Tubeless Tire FAQ
Electric Bike Frequently Asked Questions
Tubeless bicycle tire systems are becoming more popular. A common question we get from customers here at Piccadilly Cycles is whether “going tubeless” is the right choice. That’s a great question! The objective of this post is to offer an introduction to tubeless tire systems and briefly discuss some of the advantages (and potential disadvantages) that tubeless can provide.
Tubeless tire systems for bikes don’t rely on rubber inner tubes for keeping your bike rolling. Instead, tubeless systems basically use a tire that is specifically-designed to hold air without a tube (like a car tire), along with an impermeable tape that covers up the spoke holes inside the rim. It is important to know that “going tubeless” requires a system of components that all work together for a safe riding experience. If you omit any of these components, expect your setup to let you down on the road (or trail). The system is composed of the following:
The two safety-critical components in a tubeless system are the tire and the rim, and these must be rated for tubeless use. Proper tires are fairly simple to recognize, as they will have a tubeless-compatible designation printed on the sidewall. Some of the more common designations are, “TR” - Tubeless Ready, “TCS” - Tubeless Compatible System, and “TLE” - Tubeless Easy. Compatible rims can be more difficult to identify because not all tubeless rims are labeled and it may be necessary to contact the rim manufacturer for clarification.
The remaining three necessary components – rim tape, valve stems, and sealantmust be used and installed correctly for the tubeless system to function as intended.
Rim tape should match the internal width of the rim bed, or be slightly wider. For example, a rim with an internal width of 25mm can use 25mm or 27mm tape, but the 27mm tape could be ideal if the rim bed has any curvature. The key points regarding rim tape are that it should provide wall-to-wall coverage of the rim bed and adhere well to the surface. It is a good idea to choose a rim tape that is strong enough to resist potential tearing and punctures from tire levers during tire installation and removal, because the tape must provide an airtight seal on the inside of the rim.
Valve stems are needed for tire inflation and bleeding air from the system. Valve stems should be the correct type for the size of the valve hole in the rim and the right length for the depth of the rim. The valve stem needs to be installed tightly enough to provide an airtight seal around the valve hole in the rim.
Liquid sealant is the last necessary component, and its main purpose is to initially fill in the imperfections found in rubber tubeless tires and also plug small punctures in the tire that are sustained during riding. There are many sealants available, either latex-based or latex-free, that can be used for tubeless systems. The right sealant depends on where you ride and how often you are willing to refresh the sealant in your tires. Your local bike shop should be able to help with choosing a sealant and have several choices available.
It is possible to set up your own tubeless system. Taping rims, mounting tires, and installing valve stems are usually not difficult processes, but it can be frustrating when the tape doesn’t stick or a tire seems to be particularly tight and impossible to mount. Also, an air compressor is often required for a high-volume blast of air to fully seat the tire on the rim. As with any tire inflation, it is important to pay close attention during this process to ensure that the tire is not blown off the rim from improper installation or too much air pressure. Once the tire is fully seated on the rim, the final step is to add sealant to the system. The best way to add sealant to the tubeless system is to remove core of the valve stem, purge the air from the tire, and inject sealant through the stem into the tire. This process avoids the mess associated with blowing sealant all over your workspace when trying to seat the tire with that high-volume blast of air from the compressor. Once the sealant is in the tire, replace the valve core and inflate the tire to proper riding pressure.
A quick step-by-step rundown of the tubeless setup process:
confirm that the rims and tires are rated for tubeless use
install valve stem
mount and fully seat tire on rim
If any part of the tubeless setup process seems daunting, your local bike shop is happy to assist with setting up your bike tubeless so you can keep the air safely in your tires!
Even after going tubeless, it is possible to get a flat tire. If this happens, there are several options to get rolling again. If there is a puncture that hasn’t self-sealed, you can add a tire plug to help seal the hole and then inflate the tire. If the puncture is too large to seal with a tire plug or the tire has torn, you will have to use a tube and potentially a tire boot to keep the tube from escaping the hole or tear in the tire. Why would you want to go tubeless if you can still get a flat tire? Well, the next section outlines some of the benefits of tubeless systems for different types of riding.
Tubeless tires allow for lower tire pressure, which equates to a smoother ride, more traction, and less rolling resistance on bumpy trails or gravel roads.
Tubeless tires will seal small punctures while riding and virtually eliminate pinch flats because there is no tube to pinch!
Tubeless systems are slightly lighter than traditional tube and tire systems, so making the switch can save up to half a pound of rotational weight at the wheels. This weight savings will make the overall bike lighter, and also improve acceleration.
Tubeless systems can be more expensive than traditional tires and tubes.
Tubeless tires can be more difficult to mount, due to a tighter fit compared to traditional tires.
It is still necessary to carry a tube.
That is a great question! If you’ve read this far and are still uncertain, give us a call or stop in at Piccadilly Cycles - we’re excited to assist and get you rolling in the right direction.