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What is Tubeless?

Words by Cycles UK

on 10/07/2020 13:04:28

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So no innertubes how’s that working out for ya? Well, it means you don't need to carry a replacement innertube, you're less likely to suffer from punctures. It also means you can ride at a lower PSI (tyre pressure) meaning more control and better feeling ride, particularly beneficial for mountain, cyclocross and gravel riding.

I know you have all the questions; how does it work, can I go tubeless, what about punctures, do they need a lot of maintenance, wait how does it work?

The very basic explanation of how tubeless tyres work: it's the same as a car or motorbike tyre. A combination of air pressure at the bead creates an airtight seal and sealant bonds and maintains that seal. The sealant is a mix of latex and rubber particulates; this is dispersed around the tyre to provide a fix. The sealant also helps to fill punctures meaning repairs are less frequent on tubeless tyres.

What you need to know: Not all wheel rims are ready to go tubeless. Tubeless-ready or tubeless compatible rims have a different sidewall with a hooked design which helps to catch and hold the bead beaded edge to generate a secure airtight seal. You can get tubeless conversion kits to use on tubeless-ready or tubeless compatible rims which contain the tape, valves and sealant. The process can be a bit fiddly and potentially messy. There are a lot of excellent tutorial videos on the net to help you, such as:

What if I get a puncture

as mentioned the sealant is made from latex and Rubber particulates, meaning the latex and rubber will instantly seal any hole up to around 2 mm wide meaning you won't even know you got a puncture. Larger holes can still seal, but you could lose quite a lot of pressure before the latex and rubber are able to form a seal. You can get tubeless repair kits which are basically a rubber plug that fills the hole and allows the sealant to bond over larger punctures. You could also pop and innertube into a tubeless tyre in the event you completely lose your seal or get a nasty puncture this does involve removing the tubeless valve so would involve having tools to do this and spare tubes with you. Damaged tyres can be patched with tube patch kits to create an airtight space again, but reseating the tyre is something that would be quite involved out in the field.

maintenance is involved: as the sealant is waterbased, it can dry out so you should top-up sealant regularly. Checking levels every couple of months (removing the tyre and checking sealant isn't dry) is recommended and topping up if needed. Hot weather can affect sealant, so top-ups are more frequent in hot summers Topping up can be done via a syringe through the air valve as shown in the Top 5 Mistakes You'll Make When Going Tubeless video. If your tyre is losing pressure, it's most likely you need to top up your sealant. You have a puncture which should be quite obvious or the rim tape is damaged and needs replacing.

How do they work again: like car tyres.

Here's a few items to help you get on your way to going tubeless

milKit Tubeless conversion kit with 45 mm valves

milKit Tubeless Conversion Kit

milKit Tubeless sealing tape

milKit Tubeless sealing tape

milKit 1 Pair 45mm valve

milKit Valve 

milKit Compact set

milKit Compact set

Finish Line MultiSeal Tubeless Tyre Sealant

Finish Line MultiSeal Tubeless Tyre Sealant

The Specialized Air Tool Blast Tubeless Tyre Setter

The Specialized Air Tool Blast Tubeless Tyre Setter

milKit Booster head with 1 litre bottle2

milKit Booster head with 1 litre bottle