Most of the people I know are running a tubeless setup on their mountain bikes. I’m running tubeless tyres on my bike. It’s something I’d recommend to anyone who’s not yet made the swap and it’s super easy to do.
Tubeless, simply put, refers to the lack of inner tubes in tyres. Instead, the inner tube is replaced with sealant which stays liquid inside the tyre and seals any small holes in the tyre itself. Of course, the benefits to this are pretty obvious to begin with. Those thorns which have caused so many problems when using inner tubes are no longer an issue 99% of the time. Instead of stopping to replace an inner tube with a tiny hole, instead the sealant does the work of drying in the hole and preventing a total flat.
Another advantage to tubeless is the reduced rolling resistance and weight (although, unless you’re into cross country you’ll not really notice the weight). Getting rid of an inner tube means that increased tyre volume allows for lower pressure. Lower pressures mean a tyre which is easier to deform in corners, right where the grip – especially in the front tyre – matters most. No more washing out. Sounds good, right?
Setting up tubeless is relatively easy to do. Do be warned though: there are plenty of tyre and rim combinations which may lead to a little swearing whilst trying to seat. There are only a few things you’ll need:
- Tubeless ready rims OR rim tape and tubeless valves.
- Tyre (preferably tubeless compatible).
- Air compressor or high volume pump are optimal. If you don’t have these, get a valve core removal tool and make sure you have a decent breakfast – you’ll need the energy.
The premise is easy enough – make sure your rim is all taped up to stop the air escaping through the gaps where the spokes are. Pop the tubeless valve into the rim. Put one half of the tyre onto the rim. Pour in the sealant (it’ll tell you how much on the back of the bottle but I like to add a drop more just to be sure). Pop on the other half of the tyre. Pump it up until you hear the bead of the tyre pop against the rim. Believe me, you’ll know when it happens.
Pumping the tyre up is probably the hardest bit – which explains the suggestion of an air compressor. If you don’t have an air compressor, it can be done by hand (I’ve seated both of my tyres by hand as I don’t own a compressor) but you’ll definitely want to remove the valve core to help you out with this.
When you’re all converted, it’s worth mentioning that a tubeless setup doesn’t remove all potential of punctures. You can still slice a tyre open and lose pressure. In this case, a plug kit like Sahmurai Sword can be useful. One of the little tacky strips can be poked into the cut and the sealant inside the tyre will fill in the rest. I’ve tested this at Antur Stiniog Bike Park when I cut the tyre open and had to walk the rest of the run. Honestly, I thought I’d have to get a replacement tyre from the shop but that wasn’t the case. Plug in, quick spin, re-inflate and back to the top for more laps.
I also run a tyre insert just to make sure that, should I get a flat, my rim is protected from hard impacts which may otherwise leave it with a dent. There are all sorts of inserts out there but Rockstop is the one I use. It makes getting the tyre on a little more tricky to start with but otherwise the process is exactly the same (with the addition of the insert before beading the tyre.
I do still carry an inner tube just to be on the safe side – after all, what would happen if you were miles away from finishing a ride and sealant wasn’t working. As of yet I’ve never had to use it though and it ends up being the group spare tube in most cases for those who either aren’t running tubeless or haven’t set it up right to begin with.
Altogether, I’m more than happy with the conversion to tubeless and I’d definitely recommend you to give it a go if you’ve not already done so.