Should you buy tubeless bicycle tires?
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? That might ring true for pro riders in the peloton. But for us weekend riders, we always want more, from innovative disc brakes and bike casings to tubeless bike tires. Should you switch to tubeless bicycle tires? That’s the big Q. Why doesn’t Chris Froome use tubeless tyres, and why do we recommend them to you? We have put together an explanatory article to answer all your questions. We’ll help you figure out if you should switch to tubeless tyres.
What are Tubeless Bike Tires?
Tubeless bicycle tires, as their name suggests, do not have an inner tube. Tires have been a mainstay for cars, and change has come to the bike world, primarily a favorite for elite gravel racers. A tubeless bicycle tire has beads and rims that form interlocking profiles. A sealant is essential for the tire to be airtight. A tubeless bicycle tire allows you to ride at low pressure while enjoying a comfortable ride with a low risk of punctures. However, tubeless tires are not as popular among professional racers as tubeless tires are. Professional cycling is a weight dependent sport and most tubular tires are lighter than tubeless tires. But setting up a tubular bike tire is much more demanding.
Advantages of tubeless tires
Reduced fixed risk
Imagine riding a bike for 20,000 miles without having to repair an inner tube. Tubeless bike tires have a sealant that quickly seals any pinch or snakebite while you’re cycling. The white liquid seals the punctured area and you can continue your journey. Tube tires crumble after hitting a rock, glass or thorn, or if the impact is severe enough to hit the rim and rip the tire. Tubeless bicycle tires enjoy immunity because they perform very well at low pressure. But they aren’t invincible to flat pinches all the time. If you sink your rim onto the tire you may want to carry a tube and repair kit, especially for gravel cycling.
A weekend rider’s number one friend is comfort. When riding at sunset, you don’t want the impact of rocks to transfer from the tires to your rear. Tubeless bicycle tires can run at lower pressure. This means the tire tread has more contact with the ground and improves traction, especially useful for navigating corners and climbing. Ideally, you would want a fat bike and a tubeless tire for cycling on soft, slippery surfaces. Plus, you also get a tire that’s not prone to flattening – no more carrying around extra luggage in the name of inner tube repair kits. More comfort for you.
A tubeless or tubeless bicycle tire can almost exclusively determine the rush of the wind through your hair. Tubeless tires have less rolling resistance, which translates to straight-line speed. Tubeless bicycle tires generally have faster speeds than their tubular counterparts. While the apples-to-apples comparison isn’t quite as clear-cut, other factors such as rider technique determine overall momentum. The reduced roll may be why professional athletes and tire manufacturing behemoths such as Michelin have entered the fray. The benefits of tubeless bike tires are most pronounced on gravel and mountain biking, but nuanced on standard road cycling.
Disadvantages of Tubeless Tires
You didn’t think it would be beer and Skittles for tubeless bike tires, did you? For the extra comfort tubeless tires give you, you need to spend some time setting them up. You need to consider wheel compatibility with tubeless tires even if you’re buying a tubeless-ready setup. Playing with sealant is no fun as it can scuff and spray on your clothes and is extremely difficult to clean. Overall, setup isn’t as complicated if you know how to do it in a fun and easy way.
Limited wheelset options
The downside to tubeless bike tires is that there aren’t many options for compatible axles. It’s possible to wear a tubeless bike tire with a standard tire-to-tire setup, but it won’t serve you long. The axle mismatch challenge is Maverick’s UST standard running with UST-compliant tires. Other tires should be custom cut to meet your tubeless needs. UST tires are heavy, giving lighter tubeless tires a bad name. Recent developments from Schwalbe and Michelin aim to produce tires compatible with tire-to-clincher setups which are an ideal avenue if you want to upgrade.
Tubeless bicycle tires are more expensive than tubulars. A tire costs more, and you also have to buy the sealant and probably a tubeless compatible wheelset. Reputable bicycle tire brands cut costs by producing tubeless tires with valves and adhesives at an all-in-one cost. Despite the high initial cost, you get what you pay for. You get a comfortable and faster driving experience. Buy two or more tires if you need them (and you will). Additionally, you may need to change your sealant every five months or if it dries out. Sealants are not expensive.
They are not puncture proof
Yes, you have reduced the risk of pinch flats. But significant damage to the sidewall of the tire will require replacement. Generally, a cut or damage large enough to puncture a tubular tire will also damage your tubeless tire. You may need to pack a spare and sealant if you plan to attempt a Tour de France mileage race. Pack two in case the odds aren’t in your favor and you get a double puncture.
There is no doubt that tubeless bicycle tires have made massive inroads in the bicycle tire industry. Michelin released tubeless versions of the Power Series; Continental has tubeless versions of the Grand Prix 5000 and other Universal System Tubeless (UST) manufacturers have their brands. Tubeless systems are the go-to option for recreational riders who like low-pressure areas. Should you switch to tubeless bicycle tires? For mountain biking, an unequivocal yes. For a weekend cyclist, absolutely. For gravel biking, yes, if you really want to go all-mountain. Hope you can buy a tubeless bike tire and ride into the sunset without worrying about snake bites.