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Going Tubeless

Going Tubeless
Photo by DESIGNECOLOGIST / Unsplash

What are the advantages of the tire trend?

Less is more and for a while now this has also applied to bicycle tiresbecause who still needs tires with inner tubes today? What has long been the norm in the automotive industry is slowly but surely making its way into the bicycle cosmos: the so-called tubeless tire. Especially mountain bikes and racing bikes are driven more and more often tubeless, thereby the driver:in promise increased traction and increased puncture resistance with less rolling resistance. But what exactly are tubeless tires, how do they work and is it worth it for you to wave goodbye to the inner tube? We have prepared all the answers for you in this blog post:

1. what are tubeless tires and how do they work?

Tubeless = Without inner tube. Nevertheless, no air from inside the casing gets outside and this is due to the special construction of these tires. The tubeless system consists of rims, rim tape, tire casing, valve and sealing milk. Rims with deep rim bed and high rim mouth ensure that the tire fits tightly, a rim tape together with a sealing liquid prevents air from escaping. Once the tire is then abruptly filled with air with a compressor, the tubeless tours can begin and a:e amateur:in the tuned tire hardly distinguish from a conventional.

2. with which tires can I run tubeless?

If you take a closer look at your tires or rims, you may be able to see a marking with the abbreviation TLR or TLE. If so, then these parts are suitable for a tight fit and are therefore tubeless-ready and you can start upgrading your tires. The tubeless kits required for this can be found from various manufacturers, but they all consist of tubeless rim tape, valve and sealant. You can find detailed instructions for tubeless installation in the info box at the end of this article.

3. where can I find good tubeless tires?

The tire manufacturer Schwalbe offers, for example, the uncomplicated Tubeless Ready or Tubeless Easy tires. Due to their special tire bead, they seal directly with the rim during installation and you do not need compressed air when inflating. The Continental Grand Prix tires are the counterpart for road bikes to the Schwalbe variants, but you can also find tubeless-ready tires at Michelin, Maxxis or Kenda. If you are looking for individual tubeless kits because your tires are already tubeless-ready, or you just need new sealing milk, it is worth taking a look at the offers from Mavic, Notubes, Mac-Off or SKS. But also at Schwalbe or Continental you will find sets, compressors and specially adapted to their tires sealing milk in the range.

4. what are the advantages of tubeless tires?

Many cyclists swear by their tubeless tires and not for nothing: Who says goodbye to the tube, so opens the door to some advantages. On the one hand, weight is saved and even if the tube weighs little, so counts in the Cycling every gram counts for more speed. On the other hand, less air pressure can be used and the tires offer more traction, safety and comfort, especially in tight corners and on uneven terrain. Since there is no more friction between tire and tube, rolling resistance is also reduced and you enjoy better rolling characteristics. And last but not least, no tube can burst, no valves can break off, hardly a puncture happen. After all, the sealing milk inside the casing ensures that the tire remains tight even in the case of small cracks, holes or punctures, it is distributed while driving so quickly in the tire that small leaks are immediately sealed without them even being noticed while driving. The space that an extra tube on tours in your saddlebag would have taken, you can therefore quietly use for an extra power gel or bar ...

But even tubeless tires are not 100 percent accident-free. If there really is a major puncture, even the sealing milk no longer helps. With the so-called tubeless patch, a kind of plug is then stuffed into the hole. However, if it comes during a particularly rough MTB ride to a dent in the rim (which unfortunately can happen more quickly due to the lower air pressure), you must either replace the tire or try with repeated strong inflation to nestle the tire back to the rim - but this is also rather a temporary solution. Another disadvantage of the tubeless system is the complex assembly (see info box at the end of this article), in which you must proceed extremely precisely. In addition, you must regularly check the air pressure and the tire with a compressor (or a Co2 cartridge) and top up with new sealing milk every three to six months.

Depending on how wild your riding style is, however, you can certainly save yourself a lot of work that you would otherwise have had to put into frequent tube changes.

5. so is tubeless worth it for me?

