What Are Tubeless Tires?
In order to understand how tubeless tires work, here’s a quick refresher on the three main types of bicycle tires: conventional clincher, tubular, and tubeless clincher.
Conventional clinchers are the most common type of tire sold on bikes. As the inner tube inflates, it presses the rim and tire beads together, which secures the tire to the rim. A clincher tire is held on primarily with air pressure, and while they are easy to install and fix when you get a flat, they’re a little heavier, and tubes are susceptible to pinch flats.
Tubulars have an inner tube that is completely enclosed by the tire casing, which is stitched together at the base. The tire is glued to the rim. The benefit to tubulars is a highly-refined ride quality and, broadly speaking, the lowest weight and rolling resistance. The downsides are flats (with no easy fix) and tricky installation.
Tubeless tires feature the same general cross-section as a conventional clincher, but without an inner tube. Instead, a layer in the tire casing or liquid sealant is used to make the tire impermeable to air. The rim and tire beads have a different shape than conventional clinchers, with interlocking profiles that form a seal under pressure—much like how a sandwich bag closure works.
The rim bead isn’t the only difference in the wheels themselves. Because tubeless tires hold air, the rim bed needs to be sealed completely. Tubeless tires also offer the ability to run lower air pressure for a better grip and more comfortable ride, are much more resistant to flats, and the tire is less likely to separate from the rim if you do flat. But that all comes at a cost: Tubeless systems can be the heaviest of the three (especially for mountain biking). They can also be somewhat difficult to set up initially, and while flats are far less likely, if you do get one, field repairs tend to be messy and take longer than conventional clinchers.
Tubeless Ready or Tubeless Compatible?
Today, tubeless is the dominant style of wheel and tire for mountain biking. But the attributes that make it desirable also hold for gravel and cyclocross riding, and tubeless has even made inroads in performance road systems. When considering running tubeless yourself, you’ll hear three common terms used: tubeless ready, tubeless compatible, and UST. Related Story Bike Awards 2020: The Best Bikes You Can Buy
Tubeless Ready: The dominant technology in the bike industry today, tubeless-ready rims and tires have bead locks, but the actual profiles of the rim cross-sections and tire bead locks vary from brand to brand. To be “tubeless ready,” rims on complete wheelsets have spoke beds sealed with tape. Tubeless ready tires don’t have the sealed casing that UST tires (see below) do. That makes them lighter, and also means they require sealant to hold air.
Tubeless Compatible: A tubeless-compatible wheel or rim is one in which the rim has a bead lock, but the rim bed itself is not sealed. Some companies use “tubeless ready” and “tubeless compatible” as synonyms. In either case, the components needed to run the wheel and tire combo as a tubeless setup are the same: a sealed rim bed, tire with a tubeless bead lock, and sealant.
UST: An acronym that stands for Universal System Tubeless, a patented Mavic standard developed in 1999 in partnership with Hutchinson and Michelin. UST is an engineering standard, with a matching square-shaped bead lock for the rim and tire, and a tire with an impermeable butyl rubber layer so that it can be inflated and hold air without sealant. Several companies make UST-compatible tires, but Mavic is the only company making UST rims and wheels. UST tires are heavy, and the UST standard has not been updated for modern wide mountain bike rims, so it’s a small part of the overall market today.
It’s important to note that, other than UST, these are generic terms, not engineering standards. With tubeless-ready and tubeless-compatible systems, actual compatibility between tires and rims varies across brands. Check manufacturer specifications for recommendations, and never attempt to set up a non-tubeless tire or rim as tubeless. Without the bead lock, you risk unpredictable blowouts from beads separating from the rim even at normal tire pressures.
What are the pros and cons of tubeless tyres?
The knowhow section of Cycle magazine makes sense of commonly misunderstood cycling subjects. In this issue the magazine editor Dan Joyce explains Tubeless tyres.
Tubeless tyres look like normal tyres: U-shape in section, with wire or synthetic ‘beads’ embedded at the edges.
When the tyre is inflated, air pressure forces the beads up to the lipped edges of the wheel rim, holding the tyre in place.
As the name says, tubeless tyres dispense with the innertube. The tyre itself forms an airtight seal with the rim.
A tubeless rim ‘locks’ the tyre beads in place; the fit between tyre and rim is tight by design. (As it’s harder to remove the tyre, it’s thus a bad idea to run a tyre with a tube on a tubeless rim.)
