Tubeless is cool. But while it is easy for some, it is complex for most and daunting for others. There are three types of tubeless options.
1) UST rim with UST tire – This is the tubeless standard where the rim profile, bead shape, tire casing are completely sealed. This is the easiest to install and no sealant is required. The downside can be cost, weight and stiff ride quality.
2) Tubeless Ready Rim and Tubeless Ready Tire – This comes under different labels but the basic idea is specify the rim profile and bead shape and use a tire casing that is lighter but requires sealant to seal any casing leaks. The upside is weight is lower and the ride quality can be smoother since the tire is not required to have beefy sidewalls. The downside is no standard exists across different brands so not all combinations may work.
3) Tubeless Conversion – This is done using any combination of rims and tires. Pretty much any rim and tire combination can be set up tubeless with sufficient time and effort. Upside is cost is low when using existing parts. Downside is it can be an utter nightmare with some combinations.
The upsides of tubeless:
- less pinch flats
- better ride quality
- lower weight when using Tubeless Ready
- seals puncture flats when using sealant
- better traction.
The downsides are:
- installation nightmares
- not easy when switching tires a lot
- leaking air if seal is not perfect.
- messy (with sealant)
- heavier when using UST
- burping during hard cornering
- more difficult trailside repair
Mtbr’s choice these days is Tubeless Ready tires and rims. These are the ultimate setups for weight and performance. But installation can be painful so we recommend that you get a compressor and learn the necessary skills for a better tubeless experience.
Recent Mtbr Poll:
Our advice is: If you are mechanically inclined, flat a lot or care a lot about air pressures, handling and ride quality, get a compressor and try Tubeless Ready tires.
One of the key issues with sealing tubeless is the tire needs to be pressed on to the rim so all the air won’t leak out when it is being inflated for the first time. This tip below is handy even though the example is not bicycle tires.
Here is another great video demonstrating some of the proper techniques for tubeless. He is using a tubeless conversion kit so it is essential that the rim and tire fit tightly. If it is loose, that combination may not seal or may be dangerous on the trail
Some of the techniques are: ensuring a clean tire bead, using soapy water, pushing the tire sidewalls to the rim, removing the valve core, submerging the tire in water to find leaks.