Basically: Yes. Whether you drive on asphalt or trails, races or jumps in the bike park mastered, from better traction, weight savings and strikingly more pleasant rolling characteristics benefits everyone and everyone. And who is not happy about a little extra puncture protection.

Clearly, tires with tube are a tried and tested system and to remain faithful to them by no means reprehensible. Who wants to optimize his or her bike but who will hardly get around the tubeless tuning and probably remain satisfied. Going tubeless is inevitably the future of tire technology - unless we are still surprised by new ideas.

If you want to say goodbye now directly from your bike tubes, we have at buycycle although unfortunately no tubeless kits for you on our websitebut maybe you want to buy a whole new bike? We have a lot of them on offer, just have a look at Europe's largest marketplace for second-hand bikes is always worthwhile... For questions about tubeless tires or bikes in general, the buycycle team is always there for you and also in our blog you will find a lot of information. Until then, we wish you as always: Happy browsing, happy cycling! Whether tubeless or not...

The most important FAQs about tubeless tires | buycycle

What is normal in the automotive industry is becoming increasingly popular in the bicycle cosmos: tires without tubes. So far, tubeless tires have been used in particular for mountain bikes and racing bikes. Riders expect increased traction and puncture resistance with less rolling resistance. Tubeless tires are also widely converted for touring and trekking bikes. The promising alternative to clincher, folding and tubular tires offers a lot of potential. Here we answer the most frequently asked questions.

1. what are tubeless tires?

As the name suggests, tubeless tires manage without tubes inside the casing. Nevertheless, no air gets outside. This is due to the structure of the tubeless construction. With just a few components, air can be kept inside the tire by sealing it with the help of sealing fluid. The tubeless system consists of rims, rim tape, tire casing, valve and sealing liquid. Rims with a deep rim bed and raised rim flange ensure that the tire casing fits tightly. Rims and tires are therefore designed to seal directly against each other. A tubeless rim tape prevents air from escaping at the rim. Sealing milk can be filled into the inside of the tire through a tubeless valve and makes it air-tight. The tire can then be inflated using a compressor or a floor pump with a compressed air tank. At first glance, you usually can't tell a tubeless tire apart from other tire varieties. The valve provides information on closer inspection. Basically, there are other types of tires on the market:

  • Clincher tires contain a wire in the so-called bead. This holds the tire to the rim. The tire cannot expand under pressure and therefore does not come off the rim. The clincher version usually has a tube inside. This type of tire is characterized by easy fitting and a low price. However, it is heavier than the other models. It is generally not suitable for tubeless use.
  • The folding tire has flexible plastic fibers, also known as Kevlar fibers, in the tire bead instead of wire. These are lighter and more flexible. In contrast to the models with wire, this tire is therefore foldable and lighter. This is usually reflected in the slightly higher price. Both clincher and folding tires are referred to as clinchers. Folding tires can usually also be ridden tubeless.
  • Tubular tiresTubular tires have a sewn-in or laminated inner tube and are glued onto a special rim. The advantage is that the tire remains on the rim in the event of a flat tire and can be rolled out without any problems. Nevertheless, the rolling characteristics of a folding or clincher tire are better. Fitting tubular tires is also more complex and the production costs are higher. Be careful, folding or clincher tires are often referred to as tubular tires.

2. what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Many users of the tubeless system swear by their bicycle tires. Even some advocates of folding tires are gradually retrofitting their bikes. Quite rightly so. The tubeless tires bring some advantages by omitting the tube. Many cyclists want to save weight. This succeeds by missing tubes, in cycling, after all, every gram counts. It is also possible to ride with lower air pressure than is necessary for the variants with inner tubes. There is no need to accept any loss of performance. On the contrary, low air pressure in the tire means that more surface area is in contact with the ground. The tire thus grips better, which brings safety and comfort. In cornering, as well as in mud or loose ground, control can be better retained by low tire pressure. The rear wheel slips away in doubt only later. Since there is no tube, there can be no friction between it and the tire. Lower rolling resistance is the result. Better rolling characteristics are particularly noticeable when switching from folding or clincher tires to the tubeless system. The tubeless system provides better traction. 

