How to go tubeless

How to go tubeless

Tubeless tyres do away with the inner tube, instead they grip tight against the rim to create an airtight seal. Tubeless tyres aren’t just popular because of the saving you’ll make on tubes – they can make a real difference to your riding too!!

Before we get started, we should explain that you can’t run tubeless tyres on your normal wheels. Instead, you’ll need to invest in a new set of tubeless-ready wheels and tyres.

In this guide we will talk you through what you need to go tubeless as well as describing some alternative puncture-proofing options.

Why would I want to go tubeless?

Most bikes come fitted with clincher tyres. These tyres have a bead that grips to the rim to keep them in place. Inside the casing is a separate inner tube that you inflate to provide the pressure.

Tubeless tyres have no inner tube, with the tyre forming and airtight seal with the rim and being filled with a liquid sealant to stop air from leaking out.

They first emerged on mountain bikes, but are rapidly gaining popularity on the road too. Fixing a puncture halfway up a mountain or down it is a hassle, so riders are switching to hardwearing and puncture-protected tubeless tyres.

Here are some reasons why:

Puncture protection

A tubeless system (tubeless tyres and wheels) eliminates two forms of puncture: pinch flats and tube tears and rips. 

Pinch flats occur when the inner tube is squeezed by the tyre after you run over a large object, or drop into a dip or pothole. No tube means no pinch flats.

Tubeless tyres are filled with a special sealant that will instantaneously heal any rips or tears that happen. Glass, tacks, nails and more are much less likely to cause punctures or result in a complete loss of pressure.  

Comfort

As they virtually removing the possibility of punctures, you can safely run tubeless tyres at much lower tyre pressures than tube and tyre combinations.

Running lower tyre pressures provides increased grip, and offers a more comfortable ride, as the tyres form over the trail or road surface and soak up the lumps and bumps.

The really great thing? There is little or no impact on performance and speed.

Traditional clinchers can experience a high level of friction, thanks to the interface between the tube and the tyre. This friction can slow you down. Remove the tube and you reduce rolling resistance, which means you’ll be faster.

What do I need?

If you’re converting your bike to a tubeless setup, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Tubeless ready wheelset - the rim profile of these wheels will differ to standard wheels that use tubes. Look closely or compare the two types and you'll notice a larger tyre bead recess.
  • Tubeless ready tyres - these tyres have fully sealed interiors to prevent air escaping. Look for a 'Tubeless Ready' label on the sidewall.
  • Tubeless sealant - the sealant prevents air from escaping through the tyre or the rim if it becomes pierced.
  • Tubeless valve - similar to standard Presta valves, tubeless valves have small seal at the end of them.
  • Rim tape – it’s important to match the width of the tape to the width of your rim.
  • Tyre levers – to get the tyre onto the wheel.
  • Floor pump – for inflating the tyre to the required pressure.

Step 1: Prepare the wheel rim

Before you start, make sure that the rim of your tubeless wheel is clean, dry and free of the original rim tape.

Begin taping opposite the valve, applying the tape in strips. You’ll need to apply plenty of tension to ensure a good connection between the tape and the rim.

We’d recommend overlapping the tape by 4-8cm, then cutting the tape and smoothing it out to eliminate any bubbles.

Step 2: Install the valve

Using scissors or a knife, make a precise hole in the rim tape where the valve will be. It’s easier to cut from inside the wheel to the outside.

Tighten the valve nut by hand.

Step 3: Seat the tyre

Slide one side of the tyre onto the wheel. A good tip is to line up the logo and tyre information with the valve.

Rotate the wheel and install 90% of the other side. Don’t fully seat the whole tyre at this stage.

Step 4: Pour in the sealant

Now it’s time to add the sealant. The amount you need will depend on the size of your tyre. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for exact measurements and be careful not to use too much or too little.

There are various methods you can use, but the simplest and most effective is to apply sealant through the valve stem.

Tubeless valve stems have a removable core that you can take out to apply the sealant and replace once you’re done. You can purchase core-removers for this purpose, but a gentle hand and a set of pliers will work just as well.

Using a sealant syringe or applicator bottle, squeeze the recommended amount of sealant into the tyre. Rotate the wheel gently to ensure that sealant covers the inside.

Step 5: Fully seat the tyre

Before fully seating the tyre, rotate the wheel to ensure the sealant runs to a point where both sides of the tyre bead are seated.

Once you’re happy, lift the rest of the tyre onto the rim. The bead on tubeless tyres is much tighter than traditional clinchers, so you’ll need to use your tyre levers.

Step 6: Inflate the tyre

Now comes the tricky bit. You need to create an airtight seal as well as making sure that the bead of the tyre is seated evenly. To make things easier, a charger pump, like the Beto Surge Track Pump, can be used.

Powerful pumps like this allow you to build up pressure in a separate chamber, before you release the air in one hit, straight into the tyre. You’ll know you’ve got it right if you see the tyre inflate rapidly and pop onto the rim.

Once you’re happy to tyre is seated properly, inflate it to the required pressure. Be careful not to exceed the maximum pressure for the tyre or rim.

Step 7: Disperse the sealant

Once the tyre is inflated, you’ll need to disperse the sealant around the inside of the wheel.

Stand the wheel vertically and from around 5cm gently bounce it on the ground. This action disperses the sealant around the tyre. To ensure you cover the entire circumference of the wheel, rotate the wheel a few degrees each time. If you spot small amount of sealant leaking out of the sidewalls, lay the tyre on its side and plug these small holes.

Puncture protection alternatives

Converting your bike to a tubeless set-up isn’t exactly cheap, and while the benefits outweigh the costs for many there are alternative options.

Here are three:

  • Good quality tubes – think all inner tubes are the same? Think again! Cheap inner tubes can tear, split and pop under pressure. Invest in good quality branded tubes and you’ll reduce the likelihood of experiencing a puncture.
  • Puncture proof tyres – city tyres such as the classic Schwalbe Marathon Plus are built to withstand glass and tacks. They’re not as smooth as tubeless tyres and you’ll still need tubes, but you won’t need to swap your wheels.
  • SlimeSlime sealant can be added to your inner tubes and will protect from punctures of up to 3mm. Our in-store Slime service will add Slime to your tubes for just £6 each.
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