The Benefits of Tubeless Tires
What are tubeless tires?
As the name suggests, tubeless tires are a wheel setup with no inner tube. They massively improve puncture resistance thanks to an inventive solution that foregoes the inner tube for a latex sealant.
Without an inner tube, riders avoid the all too common problem of pinch flats when riding at speed offroad. Tubeless tires are impermeable, and the bed of the rim is airtight to ensure a tight grip where no air can escape. Most tubeless setups use sealant—a liquid applied through the valve that acts to repair small holes that would otherwise cause a puncture. In most cases, the sealant takes mere seconds to act and results in minimal loss of pressure.
The advantages of tubeless tires
Tubeless tires offer several advantages, and depending on your riding style and preferred terrain, it may make perfect sense to upgrade. Here are the top three benefits of tubeless tires.
1) Say goodbye to flats
Flat tires are every cyclist's worst nemesis. But with tubeless tires, you drastically decrease your chances of getting a flat mid-ride.
If a puncture does occur, the sealant inside the tire will seal the hole in a matter of seconds. And in cases where the hole is too big for the sealant to close, you can insert a tube just like old times to get you home.
Another major advantage of tubeless tires is that riders never have to worry about pinch flats (also known as snake bites). Particularly common in off-road riding, with no tube inside to pinch, this inconvenience becomes a thing of the past.
2) Increased comfort with lower tire pressures
Lower tire pressures mean more comfortable riding. When running at 90-100 psi on the road, road vibration is transmitted efficiently up through the bike and can become a real inconvenience. With tubeless tires, you can run slightly lower pressures that'll ensure a smoother, more comfortable experience.
Without the fear of pinch flats, it's quite safe, and indeed even preferable to run lower pressures on tubeless setups. This also allows the tire to conform to the road surface and provide a more cushioned ride for increased ride comfort. Lower tire pressures also result in more of the tire being in contact with the road surface. This provides more grip and enhanced traction and is especially beneficial offroad.
3) Less Rolling Resistance
Those riding tubeless tires on offroad conditions will benefit greatly from the reduction in rolling resistance associated with tubeless tires.
When a tire hits a bump on a trail, the wheel is thrust either upward or off to one side. This slows riders down by inhibiting forward moment and is often exacerbated with higher tire pressures. By running lower pressures on tubeless tires, the tire absorbs the shock more readily by deforming slightly upon impact.
On offroad terrain with abundant rocks, roots, and jumps, the lower pressures make a considerable difference to rolling resistance.
Standard tires won't deform in the same way and thus won't absorb the shock as efficiently. It's these seemingly small gains that can quickly add up and become significant on certain types of off-road terrain.
Going the tubeless route allows riders to really feel their wheels roll. They result in faster, smoother, more efficient riding and take away much of the stress associated with puncturing and pinch flats.
The do's and don'ts of tubeless tires
With tubeless tires, there are some critical steps that every rider should bear in mind to ensure optimal functioning of any tubeless setup.
- Use sealant for puncture protection, but don't forget to change it every three to four months as it may dry up and become ineffective.
- After applying sealant, always roll the tire before pumping it. This will ensure it's much easier to inflate.
- Don't attempt to install a tubeless tire unless you are highly experienced. Always use a bike mechanic.
- Don't install a normal non-tubeless tire in a tubeless setup. Without the stiffer bead on tubeless tires that holds it onto the rim, this is highly dangerous.
Are tubeless tires worth it?
You'll save weight, get fewer flats, and enjoy a smoother ride, but you'll also spend more money, spend more time mounting them, and if you're responsible, then you still have to carry a tube just like before!
The question of whether tubeless tires are worth it depends very much upon the individual cyclist and their riding style. But at the very least, fewer flats mean more time riding and less time stressing.
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