17th June 2016

What are tubeless tyres, and why do you need them?

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More and more mountain bikers are going tubeless now that the technology has proven itself for over a decade. Here’s why.

The benefits of tubeless tyres

  • A tubeless tyre has a reinforced bead and is kept in place with sealant, so no inner tube is required.
  • No inner tube means farewell to pinch flats (AKA snakebite punctures) caused by the rim pinching the tube when you ride off a ledge or through a bomb hole.
  • Eliminating pinch flats means you can safely run tubeless tyres at lower pressure.
  • Riding the tyres softer can offer better traction – especially in slippery, rootsy and snowy conditions.
  • Eliminating the inner tube makes the tyre more pliable so it deforms naturally when ridden over gravel, loose rocks and scree and hence delivers a more supple, comfortable and controllable ride.
  • The tyre sealant doesn’t just glue the tyre into place. It also helps prevent flats by sealing punctures on the go.
  • If you do get a puncture and the sealant doesn’t cure it, you can still solve the problem ‘the old way’ by fitting an inner tube.
  • Even with its reinforced bead and its sealant, a tubeless tyre usually saves at least 50g over an equivalent tyre and tube. The resulting reduction in rotational weight makes for easier climbs.

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Bike Co-op Case Histories

“The majority of people we know who have converted to tubeless tyres are delighted to have done so, and wouldn’t go back to tubes.”

Craig in our online team was famed for his devil-may-care riding style. Three flats a ride were not uncommon – til he fitted Specialized 2BRs to his Whyte 909 and made punctures history. Since going tubeless, Craig has enjoyed his first ever flat-free year.

Craig’s online colleague Grant improved on perfection by upgrading his Whyte 905 with a Specialized Purgatory Control 2BR Tyre on the front and Specialized Ground Control 2BR on the rear.

Grant confirms he will never go back to tube-filled tyres for trail riding, having experienced the extra comfort, compliance, control and speed offered by riding tubeless.

With all these benefits going for tubeless, you would think every keen mountain biker would reserve their tubes for backup. However, it would be remiss of us not to list some downsides.

The downside of tubeless tyres

  • Working with sealant can be messy whether you’re installing the tyre or you’re faced with fixing a flat.
  • A sudden burst of air pressure is required to seal a tubeless tyre against the rim. You can do this at home with a track pump. In the field, you might need a CO2 inflator.
  • The tubeless tyre has to be such a tight fit, it can be difficult to remove if you suffer a flat – hence the evolution of the heavier duty tyre lever.

For all these downsides, the majority of people we know who have converted to tubeless tyres are delighted to have done so, and wouldn’t think of reverting to tubes except for emergency repairs.

Consider the disc brake analogy. Like hydraulic disc brakes, tubeless tyres are a motor vehicle-proven upgrade, which deliver an improvement in ride, feel and performance that more than compensates for any potential extra level of complexity, maintenance wise.

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What’s required to go tubeless?

There are three possible scenarios:

1. Your bike already has tubeless-ready rims and tyres

If you’re thinking of buying or have bought one of today’s better-quality (that is 4-figure) mountain bikes, it may well already come equipped with tubeless-ready rims and tubeless-ready tyres.

In that case, all you should require to go tubeless are valves and sealant.

2. Your rims are tubeless-ready but your tyres are not

You will require valves, sealant and tubeless-ready tyres such as our latest arrivals from Maxxis or our tried and tested Specialized 2BR tyres.

3. Your rims are not tubeless-ready

Stan’s No Tubes Tubeless Kit comprises the strips, valves, tape and sealant required to convert most rims to tubeless.

To find out what’s involved in this conversion, see Stan’s video below. If you’re hesitant about taking a drill to your wheel rims, our shops’ service centres can do the conversion for you.

Let us convert your mountain bike to tubeless

  1. If you’re ordering a new mountain bike and it has 2BR (tubeless ready) rims and tyres, ask us to convert it to tubeless and we’ll do so at no extra labour cost when we assemble the bike before you pick it up. You will only be charged for parts fitted (usually valves and sealant).
  1. If the rims on the new bike are tubeless ready but the tyres aren’t we will also charge you for the new 2BR tyres, but will waive the labour charge.
  1. If your bike has 2BR rims and tyres, but you have used it, we can convert the bike to tubeless for a labour charge of £18 per wheel + the cost of any parts.
  1. If you have a bike with standard rims (not tubeless ready), we can convert the bike to tubeless for a labour charge of £30 per wheel + the cost of any parts including Stan’s No Tubes Tubeless Kit.

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