As the name implies, a tubeless setup does not require an inner tube. A tubeless specific tyre and a tubeless specific wheel rim form an airtight seal, keeping the system inflated.
If you’re reading this, then you’re probably looking to enjoy the benefits of running tubeless tyres on your bike, so before we get stuck into the ‘how’ let’s take a look at the ‘why’.
The benefits of a tubeless setup
Tubeless tyres can eliminate both types of puncture - pinch-flats where the tyre squeezes the tube after hitting a large object and secondly when an object pierces through the tyre into the tube. Pinch-flats are ruled out simply because there is no tube, whilst the second type of puncture is also unlikely to happen thanks to the sealant which quickly plugs any holes.
READ: How to fix a puncture
As they virtually remove the possibility of pinch flats, it’s possible to run tubeless at much lower pressures. The great thing? It doesn’t mean any compromise in performance. A reduction in pressure allows the tyre to conform to the surface you are riding over, keeping your bike planted rather than springing off the road or trail.
READ: Bike tyres buyer's guide
Traditional clinchers experience a high level of friction, thanks to the interface between the tube and the tyre. This is one reason why road racers looking for ‘free speed’ purchase latex tubes, which are far more flexible than standard butyl tubes. Remove the tube and you reduce rolling resistance, plus there's no need to splash out on delicate latex tubes!
What do I need?
If the benefits sound appealing, it's time to go shopping. Here's what should be on your list.
Tubeless-ready wheelset: The rim profile of these wheels will differ to standard clinchers. You'll notice a larger tyre bead recess onto which a tubless tyre 'bonds' to.
Tubeless-ready tyres: These tyres have fully sealed interiors to prevent air escaping. Look for a 'Tubeless Ready' or 'TR' label on the tyre sidewall or packaging - this indicates that they can run without a tube.
|Tubeless sealant: The sealant prevents air from escaping through the tyre or the rim.
||Tubeless valves: Similar to standard valves, tubeless valves have a small core inside them. They're available in presta and schrader and various lengths.
|Rim tape: It's important to match the width of the tape to the width of your rim.
||Floor pump: For getting things up to the required pressure.
Valve core remover: For unscrewing the cores from tubeless valves.
Tubeless injector or bottle with specific nozzle: To get sealant into the tyre casing through the tubeless valves.
Isopropanol alcohol: In our experience, this is the best thing to clean your wheel rims with before applying tubeless tape.
Bucket and soapy water: If you find it difficult to get your tyres onto the wheel rim, have this on standby!
Tyre levers: To get the tyre onto the wheel, if things get really tricky!
How to set up tubeless
We've distilled the tubeless process into six simple steps. Before you get stuck in, please note this guide is only applicable if you're using valves with removable cores.
Step 1: Prepare the wheel rim
Before you start, make sure that the rim of your wheel is free of the original rim tape.
Once removed, clean and dry the entire rim.
Begin taping opposite the valve, applying plenty of tension to ensure good adhesion between the tape and the rim.
We’d recommend overlapping the tape by 4-8cm, cutting the tape, sticking and smoothing out to eliminate any bubbles.
Extra tip: New tyres can be the source of many tubeless woes! The tautness of the new rubber in combination with the rim of the wheel can make seating the tyre on the wheel rim difficult. Setting up the wheel with a tube inside before completing steps 3-6 below can help. Just don't take both sides of the bead off when you take the tube out, leave one side seated.
Step 2: Install the valve
Using scissors, a knife or the end of a valve core remover, make a precise hole in the rim tape, just enough for the valve to slot through.
Tighten the valve nut by hand and then remove the valve core.
Step 3: Seat the tyre
Use a brush to apply some soapy water to the beads of the tyre. This will help the beads slide easily into position.
Inflate the tyre without the valve core to check you can create a decent airtight seal. To make things easier, a charger pump can be used. Pumps like this allow you to build up pressure in a separate chamber, before you release the air in one hit, straight into the tyre. if you get the satisfying popping noise, and the tyre is sitting nicely then deflate the tyre and move onto step 4.
Step 4: Pour in the sealant
Time for the sealant. The amount you use will depend on the size of your wheel and tyre - check the manufacturer’s instructions for exact details. Make sure you give the sealant a vigorous shake to mix the sealant.
Using a tubeless injector or bottle with a specific nozzle, pour the sealant through the valve and into the tyre casing.
Step 5: Inflate the tyre
Now comes the tricky bit. You need to create that same airtight seal from step 3 as well as making sure that the bead of the tyre is seated evenly.
With the valve at the top, that way the sealant should trickle around the whole circumference of the tyre, start inflating. You’ll know you’ve got it right if you see the tyre inflate rapidly and *pop* onto the rim.
Reinstall the valve core you took out earlier.
Inflate to riding pressure, not exceeding rim or tyre maximums.
Step 6: Disperse the sealant
Stand the wheel vertically and bounce it on the ground. This action disperses the sealant around the tyre. Cover the entire circumference of the wheel by rotating the wheel as you bounce it.
Alternatively, pop your wheel back in your bike and go for a quick spin around the block - this will definitely get the sealant moving!
Extra tip: If you spot a small amount of sealant leaking out of the sidewalls, lay the tyre on its side to plug these small holes.
That’s it, six steps to go tubeless. For this guide, we’ve used the Stans NoTubes tubeless kit. They contain everything you need to complete your tubeless-ready wheelset.
If things aren’t sealing correctly visit our workshops and we can give you a hand.
Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments below.