The Pros and Cons of Tubeless Tires
January 4th, 2018
Thinking about going tubeless? In our previous blog post, we learned about conventional bicycle tire models, as well as what it means to run a tubeless setup on your bike. But the question still remains on whether tubeless is better or worse than the more traditional tire models. Read below to learn about the benefits and drawbacks of going tubeless.
ProsCuts Back on Flats
One of the biggest advantages touted by tubeless tire supporters is the system's flat tire resistant qualities. With traditional clincher tires, cyclists are susceptible to pinch flats, where the tube can get pinched between a rock (or other hard object) and the rim, resulting in a nasty flat. With the absence of an inner tube, this possibility is nearly eliminated.
To prevent common flat tire issues (thorns, glass, sharp rocks, etc.) tubeless tires are filled with a premium tire sealant during the mounting process, delivering an important layer of tire protection.
Many would argue that a tubeless tire makes you faster – but why? In your standard clincher, the tire and the inner tube are generally in close proximity to one another. While riding, the tube and the tire rub against each other, creating friction, and this friction increases a rider’s rolling resistance, making for a slightly tougher ride.
The absence of this tube in a tubeless system, however, implies the absence of this friction, and effectively reduces your rolling resistance. Some may argue, however, that because tubeless tires require a sturdier, heavier rubber than clincher tires, the resulting difference in speed is nearly negligible.
Another element of smoothness that a tubeless setup can offer is its limited psi capability. Because pinch flats aren’t a factor, tubeless tires can be ridden at a lower psi (it’s recommended up to 13 psi lower than a clincher), allowing more of the tire to come into contact with the road. This additional road contact allows the cyclist more control over their ride (i.e. smoother cornering, better handling, etc.). The limited psi also frees up the tire to absorb small bumps, creating a smoother feeling ride.
A Little Less Weight
Right off the bat, expect to drop around 200 grams by switching to a tubeless set up. There are a number of different avenues when going tubeless, but at the end of the day, losing two whole tubes will almost always drop the weight on your ride. I think all of us, especially you weight watchers out there, can all agree that a little less weight is always a perk.
ConsStill May Need to Carry a Tube
The main drawback with a tubeless tire system is that repairs are not simple. While tubeless tires are resistant to pinch flats and nearly always contain tire sealant, a flat tire is still always a possibility. In an event where the tire sealant cannot repair an especially large puncture or sidewall tear, you’re going to need to have a tubeless tire repair kit (plugger and tire plugs) or an emergency tube on hand to feed into the tire if you want to keep on going.
Mounting is Tougher
A tubeless setup can require a little more time and maintenance than your standard clincher. When setting up your tubeless system, it is of paramount importance that the bead is seated on the rim correctly and creates an airtight seal (typically accomplished with compressed air). Additionally, you need to install rim tape, make sure your valve stems are airtight and add tire sealant to your setup. For those of you going tubeless for the first time, we recommend you find a company that offers all the tubeless components you need. Generally, they are engineered to work best together and will make your setup easier and faster.
While it may not always be the case, it is generally more expensive to run a tubeless setup. There are more components in the mounting process and those components tend to be more costly than standard tubes.
After reading all these tubeless pros and cons, are you sold? Is tubeless the best solution for you? We would love to hear your preferences in the comments below.