Benefits of Tubeless Tires

By : Mr Mamil
Updated :

Today, tubeless tires are common in road bikes, especially for mid to top-of-the-line models. Tubeless tires are used on mountain bikes since the early 2000s and also in automobiles for many decades.

So why didn’t tubeless tires make their way into road bikes earlier?

The main reason is tire size and width.

Traditionally, road bike tires are narrow (19 to 25mm) and the benefits of tubeless tires aren’t profound on these narrow tires. However, things start to change around 2018 to 2019 with the introduction of disc brakes and wider tires (28mm and above) on road bikes. The road bike industry quickly adopted tubeless tires.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of running a tubeless setup on your road bike.

Advantages of tubeless tires

Increased comfort

This is the main benefit of running a tubeless tire setup. The majority of tubeless tire sizes start at 28mm. The wider tires allow for a higher air volume and hence lower air pressure.

The lower air pressure improves comfort and traction, especially on rougher surfaces. It also minimizes the chances of getting a pinch flat, which can be very frustrating.

Improved rolling resistance

In a tubeless setup, there is no friction between the inner tube and tire casing. According to tests from Bicycle Rolling Resistance, this can lower rolling resistance by a couple of tenths of a watt.

Improved puncture protection

Tubeless tires need the sealant to work as intended. The amount of sealant needed depends on the tire size. Generally, 30ml per tire is a good starting point and goes up as the tire gets wider.

The sealant will seal any small cuts (up to 5mm) by itself as you continue to ride. In many cases, most cyclists don’t even realize they had a pinch flat until they reached home and saw the sealant residue on the tires.

In the unfortunate event of a larger cut (5mm or more), you can fix it with a tire plug.

Disadvantages of tubeless tires

More expensive

A tubeless tire setup costs more than the traditional clincher setup that most cyclists are familiar with.

The tubeless tire can cost anywhere from 20 to 40% more than its clincher model. Besides, you’ll also need a tubeless compatible rim for these tires to mount on.

Add these up and the cost of a tubeless setup will start to increase.

Tricky installation

Installation can be tricky and time-consuming if you don’t have the right tools. You’ll need a tubeless pump (not a standard floor pump) to seat the tires onto the rim during installation. This is where you’ll hear the infamous popping sound as you inflate the tires for the first time.

Some cyclists invest in an air compressor to make things much easier. The air compressor can also double up as a bike cleaning tool.

Once the tires are set up, you don’t need to fiddle with them again until it’s time to change tires.

Regular maintenance

As mentioned above, the tubeless tires need the sealant to work. Depending on your local weather conditions and the brand of sealant used, the sealant can coagulate and dry up anywhere between 4 to 12 weeks.

You’ll need to regularly top up the sealant for them to properly seal any punctures.

As you remove the valves to top up the sealant, you’ll also need to clean up the valves to prevent them from clogging up.

Is the tubeless setup right for you?

The answer will depend on your current bike setup and type of riding.

Go for tubeless tires if :

  • You ride a disc brake road bike, then most likely your bike frame allows for wider tires (28mm or more).
  • You want to run lower tire pressures to increase comfort.
  • You ride regularly on rough surfaces and want more protection from pinch flats.

Don’t go for tubeless tires if :

  • You’re riding a rim brake road bike as the bike frame most likely will not accommodate tire sizes above 26mm.
  • You’re not handy when it comes to basic bike maintenance skills.