Another advantage is the high puncture resistance. There is no tube that could burst, even valve tears do not occur. A puncture is much less likely than with the other tire variants, because there is no tube that can be squeezed. Particularly interesting is the rapid sealing by the sealing milk if yet smaller holes or punctures, also called snakebites, occur. Especially with MTB, the puncture protection is worth its weight in gold. The rough driving offers a lot of potential to create "snakebites" in the MTB tire. If it comes to the puncture, you are usually faster with the tubeless system ready to go again, because sealing fluid is usually enough to close the opening. In the case of very small damages, the loose sealing liquid in the tire closes the leak so quickly that you do not notice the damage when driving. Other tire models would require a new tube to be pulled in. If the damage to the tire is too great, there are alternatives to sealing milk. With the so-called tubeless patch, a kind of plug is stuffed into the hole. Alternatively, the tubeless tire can be converted again. One dismantles the tire. So you can wipe the sealing milk with a wet rag from the inside and pull in a tube after the tubeless valve is removed. 

The same procedure would be followed in the event of a puncture with folding or clincher tires - insert a new tube. If you want to be prepared for any eventuality, the advantage of not having to take tubes with you on tour is eliminated. The sealing milk can not work miracles. In particularly rough MTB rides, it can come in exceptions to dents in the rim itself. Thus, the tire has no chance to remain tight. Here, the low air pressure becomes the undoing. The rim is less protected from dents. To prevent this, there is so-called puncture protection, which is applied in advance. Alternatively, after such damage, you can try to fill the tires several times with a high bar of air, so that the casing again perfectly hugs the rim. This option certainly works only temporarily. 

One disadvantage is the assembly. A very accurate work is essential. Rim tape, rim and casing must be very clean. Mounting the tire is somewhat heavier than other models. So mounting tubeless tires involves more work. The air pressure should be checked regularly. Every three to six months, new sealing milk must be refilled. It is worth cleaning before refilling the liquid so that the new milk can work optimally. The old sealant dries out and may no longer seal. Despite the small amount needed, this is a regular cost. With other tire models, the tubes also have to be renewed from time to time, so there is no real price disadvantage to be spoken of here. 

Especially with a high-frequency use of a MTB's it can come very often to a tube change. This is not necessary with tubeless tires. However, it must be mentioned that even with unclean driving maneuvers with tubeless system the tires can be pulled briefly from the rim flange. After that, the tires must be inflated again. It is problematic not to have the right air pump ready. One needs to inflate a compressor or special air pumps. Compressed air is necessary for filling, because with tubeless tires the air must be pumped suddenly into the tire. Meanwhile, hand pumps are also available for purchase, with which the tubeless tires can be inflated. For example, there are CO2 cartridges for bikers in sports stores, which are designed for single use and are ideal for tubeless tires.

3. how does the tubeless installation work?

Rims and tires must be tubeless-ready. There is a marking with the abbreviation TLR or TLE on the components. This means that the parts are suitable for fitting tightly together. The tire must later sit tightly and tightly on the rim. This is the only way to drive tubeless. There are so-called tubeless kits from some manufacturers with tubeless rim tape, tubeless valve and sealing milk.

