A guide to the tubeless system: Benefits, types and maintenance

The tubeless system is gradually spreading to all types of cycling disciplines. In this guide, we explain what it is and analyse its pros and cons.

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What is the Tubeless System?

Tubeless tyres are mounted directly on the rim of the wheel. The difference between a tubeless tyre and a normal tyre is that tubeless tyres do not have an inner tube.

Originally used for car tyres, tubeless tyres were exported to bicycles and feature two mounting systems: the original tubeless or standard UST, and the more recent tubeless ready.

Types of Tubeless Tyres: UST and Tubeless Ready

The first tubeless system for bicycle wheels was patented by the French brand Mavic in 1999. It is the Universal System Tubeless or UST tubeless, in which the tubeless wheel and tyre are designed together in such a way that the tyre bead fits perfectly into the shape of the rim wall. This ensures the stability of the tyre and the seal of the joint. The rims are completely sealed in UST tubeless tyres, with a double wall at the bottom that covers the spoke holes, to avoid having to use rim tape.

What is a UST tubeless tyre? These tyres are reinforced to ensure the bead stiffness and avoid porosity in order to guarantee a watertight system. This means using more rubber in its composition which makes it heavier than a tubeless tyre.

To reduce this increase in weight and extend the system to all types of wheels, manufacturers launched the tubeless ready system.

What is a tubeless ready system? It consists of rims and tyres that are not UST tubeless, but are prepared for tubeless use. The differences between tubeless ready and tubeless original are as follows:

  • The rims no longer have sealed holes with a double wall and they have to be sealed with rim tape.

  • The tyres no longer have beads specifically designed for the rim and weight is significantly reduced by increasing the TPI and reducing the amount of rubber in their composition.

This saved weight reduces sidewall strength, although brands have developed a wide range of models, balancing weight and strength to cover all needs and disciplines.

It also increases porosity, which makes the use of sealing fluid unavoidable. But the use of sealing fluid is also highly recommended for UST tubeless tyres. The combination of tubeless tyres and liquid sealant is the best anti-puncture system currently available.

Which Wheels Can be Tubeless?

Almost 100% of mountain bike wheels can be converted to MTB tubeless tyres. To convert a regular wheel to tubeless, you will need a tubeless valves, special rim tape to cover the spoke holes and sealing liquid.

Until very recently, tubeless road tyres were only possible with specific tubeless rims, such as those by Mavic or Shimano, for example. Nowadays, there are conversion kits for all types of road wheels, but always using tubeless tyres.

We explain the complete process for converting regular wheels to tubeless, in this video:

Puncture protection for tubeless tyres can be completed with tubeless tyre foam or the mousse system. This is inserted inside the tyre and offers extra resistance to prevent the tyre from cracks and damage to the rims. Among the mousse for tubeless tyres, we can highlight the Vittoria Airline and Tannus Armour, both second generation models.

Tannus Armour Tubeless Tannus Armour Tubeless

Advantages of the Tubeless System

The following are the main advantages of the tubeless tyre system, compared to the traditional system of tyre and tube.

1. Maximum Puncture Protection

This is the most important advantage of the tubeless system for most cyclists. By removing the inner tube, you avoid getting a pinch flat, which is one of the most frequent causes of punctures, where impact causes the inner tube to become trapped between the tyre and the rim. Sealing liquid also plugs most small diameter punctures in tubeless tyres. This means punctures can be reduced by up to 80% or 90%.

2. Improved Handling

Another advantage of tubeless tyres is that lower air pressure can be used, because there is no risk of a pinch flat and because the beads or sidewalls of the tyre are reinforced. This increases the possibility of customising the tyre to suit the conditions of the terrain.

Lower pressure offers two clear advantages:

  • It improves grip and traction on sandy or wet terrain, for example, increasing safety and even speed.

  • Increased riding comfort, due to the extra cushioning provided by the under-inflated tyre.

The greater freedom of choice is particularly noticeable when choosing the pressure of tubeless 29 mtb tyres.

The advantages of lower tyre pressure also apply to road cycling. Depending on the road conditions, you have the option of lowering the pressure more safely than with tube tyres. Lower pressure is particularly advantageous in these situations:

  • On wet asphalt, the increased grip allows you to go faster, without reducing safety.

