If you are a mountain biker, you may have heard a particular bit of advice a lot recently—“Go tubeless!” So what does ‘going tubeless’ actually require you to do?
In conventional mountain bike tires, there is an extra lining of tube that keeps the tires inflated. In the modern bikers’ society, there are tubeless tires available where this extra layer of the tube is missing because it is unnecessary. Therefore if you want to go tubeless during biking, you need to use these tubeless tires for your bikes!
What are the benefits of tubeless mountain bike tires? As per the mountain bikers, they reduce the chances of tire punctures, which is usually quite frequent during climbing rough and uneven surfaces. Given that, tubeless tires will revolutionize the whole mountain biking experience.
If you have not gone tubeless before, you may have a dozen questions building up in your mind right now—how to install them, what are their benefits when compared to tube bikes, and so on and so forth. Without further ado, hop in, and let’s start the ride!
Tube VS Tubeless Mountain Bike Tires
Inner tubes are placed, as the name suggests, inside the tires. These inner tubes have either butyl rubber or latex exterior and are filled with air to keep the tires inflated.
This layer of air cushions the tires and reduces the chances of a puncture, especially while riding on rocky or sharp, uneven surfaces. The air-filled tires also make sure that the circular shape of the bike tires remains intact. Additionally, they support the weight of the entire structure of the mountain bike.
Inner tubes in mountain bikes come in different sizes, construction material, and valve type. The diameter of the inner tube depends upon the diameter of the wheel itself, but the sizes usually range between 12” and 29”.
The width of the tube depends on the type of bicycle that you prefer to ride but generally fluctuates between 19mm to 4 inches.
The best way to decide the perfect size of the inner tube is to make an observation of the sidewalls of the bike tires. Usually, the size labels are marked on the sidewalls. Look for “700x23c” for regular bikes, and “26×1.75” for mountain bikes.
As far as the valves of the inner tubes are concerned, they exist in two major types—the “Schraeder Valves” and the “Presta Valves”.
The Schraeder category is the chunkier types and can be found in entry-level bikes. The second type, Presta valves, that are much thinner, can be found fitted in Ribble bikes and any other good quality wheels. Some Vittoria and Continental MTB inner tubes work wonders for mountain bikes.
What are the downsides of inner tubes? Latex inner tubes are more susceptible to punctures and leakage and need to be pumped up more frequently.
They might also be a little cumbersome as far as fitting is concerned. Maintain caution during fitting–if you force them to fit in between the wheel and the tire, the inner tubes might blow up.
They do not require any form of the inner tube. So how do they stay inflated?
The rim, valve, and tire are designed in such a way that they remain sealed tightly thus protecting the tires from leaking and going flat as a result. At times, liquid sealants are used in the interior side of the tires, to plug off any possible air-leaks.
If you want to take your friends’ suggestion seriously, and want to shift your life as a mountain biker to “going tubeless”, then you could either purchase ready-made tubeless wheels and rims, or you could opt for tubeless conversion kits.
When you go tubeless, there is no turning back. It is a completely different life altogether. The rim needs to be sealed, and the valve needs to be a tubelessPresta valve with a sealing mechanism. Presta valves come with a detachable core.
The Presta valves and the rim need to be attached. Even the tire needs to go tubeless in order to be compatible with its tubeless counterparts.
Tires for tubeless bikes are marked with the label “UST” standing for Universal System Tubeless”. When you combine a UST tire and a UST wheel together, the result promises complete protection from air leakage. Even then, though, careful mountain bikers, like to use a sealant, just to be on the safe side.
Last but not the least, once you go ‘tubeless’, one thing you should always carry around in your back-pack while mountain biking, is a liquid sealant. A liquid sealant stays in the liquid form while inside the container, but solidifies quickly where applied on the tires.
Benefits of Tubeless Mountain Bike Tires
If you go tubeless, what do you have in it as a mountain biker? Below is a quick list of pros that will help make your mind up—should you stay “tube” or become ”tubeless”?
Pro#1: Ride without Flats!
Unless you ride on a ‘road of flames’ or a road laid out with steel knives, with the risk of having your bike tire slit into halves, you can kiss your tire flats goodbye!
At first, the liquid sealant that pairs up with tubeless tires will seal any air leaks to oblivion. You must have heard of pinch flats. They happen when you bump against or run on sharp objects, like rocks.
If you were riding using tube tires, a pinch flat would involve the rim and the tires to get pinched or squeezed together, creating holes in the inner tube. In tubeless tires, the tube is not even there to begin with, therefore pinch flats are out of the question. This is one of the biggest advantages of going tubeless.
Pro#2:Cut Corners like A Dodger!
When you are riding a conventional “tube and a tire” combo, you need to ride maintaining a certain amount of air pressure in the tires to minimize the risks of pinch flats.
When tires are firm with high pressure, it is difficult to ride corners. In tubeless tires, as there are no tubes, therefore maintaining an air pressure is not within the checklist of requirements. Therefore your tires would be more flexible and you would be able to cut corners like a pro!
Pro#3:Don’t just climb, fly!
Do you face trouble while mountain biking using tube tires? High air pressure in tube tires will make mountain rides quite uncomfortable.
If you switch to tubeless bike tires, you would experience the benefits instantly. The lower air pressure in tubeless tires, would increase the contact patch of your tires. This will enhance the traction between the tire surface and the rocky mountain surface, thus the tire grip would increase.
With a stronger grip, you would be able to ride on steep mountain surfaces with ease. The risk of falling or sliding down is lowered by ten folds. Also, the tendency to bounce and make noise would also be reduced dramatically.
Pro#4: Shed some weight!
Needless to mention, but tires without tubes weigh less than ‘tube’ tires. The liquid sealant used in place of air-filled tubes, makes the entire system light-weight, thus elevating the ease of riding. You will literally feel as if you are flying, not just riding.
With tons of benefits waiting for you, why not go tubeless while mountain biking? A MEC MTB Specialist, Luke P, has said, “Tubeless for the win. The pros don’t use tubes, why should you?” This statement alone proves that switching to tubeless tires is the latest trend in the mountain biking arena.
If you are aiming to opt for tubeless biking really soon to make mountain riding more fun, then you can either go for ready-tubeless bikes or conversion kits. A conversion kit is basically a combo of sealants, rim tape, and a tubeless valve, that can be used to convert a tube tire to a tubeless version.
So, what are the benefits of tubeless tires? Going tubeless comes with a plethora of benefits—your bike tires will suffer less punctures, and reduced air pressure will help you glide over rocky surfaces.
In short, going tubeless will give you a riding experience like never before. You should definitely accept your peer bikers’ advice and give tubeless tires a try!