If you’re a cyclist, then you’ve likely heard of tubeless bicycle tires. First introduced in 1999 — by Mavic, a France-based bicycle parts manufacturer — tubeless tires were initially deemed weighty and unreliable. As a result, many cyclists refused to try them and remained loyal to traditional inner tubes.
With that being said, it has been 21 years since tubeless tires first entered the market, and vast improvements have been made in that timespan. While inner tube tires may arguably still be the better choice for road cycling, tubeless tires are now considered the most reliable and cost-effective tires for BMX and trail riding. They also have a growing following among road cyclists.
In order to determine whether or not tubeless bicycle tires are right for you, it’s important to understand how they function and what benefits they offer.
What Are Tubeless Bicycle Tires?
Unlike traditional tires that use a separate inner tube, tubeless bicycle tires are molded with continuous ribs that are forced by the pressure of the air inside the tire to form a perfect seal along with the metal of the tire rim. As a result, they are not prone to pinch flats the way inner tube tires are.
Because of the way they are manufactured, tubeless tires are more resistant to going flat. When a puncture does occur, the tire keeps its seal along the rim, and most punctures are self-sealing thanks to the latex coating inside the casing.
For most tire incidents, you’ll only need to remove the object if it is still present, fill the tire back up, and give it a good spin to redistribute the latex inside. While flats still occur, air loss tends to be extremely slow as opposed to the sudden loss of inflation most cyclists are accustomed to.
What Are The Benefits?
There are several benefits to consider when making the switch to tubeless bicycle tires. As opposed to other tire options — like latex-filled tires, for instance — tubeless tires can save you anywhere from 150 to 650 grams of weight each. For anyone interested in long-distance cycling, this fact can’t be overlooked, as every gram counts.
Tubeless MTB tires offer a smoother ride for mountain biking while maintaining excellent traction and tire pressure in a way even the best inner tube tires simply can’t. They also eliminate the possibility of true pinch flats.
While there are times the tire pressure may be too low and air could start escaping from the tire, the fix is easy just add air and the tire will reseal itself.
Are There Any Downsides?
Tubeless tires do come with a few downsides. For one, some brands of tubeless bicycle tires tend to be on the heavy side, and the initial setup can be difficult for novices.
When a catastrophic flat does occur on the road, repair of a tubeless bicycle tire is also messier and can take significantly longer than the repair of a traditional tire. Like all bicycle tires, tubeless tires need regular maintenance. This goes beyond the typical dry rot.
The internal sealant in a tubeless tire can dry out in hot and dry conditions. As a result, it is necessary to add a small dose of new sealant occasionally. If you leave your bike sitting up for six or more weeks at a time, you may have to remove the tires completely and scrape off the old sealant before reinstalling the tires.
Tubeless mountain bike tire
Tubeless road bike tire
Any way you slice it, the many benefits of tubeless tires far outweigh the downsides. In other words, these types of bicycle tires are a smart investment that can save you both time and money, and ensure countless hours of worry-free cycling.