A tubeless valve has a rubber plug at its base to seal the valve hole, and is held in place by its knurled nut. Some tubeless rims have no spoke holes, so air can’t escape there. Most do. You cover these with one or two wraps of tubeless rim tape, then put tubeless sealant in the tyre.
- The tyres can be ridden at lower pressures, improving traction off-road, without the risk of pinch-punctures.
- Lower pressures mean improved comfort and rolling performance on rough surfaces (see cyclinguk.org/cycle/tyre-pressure).
- Rolling resistance should be lower even on smooth surfaces.
- Since there’s no innertube, there’s no friction between tyre and tube.
- Many punctures will self seal. Most punctures that don’t seal are easy to fix with a tyre plug.
- More expensive. Tubeless tyres cost more, you may need new rims, and you will need more paraphernalia.
- Fitting is messier and more time consuming.
- Removal often requires good grip strength. If a tear or hole is too big for a tyre plug, you’ll still need a spare tube to get home.
- Air and sealant can escape (‘burping’) if the tyre bead comes away from the rim due to a sudden impact or extreme cornering force.
- Sealants that coagulate need topping up every six months.
- Valve cores clog up too.
What are the Benefits of Tubeless Tires?
So, what’s tubeless all about? Why make the conversion? Here are a just a few considerations:
1. Tubeless mountain bike tires provide better traction
With tubeless MTB tires, expect a smoother ride and the ability to maintain traction in rough terrain. The goal in biking is to keep the tire on the ground as much as possible – not bouncing off objects. While suspension does the majority of the work in absorbing impact and keeping the tires on the ground, tire pressure is the second most important factor.
In a tubeless mountain bike system, the ability to run a lower tire pressure means you can maintain more ground contact and the tire can wrap around objects. As an example, a 175lb rider running a 2.2” 29er tire can safely ride PSI in the mid-20s without a fear of losing control or lowering speed around tree roots and rocks. Running a tube in the same setup, the rider might have to ride a tire pressure as high as 35 PSI.
With the lower pressure, technical climbing also becomes more enjoyable, mainly because the tread of the tire grips obstacles and the impact is better absorbed and displaced. In this instance, with the tire firmly on the object, you get more of the power you’re putting into the climb directly into the tire,
This means that you will find it easier to maintain traction, momentum and form. Of course, running too low of tire pressure can lead to rim damage, but a bit of common sense should prevail here. With minute adjustments of tire pressure based on trail conditions, this will likely become a moot issue.
2. Reduce weight from tires
An average 29er tube weighs-in at around 200 grams. Latex filled self-sealing tubes (designed to mimic tubeless setups) can weigh upwards of 400 grams each. In a typical tubeless setup, you’re looking at about 125 grams of sealant in each tire, meaning the overall weight savings can be anywhere from 150 – 650 grams by ditching the tube.
The reason you want to shave weight in the rims and tires – as opposed to, say, cutting weight out of a frame or seat post – has to do with the effect of rotational mass. It simply takes more energy to accelerate a heavier wheel. And, because you brake and accelerate frequently when mountain biking, the overall effect is that you’re going to expend greater energy accelerating and, generally, be slower over the long haul.
Overall, the weight savings may seem minimal – maybe 400 grams in total – but when you’re powering up tough technical sections or trudging through climb after climb, you’ll be certain to notice the difference.
3. Eliminate Pinch Flats
We’ve all been there: barreling through a root strewn downhill or landing a large drop and just when you think you’ve made it…hissssssss. The tire folds. The ride comes to a stop. It’s a pinch flat, a snake bite – a point where, because of the impact, the tube has pinched between the rim and the tire, causing the distinct two-hole catastrophic tears in the tube. Good luck patching these suckers with a standard patch kit; you’ll likely need an extra tube with you to resolve the issue. If you race, you know those minutes spent fixing the issue will be the the difference between a podium finish and a potential DNF.
With a tubeless setup, pinch flats are much less likely. Big impacts or running too low of tire pressure can certainly lead to “burps” where the pressure pushes past the rim and tire walls, but if the tire hasn’t unseated itself from the rim (hard to do) the issue is easily resolved by simply adding more air from a pump or CO2. In a matter of seconds you’re on your way.
4. Eliminate the Need for a Patch Kit
Around Texas, we have the notorious Puncturevine plant (produces those needle sharp goatheads), mesquite thorns, and a wide variety of spine producing cactus that easily pierce tires and make pin prick size holes through the tire and into the tubes. It may be 30 minutes into the ride before you notice it, but the tire inevitably gets flat, the ride stops, and the tire levers and the patch kit comes out. Minor tube punctures eat up ride time while you search for the puncture and there is no guarantee that the patch will hold.
