tube just in case, because if such mishaps occur (especially on mountain trails), your spare tube will prevent you from getting stranded.
*Featured image credits: Avii Dayal