  • On uneven road surfaces, the tyres offer greater cushioning, avoiding the continuous bumps, which make riding much more uncomfortable and reduce speed.

You can read more in this article on The correct tyre pressure for road bike tyres.

Disadvantages of Tubeless

The tubeless system also has some disadvantages that need to be taken into account, so that your tubeless experience is satisfactory.

1. Higher Economic Cost

Tubeless tyres have a higher price and you have to add the cost of the sealing liquid.

2. Difficulty of Assembly

This is the main disadvantage, especially on road wheels. When fitting or changing a tubeless tyre for the first time, it is difficult to bead it, even with a foot pump, and almost impossible with a mini pump. To bead tubeless tyres at home, there are a few tricks and solutions that help achieve the pop and sufficient air flow:

  • With the foot pump, you can bead the tyre if it is not too stubborn. You need to place it with the sidewalls perfectly centred on the rim and pump very quickly for a few seconds. To facilitate sliding, it is advisable to put a little soapy water on the beading. And you can remove the core and connect the pump directly to the valve to get more flow. Once inflated, plug it with your finger and quickly insert the core.

  • It is much easier with tubeless pumps, which incorporate a charger. These are also available separately and can attach to any pump. They are the best solution at home, as you can see in this video where we explain How to bead tubeless tyres.

  • The air compressor at a petrol station is always an option. But remember that you will need an adapter for the Presta valve.

  • CO2 cylinders are an excellent solution that can be used both at home and on the road, which is the most important thing, because there are usually no other resources. In this video we explain How to inflate a bicycle tyre with aCO2 cartridge.

3. Higher Maintenance

This is another disadvantage, because tubeless tyres require more attention, as we will see later in the section on maintenance of the tubeless system. But from our point of view, it is more than worth it, for the advantages it brings.

4. Less Effective on Road Tyres

The higher pressure and higher temperature of road tyres mean that the sealant used successfully on MTBs may not work properly on road tyres. Rather than sealing a puncture, the liquid sealant may leak and spray over the bike. However, more versatile, road-specific sealants are available. Many road cyclists are unaware of this and after a bad experience, using an inappropriate sealant with poor results, they discard tubeless tyres completely. Choosing the best tubeless road tyres, which you can find at Mammoth, also facilitates use.

Tubeless System Maintenance

The main precaution with the tubeless system is to keep the sealing liquid active, otherwise, you will reduce puncture protection. To do this, here are two important tips:

  • Sealant must be renewed every two or three months, depending on the liquid used. But it is not necessary to break the bead in order to renew the liquid, as it can be injected through the valve, by removing the core.

  • Do not let the tyre lose much pressure, because if it deflates, air will quickly dry out the sealant as it enters. A tubeless tyre always loses a certain amount of air, because total sealing is not possible, so it is convenient to check the tyre pressure before each ride. While the bike is not in use, the tyre pressure should be checked and the wheel turned, at least once a week.

Despite its reliability, no system is 100% effective, so it is highly recommended to always carry spare parts and tools to solve a possible puncture or crack. Apart from an inner tube, patches, a pump and/or CO2, it is also convenient to carry a repair system for tubeless tyres, such as tubeless wicks or the Mammoth cold retread kit. Both systems allow the puncture to be repaired without having to disassemble the tyre. We show how they are used in this video on Emergency Mechanics for Wheels.

Tubeless Overview

The tubeless system is undoubtedly an advantage for MTB and Gravel. Apart from improved handling, with proper maintenance, your tyre can remain puncture-free, for years. Although it requires more care, periodic maintenance at home is always preferable to having to repair a puncture on route, especially when riding in a group, because punctures and repair times can multiply.

On the road, the advantages are also obvious, at least for amateur and touring cyclists. The high pressure achieved with tubulars or some of the latest tyres with inner tubes still prevail, but only for very demanding cyclists or for competition. But even time trial disciplines are beginning to use them more frequently, because the loss of time caused by a puncture can be definitive and irrecoverable. And they are also preferred by many cyclists in the great classics on pavé, such as Paris-Roubaix.

We are tubeless users ourselves and always recommend this system. You can find the widest range of tubeless tires for all disciplines as well as professional advice on choosing the right one for every need at our Mammoth stores and our online store

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