The effect of minor punctures with tubeless: none. The various latex formulas that coat the inside of the tubeless tire setup means a small puncture – some up to a whopping 3mm or ⅛” – will self-seal. The pressure of the tire forces the sealant into the affected area and, within seconds, seals the area. If this fails (which it sometimes will if the foreign object is still lodged in the tire), the general practice is to simply remove the object, fill the tire with air and spin the tire to ensure a distribution of the sealant into the puncture. No dismounting of the wheel, taking off the tire needed.
This isn’t to say that tubeless systems don’t sometimes fail. You encounter a massive object and bend the rim causing the tire to not seat properly on it. You rip the sidewall of the tire on an object or sustain a large puncture. These impacts, however, would likely still cause your regular tube-filled tire to fail. But the beauty of the tubeless system is that you can do your best to fix the quick tear (perhaps using tape or even a dollar bill) still put in a tube in and ride away.
Deflating Some Myths
In the early days of tubeless technology, a lack of reliability in tubeless systems – and overall weight of the sealant and tires – were definite concerns. But the technology has come a long way in 10 years. There will always be people who ardently defend tubes and say that tubeless is a gimmick or not worth it. But in most every instance of mountain and trail riding, tubeless is – by far – the lightest, most reliable and cost effective setup you can ride.
Like any system, tubeless needs maintenance. In hot dry conditions, the sealant can dry up, requiring riders to add a small dose of new sealant to keep the system working. It can be as easy to do by simply removing the valve core, adding in sealant and re-inflating, but if the sealant dries up, you have to remove the valve core, address clumping and start over. If you don’t ride often, be sure to be aware of the need to maintain and add small doses of additional sealant. In general, just try not let it dry out by keeping your bike indoors and out of super hot and dry conditions. This can be anywhere from 6-8 weeks depending on conditions. But, if you ride a lot, this could also be about the time you need to begin thinking about changing out tires due to normal wear and tear.
Best Tubeless Bike TYRES
The motorcycle tyres are broadly categorized into two types namely tubeless and tube-type tyres. Leaving a few, most of the new age bikes – including mass segment motorcycles – come installed with tubeless tyres. The tubeless tyres offer an upper hand over the tube type ones in terms of maintenance, puncture resistance, convenience, and prolonged life. Compared to tubeless, tube-type tyres deflate quickly, while with tubeless you can travel certain distance – searching for tyre repair – as loss of air happens gradually. So let’s have a look at the best tubeless tyres in the market for 100cc-150cc segment motorcycles in India.
Michelin City Pro
The French tyre manufacturer has been in the country for two decades now. It has been continuously coming up with products that suit Indian road conditions. The Michelin City Pro is a very capable motorcycle tyre with sizes for nearly all the motorcycles in the 100-150cc segment. The city road-specific tyre features robust tyre pattern that confronts pothole-filled roads well. The use of innovative bridging tech ensures longer and maintenance-free life. Excellent handling and optimum grip are enabled by unique tread design, while progressive sipe expertise gets excellent traction under wet conditions.
The Zoom series of motorcycle tyres from the leading two-wheeler tyre maker needs no introduction. Known for superior life and handling ability, CEAT Zoom tyre – which also comprise of Zoom X3, Zoom XL and others – have proven record of agile performance under demanding road conditions. On one hand, the smaller capacity Zoom (100cc) tyres focus on longevity and good grip, while on performance (150cc) tyres are intended towards brilliant cornering, braking and confident leaning. The tyre offers enhanced grip under wet setups, thanks to the wide contact area and unique tread design that aids in better water dispersal.
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TVS Protorq Sport
A very promising tyre under the Eurogrip brand of TVS Tyres, Protorq Sport comes in more than 10 different tyre fitment sizes. Designed and developed keeping in mind millennial customers, it receives fascinating aesthetics bundled with the latest technology. Protorq Sport gets modern tread pattern and unique profile to ensure enhanced riding experience to its riders. Its rounded edges and extended shoulder design guarantee apt stability at high speeds, while the tough carcass structure tackles road surface damages with ease. High tread life and even contact with the surface is ensured for long, courtesy use of unique blend of rubber compound.
