Updated: Jun 5, 2021
When it comes to cycling, everything is moving very fast. One minute we're happy on rim brakes and sitting on quick-release skewers. The next minute we're on a variety of through axles, disk brakes, and questioning if we need a dropper post or not. I do get asked a lot about the advancements of tyres and Tubeless tyres in particular. Are they worth using? In this article, I want to run through the advantages of Tubeless and using Tubes.
Let's start by explaining the concept of Tubeless. Tubeless tires are exactly what they say they are, tires that run without tubes in them. So how do they work? Well, instead of tubes, you fill them with sealant instead, and the sealant seals the air in. This has a considerable amount of benefits to it, but it also has some drawbacks.
It's much lighter
So firstly, a tubeless setup will be much lighter than a Tube setup. The weight of a Tubeless tire is generally about the same as a typical tire, but you save weight from not having a tube in the system. Tubes for a mountain bike can weigh up to 200g, which doesn't sound like much, but it's 400g on both wheels. Not only that, it's a rotational weight that affects the speed of the bike quite a lot compared to, say, a stagnant weight like the frame.
It's Self Healing
When riding along, if you get a small puncture, Tubeless will puncture then heal itself. So those pesky little flints you don't have to worry about. If holes are too big, then the Tubeless will struggle to fix it and go flat, but this isn't as often as you would think.
It's easier to Repair.
When Tubeless does go wrong, and you have a hole that doesn't seal, you repair the tire in a completely different way. You use what we call Tubeless Repair strips, which are essentially little rubber pieces that you fill the hole with. The sealant will be able to heal it through. It takes much less time and doesn't require you to take the wheel out of the tire off, and is a straightforward and fast process. If the hole is huge and this doesn't work, you also have the option to pop a replacement tube in, and it will work as a standard tire.
You can run them with much less pressure.
This doesn't sound like much, but it's valuable to have the ability to run less pressure on your tires. In previous days hitting a pothole would cause a pinch flat. These days running lower pressures means there's much less chance of this. Another significant advantage with much more gravel bike and adventure-style riding coming in having the ability to have slightly softer tires is a big comfort bonus. Studies have also shown it's quicker to have less pressure in your tires than what used to be recommended. I grew into cycling in the days of 100psi in a 25mm tire. On the same bike, I now run 28mm tires with 65psi in them and am much more comfortable and quicker.
You need tubeless setup wheels.
Before you even think about going Tubeless, you need a Tubeless-ready wheelset or a conversion kit to switch to Tubeless. It's an effortless procedure, but it's more intricate work than just chucking a tube in.
Setting them up takes longer.
It's a different process to set a Tubeless tire up. Firstly you need your wheels set up ready, then a pump with a reserve chamber on, and you have to force air in to stick them to the bead. After this, you deflate them and add the sealant. Once you have done this once, it's effortless to do again but does take about 30 minutes to complete the process.
They are more expensive.
Tubeless tires are excellent, but they do cost near double that tubed tires and they can rack up to a lot. I see the value in savings on Tubes alone, but it can be expensive to get them set up the first time.
Well, it's really up to the user more than anything. I think Tubeless is much better. Although more outlay at the start, the benefits are just too reasonable to miss. It's a few hundred Grams lighter on the wheels, it can self-repair, and even if it doesn't, it's a straightforward fix. I personally, as an Ultra Cyclist, wouldn't use anything else now. The thought of changing a tube at 3 am in the dark is awful, and the chance to avoid that is a fine thing. Other people's opinions will differ though some people don't like that it's a bit more complex and feel with tubes they know where they're at, and I appreciate that opinion.