How to go tubeless

Tubeless tyres are becoming increasingly popular – and for good reason! Unlike other options, tubeless tyres don’t need an inner tube. Instead, they grip the inside of the rim to create an airtight seal.

Using tubeless tyres comes with a host of benefits and there are lots of reasons why you might want to switch to a tubeless setup. Here’s everything you need to know.


What are tubeless tyres?

Most bikes come fitted with clincher tyres. These tyres have a bead that grips to the rim to keep them in place and they require an inner tube.

Tubeless tyres work differently, gripping the inside of the rim to create an airtight seal. This removes the need for an inner tube and allows the rider to insert a puncture-resistant sealant which helps plug any small holes in the tyre.

What’s the difference between tubeless tyres and tubular tyres?

Tubular tyres are more similar to clincher tyres as they use an inner tube. However, this inner tube is sewn into the tyre itself and can’t be replaced if it punctures. That means that the tyres often have to be replaced after a puncture, which is why they’re only usually used for bike racing.


Why would I want to go tubeless?

Tubeless tyres first gained popularity among mountain bikers, but are now common among road riders who appreciate the puncture protection they offer.

The biggest benefit of using tubeless tyres is therefore the added puncture protection. If a tubeless tyre is damaged or pierced, the sealant gets to work closing the hole, with most sealants safely sealing holes of up to 6mm.

It’s important to remember that, while tubeless tyres offer improved puncture protection, they aren’t completely puncture proof. That means punctures are less likely, but can still happen (so we recommend you always carry a spare tube when you’re out riding).

Tubeless tyres can also be run at lower pressures than clinchers as there’s no risk of a pinch flat - doing so makes the ride less firm for added comfort.

Additionally, fixing a puncture in the middle of the road can be a hassle, so riders are switching to hardwearing and puncture-protected tubeless tyres.

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 remove 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 or tubeless-ready tyres - these tyres have fully sealed interiors to prevent air escaping.
  • Tubeless sealant - the sealant prevents air from escaping through the tyre or the rim if it becomes pierced - all tubeless-ready tyres need sealant.
  • Tubeless valve - similar to standard Presta valves, tubeless valves have a 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. Getting a tubeless tyre to seat on the rim can sometimes take a large burst of air pressure that a floor pump can’t always provide. If you’re struggling with this, a CO2 pump may be needed.

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 the 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 amounts of sealant leaking out of the sidewalls, lay the tyre on its side and plug these small holes.


Can I use tubeless tyres on my current wheels?

Sadly, you can’t just stick a tubeless tyre on your bike. The rim needs to have a bead lock to hold the tyre firmly in place and keep it airtight, and the interior of the rim needs to be sealed, with a rubber seal or tape.

If you want to run tubeless tyres, there are two types of wheels to choose from:

  1. Tubeless-ready or tubeless-compatible
  2. UST

Tubeless-ready wheels have bead locks in place, and the spoke beds will be sealed with tape. The rims are likely to have a square shape rather than the rounded style you’d find on inner-tube systems. There’s no standard for tubeless tyres, so components from different manufacturers may not match.

If you want to convert your wheels to run tubeless tyres, you can use a tubeless kit which includes everything you need to make the switch.

UST or Uniform System Tubeless wheels must meet a certified standard to use the UST label. You can fit any UST tyre to a UST rim, and you don’t even need to use any sealant.


How do I fix a flat on tubeless road bike tyre?

Fixing a flat on a tubeless road bike tyre is a little more complicated than replacing a tyre and a tube, but with our step-by-step guide, you’ll be fine.


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.

Slime – Slime 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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