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Tubeless in 2020 ?


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Whilst Tubeless tire set ups have become much more common off road, traditional ‘roadies’ have been slower to head to the promised land of lighter set ups, lower rolling resistance, increased comfort and tires that in the most part fix themselves when punctured. So, if tubeless really does offer all of this, then why isn’t everyone kitting their pride and joy out with the latest in puncture defying technology?

Let’s start with what Tubeless is in the first place and what the different set ups are, as there is sometimes mix ups between Clincher, Tubular and Tubeless. Most of us will have predominantly ridden a Clincher wheel set up – a tire with tube within it. If you get a puncture you stop, mend it or replace the tube with a new one. Pump it up again and you are on your way. Then there is Tubular, a complete tire with tube sown in, which is literally stuck onto the wheel rim making for (its claimed) the best road feel, control and ultimate speed. Tubular set ups are often the staple of road racers (short fast events) and riders at the pro level. (they do have the luxury of team support available to swap out wheels)

Then comes Tubeless – a best of all worlds system? It doesn’t use an inner tube at all. Instead the tire is sealed directly to the wheel (tubeless ready rim) forming an airtight seal. A sealant is added to the void in the tire upon set up and it’s this sealant that acts as a filler to plug holes. Sounds great right? Read on for a little more detail …

The main reasons for going Tubeless are at first glance notable…

  1. The sealant in the tire generally does a sound job of fixing standard punctures from thorns, nails, glass, flint etc. as you ride.
  2. The whole set up can be lighter as you dispense of the inner tube in each wheel*
  3. As there is no tube, pinch flats are not a worry, meaning that tires can be run at a lower PSI, thus giving more comfort, control and it’s claimed a better rolling resistance (i.e. faster)
  4. Tubeless lends itself well to the trend for wider rims and wider more comfortable tires.
  5. Road feel is generally better and the lower PSI (as low as 70 PSI) offers noticeable comfort and the feeling of a fast ride.
  6. Lastly, many wheel manufacturers now offer the Tubeless rim (TLR) as standard, giving the option to run the traditional Clincher set up or go Tubeless.

However, with all the positives there also come a few possible negatives…

  1. Cost – Tubeless tires are usually in the region of 20-40% more costly than the equivalent Clincher tire. Sealant costs vary but will usually add £5-£15 per wheelset.
  2. Set up can be tricky and ‘sometimes’ messy. Tires are often tighter fitting to ensure a good seal on the rim and sealant can get in places it shouldn’t.  We have found however that much of the early teething problems are due to inexperience and over time one learns the tricks of the trade to ensure minimal long-term fuss.
  3. Whilst reduced weight is banded around, it often isn’t quite as cut and dry. Of course, there is the loss of the tube, which is a saving, but what isn’t communicated so widely is that the tires themselves tend to be heavier than their Clincher counterparts. Take as an example the latest Conti GP500 – a Clincher 28c is 235 grams, whilst a Tubeless 28c is 345 grams. Ad sealant and you will struggle to save any weight.
  4. Not all punctures will be fixed. Anything up to about 0.5cm should seal, although it can’t be guaranteed. As a result, it is still advisable to carry an ‘old fashioned’ tube and pump/air canister to cover off any such issues.

The ATR view.

Several of us in the All Things Ride crew have switched over to Tubeless in recent years, and so far, no one has switched back permanently. We have found that once past the initial outlay and any teething problems with fitting, it is pretty much plain sailing. The comfort level in ride is also improved, helping to delay fatigue and there is certainly no noticeable decline in speed. For us, it has delivered on the puncture side of things too. One notable occasion this past season was when riding the Hell of The Ashdown sportive in Kent in near freezing conditions. Two punctures in quick succession and each hole sealed within a few seconds each time, so no stopping and no reason to find the feeling in the fingers for fiddly tire fitting. A definite bonus whether you are on your local club ride, or tackling a giant sportive such as L’etape du Tour or Tour of Flanders.

As with everything, much of this is a personal view and there is always the case of you don’t know you need it until you do actually need it. The industry does seem to be behind it with most manufacturers now offering Tubeless rims, possibly because they need to keep coming up with concepts that encourage us to buy new technology, (Don’t get us started on Disc brakes……) or less cynically, because it’s a system that offers true benefits to the rider. (we prefer this notion)

All Things Ride – Cycle trips for Cyclists by Cyclists.


This can be avoided with Tubeless. We don’t always have access to the ATR ride support