  1. Step one is all about the rim tape. Check whether tubeless-compatible rim tape is already attached to the rim. These rim tapes are self-adhesive and seal the spoke holes of the rim. If not, the rim must be cleaned. The tubeless rim tape can then be applied. It should connect to the rim, i.e. be exactly as wide as the rim well. The tire width can vary, so you have to be precise here. When attaching the tape, start at the valve opening. Under tension, the tape can now be glued all the way around without creases or bubbles. The rim tape is double glued over the valve hole. This ensures that this area remains securely sealed. The rest remains simply taped. The tape over the valve hole can now be pierced with a tool
  2. Step two is about inserting the tubeless valve. It has a rubber seal on both sides of the rim. It is important to tighten the knurled screw on the spoke side. Your own hand force is sufficient for this. In the event of a puncture, you run the risk of over-tightening the valve when using tools.
  3. In step three the tire is pulled onto the rim. The running direction of the tires must be observed. This is usually indicated by an arrow. Neither tire levers nor mounting grease are required for the first side, also known as the sidewall. The first tire sidewall must be placed over the valve. If the second sidewall is difficult to get over the rim, it is advisable to use a little fitting grease or liquid soap. If you are inexperienced, you should not use a tire lever to avoid damaging the tire. This could subsequently cause the tire to leak.
  4. In step 4 the sealant can be fed through the valve into the tire using a syringe or a small tube. A road bike tire requires approx. 40 ml per side. For an MTB tire, 60 ml or more can be filled into each tire. The sealing liquid is then distributed by rotating. Make sure that the entire interior of the tire is wetted by swiveling movements. This is the only way the milk can seal the tire securely.
  5. In the final step the tire is inflated using a compressor or a floor pump with a compressed air tank. The tire must be filled with air immediately. Until this step, the tire is sitting loosely on the rim. A normal air pump would not be sufficient to inflate the tire quickly enough. By inflating the tire quickly, it sits in the right place on the rim and is tight. You will hear a cracking sound as soon as the tire presses into the rim tape and is thus correctly positioned. If the tire is filled with sealing milk via the valve, the valve may be sealed and clogged. No air can get into the tire during inflation. If necessary, remove the valve core again and inflate the tire with air.

4. can I convert my bike?

Folding tires can usually be converted without having to purchase new tires. Clincher tires are usually not suitable for tubeless conversion. Conventional road bike tires are also not suitable. A normal tire bead can not withstand the required force, which must be applied by air pressure during mounting. Thus, the tire jumps out over the rim. Whether the tires are suitable can be determined from the TLR or TLE markings on the tire casing and rim. If these are missing, the components are not suitable. Rims, where the rim bed runs on one level, are also not suitable. Once you have the right components, proceed in the same way as for a new mounting. 

For tires that have already been used, cleaning the tire and rim in advance is particularly important. Neither dust nor dirt should be present as residues. They can screw up the seal. It can make sense to wet the cleaned inside of the casing with sealing milk before mounting. The action of the milk can close any pores in advance. Newer wheels often already have the matching rim tape. If the rim tape is not firmly bonded to the rim or has a fabric-like material, it must be replaced. A residual risk always remains that rims and tires are not tight despite Tubeless-Ready marking. Tubeless tires can be retreaded. The sealing fluid is wiped out of the tire with a little water and a tube is fitted again. By the way, e-bikes can also be converted to the tubeless system. Many bikes are even supplied with tubeless valves as accessories.

5. which manufacturers are proven?

Schwalbe manufactures excellent tires. The Schwalbe Tubeless Ready or Tubeless Easy tires mark the special tubeless technology of the manufacturer. Due to their special tire bead, they seal directly with the rim during assembly. Thus, no compressed air is needed when inflating. The Schwalbe pro one, for example, are high-end road bike tires. Continental is also a tried-and-true tire producer, and not just for motorsports. The Continental Grand-Prix tires are the counterpart for road bikes to the Schwalbe variant. There is a list of other well-known tire manufacturers such as Michelin, Maxxis or Kenda, which offer tires Tubeless-Ready. There are also great tools for mounting and conversion. Companies like Mavic, Notubes, Mac-Off or SKS offer good tubeless kits or also individually available sealing milk. Schwalbe or Continental also have their own sets, compressors such as the Schwalbe Tire Booster and specially adapted to their tires sealing milk in the range.

6. who needs tubeless tires?

The tubeless system is worthwhile for every cyclist, whether for races on asphalt or long jumps in the bike park. Everyone can benefit from increased traction, strikingly improved rolling behavior, weight savings and the plus points in case of punctures. Tires with tubes are a tried and tested system. There is nothing wrong with sticking with it. Those who like to optimize their bike will, however, not get around the tubeless system and probably stay with it. Tubeless tires are sooner or later the future of tire technology. At least until further innovations surprise us.

For specific questions around the topic of tubeless tires, the buycycle team will be happy to help.