Zapper series tyres (Zapper Q, Zapper FS, Zapper FY, and others) have been original equipment tyres to numerous Indian and foreign motorcycles in the country. One of the most trusted tyres in the biking arena, MRF Zapper is the first choice of motorcyclists, irrespective of the segment, owing to their reliability, handling, performance and apt pricing. Developed through extensive R&D, Zappers feature centre groove with deep treads for excellent grip on any surface. With its innovative tread design, it maintains better control even at high speeds. Further, the integration of innovative compound results in longer tread life.
So, if you are looking to change your worn-out tube-type tyres with the tubeless ones, you can choose any from the aforesaid. Depending upon your budget and requirement you can zero upon the tyre for your bike.
Road Bike Tubeless Tyre maintenance and puncture repair guide
06 May, 2016
Road Bike Tubeless tyres are a fantastic upgrade to any road bike. Benefits include increased grip, lower rolling resistance and increased puncture resistance. Our tubeless tyre fitting service is a quick and easy introduction to the world of road bike tubeless tyres however we often receive questions about tubeless tyre maintenance and puncture repair. The aim of this blog is to answer some of the most common questions and give you a better understanding of the practicalities of running tubeless tyres.
What happens if I puncture?
A huge advantage of road bike tubeless tyres is the reduced risk of puncture. There are two reasons for this, firstly as there is no inner tube the risk of pinch punctures is totally eliminated. The second reason is the latex sealant used ensures that the tyre remains airtight and is sealed to the wheel rim. The sealant contains tiny rubber particles that plug holes and repair punctures on the go. They are designed to seal holes up to approximately 2 mm wide so for most common punctures such as a small piece of glass, stone or a thorn the sealant will instantly block the hole sealing the puncture. Often you will be unaware that you have even had a puncture and it’s not until you finish your ride and spot a small damp patch on the tyre that you realise the sealant has sealed a hole.
Of course tubeless tyres are not totally puncture resistant and the sealant will struggle to repair larger tyre cuts. The high air pressure can force the sealant through rather than sealing larger holes. The pressure may drop slightly in the tyre as some air is lost and thus also allow the sealant to seal the hole and it is still possible to ride home on tyres with around 60 psi in them. However, there are a couple of quick and easy solutions to get you back up and running if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from a tyre cut that won’t seal.
Tubeless Repair Kits
Tubeless Plug kits are a quick and easy method of fixing a tubeless puncture. Essentially the tubeless plug kit is a piece of rubberised cord that you force into the tyre cut. The plug fills the hole in and allows the latex sealant to work sealing the puncture. The tubeless plug kit is a very quick and easy way to fix a punctured tubeless tyre on the road side and you can continue to use the tyre for many miles after the repair.
The most common method of fixing a tubeless puncture is to simply fit an inner tube. This repair is a quick and easy way to get you home. You will have to remove the tubeless valve by undoing the lock ring and then fit a new inner tube as you would with a standard clincher wheel. Remember to check that there is nothing sharp on the inside of the tyre such as glass or sharp stones as the sealant may well have sealed numerous other punctures with the sharp object still in place. Just make sure you have a spare tube with you out on your rides and make sure the valve is long enough if you are using deep section rims.
What If the cut is too large to reseal with the options above?
Once home (after fitting an inner tube &/or tyre boot) it is possible to repair smaller cuts in a tubeless tyre with tube patches. We will often secure the patch and reinforce the tyre by applying duct tape to the rear of the repair (inside tyre) and even sometimes using superglue to seal the tread back together, however please check with your tyre manufacturers advice on this before undertaking such a repair.
Tubeless tyre maintenance
The main maintenance that you will need to carry out on your tubeless tyres is ensuring that the sealant remains topped up. The sealant is water based and so it can dry out, the general rule is to check the sealant levels every couple of months and if required top them up. There should be a small puddle of latex inside the tyre. If no liquid is visible then you will need to add more sealant to the tyre.
If the temperature is particularly hot then it is advisable to check the sealant more frequently as the heat can dry it out more quickly.
For more information on adding Sealant and fitting a tubeless tyre please watch our How to Fit a Tubeless tyre video.
What if my tyre loses air pressure?
There are couple of reasons for unexplained pressure loss in tubeless tyres. The first has already been addressed and that is simply that the latex sealant has dried up. The simple solution is to top up the tyre with sealant and this should then seal the air leaks.
Another issue can be damaged rim tape. If the tyre has lost pressure or you have changed tyres the rim tape can become damaged or in some cases peel up. Renewing the rim tape ensures a good seal with the rim and will seal any unnoticed leaks.