Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Should I Go Tubeless on My Road Bike? How About On My Mountain Bike?

Pros and Cons of Going Tubeless for Road and Mountain


Flat Protection -

Anecdotal evidence from testers at suggests that tubeless systems incur fewer flats than tubes.

They go on to mention that road tubeless tires currently available are thicker and heavier than the high-end, nontubeless clinchers — making a comparison difficult.

Lower Pressure -

Road tubeless are designed to work at lower pressures than most road clinchers. Hutchinson (a tire company that developed road tubeless with Shimano) recommends that cyclists use as much as 13 psi less than they would run in a tube.

Some riders claim the ride is as smooth as a tubular tire. Lower pressure can also boost traction when cornering and braking, as softer tires stick to the ground better.

Others claim that riding tubeless isn't as supple as high-quality, traditional tubulars or even the best open clinchers.


Hutchinson claims that its road tubeless tires, built with no-stretch carbon beads, cannot roll off the rim. Assuming Hutchinson is right, the tire will stay on the rim should you go flat.

Cons of going tubeless

Limited Selection

There are currently 25 tubeless road wheels and 10 tires on the market. More options are on the way, but nothing like the breadth of products available for cyclists riding standard clinchers.

More Maintenance

Working with road tubeless wheels and tires isn't as simple as handling a regular clincher. You have to be patient when working stiff beads on and off rims, a process that often requires soapy water.

You have to be careful about choosing tire levers, repairing punctures, and installing valves, rim tape, and strips. You may also need an air compressor to properly install many tires. You have to remember to refill the tire with fresh sealant every few months — and if the sealant can't fix a puncture out on the road, the repair is much more time-consuming and complicated.


If you ditch tubes, you should use sealant. But putting it into the tire can be messy, and inserting a tube in the event of a bad cut will be even messier. You'll also need to strip the old goop from the rim when it's time to add new sealant.

You can make the decision for yourself about fitting your road bike with tubeless tires. It won't save you a lot of weight, and setup and maintenance are a little harder than normal. Once everything is together, the system requires a little more vigilance, but the ability to run lower pressure offers a smooth ride and good traction.

Now on to Mountain Bikes.

From , "Tubeless is an advantage to hard-core riders who want maximal responsiveness and control, while avoiding pinch-flats in difficult terrain. 'Going tubeless' is not worthwhile if you're basically a gutter-bunny who occasionally ventures onto smooth dirt trails."

Once again, the pros of going tubeless on your setup are as follows.

No Pinch Flats

If there is no inner tube, you can't get a pinch flat! You can however, cut a hole in the tire, and you are more likely to cut a hole through the tire casing while tubeless than with a tubed system, because there is no inner tube to add cushion between the rim and tire.

Remember that when using a regular tubed system, there are great tire liners out there that can keep you from getting a pinch flat as well, at a fraction of the cost of a tubeless system.

Better Bump Absorbtion and Control

When there's no inner tube pushing against the tire casing, it will deform more easily when it rolls

over a rock. That means sharp bumps become softer bumps. Tiny bumps don't cause as much vibration and shaking.

Reduced Rotating Weight

If you're converting a standard rim to tubeless, using rim liner, sealant, and a standard tire, the wheel's rotating weight is less than with a standard inner tube by about 50 grams. The reduction of "rotating weight" makes the bike "zippier." It accelerates better, corners faster, and brakes faster. encourages you that weight should not be your main motivation. If you're trying to save weight, you inevitably end up with tires that are too fragile and are susceptible to flats, thereby exacerbating a problem you were trying to avoid in the first place.

And Now The Cons.


To go traditional tubeless, you need to buy special UST rims, which are not cheap. You can spend up to $1000 to upgrade both wheels.

The cheapest way to go tubeless is with a conversion kit. You add a rim liner to your standard rims, fill a standard tire with sealant, and you're there.

You will still have to buy sealant, Tires (new ones every few months rather than once a year or so), and C02 cartridges.

Backup Required

You can repair small punctures in a dry tubeless tire with superglue. You can repair sealant-filled tires on the trail by patching it internally. But tubeless riders who don't pack an emergency inner tube (or two!) will, sooner or later, face a long hike. On the trail, you'll need a patch kit, spare tube, and maybe even a little bottle of sealant.

Power Inflator Required

To seal a tubeless tire against the rim, you need a sudden burst of air pressure. Your mini-pump just can't do that. Most tubeless owners find they need a compressed-air cylinder in your garage, or a gas station with real compressed air (not just an insert-a-quarter type electric pump) or you will burn a C02 cartridge every time you mount a tire.

Post a comment with your thoughts or experiences! We'd love to hear from you!

Come to Bumstead's Bicycles for all your cycling needs.
We are located at 1038 W. 4th St in Ontario, CA.
You can reach us by phone at (909) 984-9067

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