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Tubeless tyre myth busting

Tubeless tyres (TL) have been around on mountain bikes for years (and even longer for cars!) and in the last couple of years road bikes also. These provide some real benefits when used so take a look at what these are in relation to mountain biking first.

One of the biggest for mtb benefits is the ability to ride at lower pressures, without a high risk of pinch flats. The lower pressures allow the tyre to mold to the shape of what it rolls across providing a larger contact patch which provides more grip. Be warned though, too low and you may risk burping (when the tyre bead releases from the rim for a short period releasing a burst of air) which will result in even lower pressures. And the heavier you are the greater the risk of burping on low pressure - but a quality tubeless ready rim and tyre combo should greatly reduce this risk. A lower pressure can give you a softer ride also with a bit of sidewall flex contributing to the bikes suspension system absorbing the impact of smaller stones and sticks on the trail.

Too high a pressure will also reduce the risk of burping and improve rolling resistance but too high and you sacrifice grip. A high pressure may cause the bike to bump across a trail and not maintain continuous contact which can greatly effect the bikes ability to corner at speed and brake efficiently.

You can still pinch a TL tyre if you hit a rock or log at speed but if this is your style, you may be better off upgrading your skills as if you hit things this hard often it’s not safe.

You can slash a sidewall on an obstacle however if a small nick it should self-seal with the latex liquid within (60ml for a mtb tyre). Many brands now offer products with side wall reinforcement but these can add tyre weight also (but worth it on our local trails in my opinion)

For road tyres the benefits are similar however the emphasis for road is on minimising rolling resistance with grip considered as a secondary requirement. TL allows you to ride at say 90psi providing much more grip and a softer more forgiving ride with the less rolling resistance as say a non TL tyre at a teeth rattling 110psi.

On the road I have hit pot holes (that the rider in front hasn’t called out) with a TL setup and not resulted in a flat. With a with non TL I would have been on the roadside changing a tube for sure. Same too the TL setup can take the small pieces of glass etc and self seal with latex where the non TL would slowly deflate! (It’s still good practice to periodically check your tyres to pick the glass and small stones out).

There are also some horror stories out there putting users off this technology. It’s generally user error or non understanding as the case may be. Here are a few points to note about tubeless if you are considering:

Only use tubeless ready (TR) tyres and rims. You can get conversion kits for non TR rims to seal them up but ultimately these often don’t provide long term reliability. You can get a non TR tyre to seal but the rim / bead bond is never as good and often becomes problematic in time also.

Always use a latex liquid in the tyre. There are different brands available and the amount to use depends on tyre volume, but we will leave that for another day. Be sure to check the latex levels periodically also. In our climate they do dry out and we occasionally may lose some by it doing its job. There are new kits available now that allow you to check and top up latex levels by just removing the valve core and inserting a straw like syringe extension and with these you can top up without risking breaking the bead seal. It’s a good idea to remove them and clean up the valve plunger occasionally also.

You don’t need a compressor to seal the tyre but if your tyre has been stored and has the bead bent out of shape a compressor is one way to help resolve this. There are floor pumps now with pressure canisters incorporated that can supply the sealing pressure shot to seat a new bead also.

Always ensure when first inflating the tyre the bead snaps into the rim. Don’t exceed the max tyre or rim pressure though. You can hear it 'snap' in however a bit of foamy water on the rim will help this occur at a lower pressure.

Once in, spin the tyre to seal any porous areas of the tyre with the latex.

If you are losing pressure every day, most of the time it’s a valve issue. A bit of soapy water sprayed on the wheel should expose where the leak is by showing bubbles.

If you have a puncture that refuses to self-seal at any time you can always put a tube in and the wheel will perform just like a normal non TL set up. You can ride it that way until you have time to sort out the issue.

So if you are thinking about a TL set up on your next bike, be sure to ask if the wheel set is compatible. Try out some varying tyre pressures and before you know it you will be like me and not ride road or trail without it.

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