How Tubeless Bike Tires Work

How Tubeless Tires Work

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Did you know that many bike owners are moving far away from tabular tires in favor of the tubeless technology? It’s amazing to see just how possible it is to ride your bike without a tube in it. You just need the best tubeless tyre, the correct amount of pressure, and done. You’re good to hit the ground running. 

It’s important to keep in mind that tubeless tyres aren’t new to the cycling market. They’ve been around for more than 20 years already. 

In fact, the first tubeless tire appeared about 20 years back. But it was only built for mountain bikes.  

Over the years, it has become the standard choice not only for mountain bikers but also among those with traditional bicycles. When tubeless was introduced for road use about 12 years ago, the uptake was slow. However, thanks to the wider tyres for road and gravel, the uptake is now higher.

How Do Tubeless Tyres Work?

Maybe you've seen a tubeless system in a modern car but yet to see one in bicycles. Well, they work in almost a similar way. The tubeless system on bicycles is an airtight system where the tyre is held on to the rim with tight tolerances and air pressure.  

Because of the fact that it is airtight, there is no need for an inner tube to hold air like on a standard clincher system, and moreover, no glue is needed to maintain the tire connected to the rim as it is with the tubular system.

The bead of the tire seats into the rim, then a sealant product is inserted into the tire to make it airtight. 

Tubes vs. Tubeless Tires - Advantages of Tubeless

Fewer Flat Tires

Cyclists face two main types of flat tires-a pinch flat and a puncture flat. The one reason why most cyclists are seeking to upgrade to tubeless is that with the new technological advancement, you ward off these two problems.

A pinch flat occurs when the tube is pinched against the rim. With tubeless bike tires, you have no tubes so obviously, no potential for punctures. The sealant in tubeless tires helps to seal any tires so you can keep riding in the eventuality of obstacles such as thorns, nails, and the like.

Lower Weight

One of the benefits of tubeless tires is the fact that you will be able to shed some weight off of your bike. This will help you to accelerate more quickly as there will be less weight for you to have to turn with every pedal stroke.

Lower Tire Pressures

Another great benefit of tubeless bike tires is the ability to run on lower tire pressures. Lower tire pressures give you greater traction on the road, so you can easily ride your bike with more padding.

Traditionally, lower pressures meant a greater risk of pinch flats, but as we discussed earlier, you don’t have to worry about pinch-flatting tubeless mountain bike tires.

Tubeless Tire Installation Tips

Most cyclists confess to having a frustrating experience when setting up tubeless tires for the first time. We recommend using a tube first, inflating it to normal pressure then set the wheel out in the sun for an hour to two.

This helps to get the tape uniformly stuck to the rim, pushes the air bubbles out of the tape, and seats at least one bead of the tire. If you are using new tires, this approach will help the tire bead soften the kink, which results from the tire being stored folded for a long period.

Tubeless Field Repair Tips

The purpose of a sealant is to help to repair the smallest punctures. If your sealant is relatively fresh, one or two tire plugs usually do the trick for most medium-size punctures.

For large cuts like a sidewall tear, you can use the various types of patch materials. If a patch does not work, you can install a tube. While at it, ensure that there are no thorns is other pieces of debris that caused a flat stuck in the tire.

If you make this mistake, you will be back to the drawing board. Another important essential to carry include latex gloves because fixing tubeless flats can be messy with the sealant.

How to Fix a Flat

To cut down on flats, check your sealant regularly and especially in hot climates, and make sure the sealant is still liquid and hasn’t evaporated or dried.

Tubeless tires require slightly different setup techniques and have higher maintenance requirements than conventional clinchers.

Tubeless Terms You Need To Know

Sealant

This is the liquid that prevents the system from leaking air and seals small punctures. There are various types of formulas but generally, it consists of small and solid particles of fiber or rubber in some kind of liquid matrix.

Notably, sealant only works for punctures of few millimeters. For larger punctures, like a rock slashing the sidewall, this will call for another approach. While inside a tightly sealed container, a sealant can last years and up to six months inside a tire.

Valve Stem

Tubeless valve stems feature rubber grommets and a knurled nut that seal the valve hole on both sides of the rim bed. The cores are often removable, which allows a low-mess way to add sealant without gumming up the core.

 The rubber grommet profiles are often specific to the rim cross-section; valve stems from one wheel company may not work with other brands.

Tubeless Rim Tape

When you are looking for tape, go for one that is specifically listed as for tubeless systems. This is because not all rim tapes are tubeless.  The adhesive tape is used to seal the rim bed from air loss. Notably, if your wheelset has a solid rim bed with no holes for spokes, it doesn’t need the tape. 

To install the rim tape, prep the rim bed by wiping with alcohol or acetone and a clean rag and let dry. Stretch the tape just tight enough to prevent any deformity.

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