There are so many elements to consider when picking out a bike. The tire size, frame, and handlebar distance can all make or break your riding experience.
The tubeless tire first began gaining popularity in 1999 after over a decade of using an inflatable innertube inserted into the rim. This revolutionary development changed the game for several cycling sports, including mountain biking.
Its simplicity offered riders several benefits, including being able to cycle at lower tire pressures and not having to wear out the tire with friction between the inner tube and outer rim, but with every good comes a bad, too.
Here’s what you should know about tubeless mountain bike tires, how to tell if you have an inner tube, the pros and cons of going tubeless, and more!
Are All Mountain Bike Tires Tubeless?
While tubeless tires are often used for mountain bikes, they aren’t the only option available.
Tires with an inner tube (pneumatic tires) have been around for as long as they have for a reason. They are durable, can provide your bike with extra support, and have a double layer of rubber to protect you from sharp objects while riding.
A lot of mountain bikes are tubeless-ready nowadays, meaning that they can work with either type of tire. If you don’t opt for a tubeless bike, you’ll get stuck having to use pneumatic tires even if you think your riding would benefit from the other option.
How Do I Know If My MTB Tires Are Tubeless?
Finding out what type of tires you have is simple. You’re just looking for an inner tube.
To see if your tires have an inner tube, deflate one tire completely. Once the tire is flat, peel the bead (the part attached to the bike) of the tire away and see if there’s an inner tube encased inside.
If there’s a tube inside, your tires are not tubeless.
If you don’t have tubeless tires but want to know if your bike is tubeless-ready, you’ll have to check the rim of your wheel. To do this, it’s best to remove the tire from the bike if you don’t have much experience with identifying tubeless systems.
Tubeless-ready bikes provide an airtight seal on the tire rim so that your tires don’t deflate. To do this, the tire rim must be able to latch onto the tire bead.
A hook design should be present around the tire rim for the tubeless tire to attach to. However, if you have an older bike, your rims may push the tire bead up against the outer rim instead.
Different bike brands may have varying tubeless systems for their products, so be disheartened if your bike doesn’t match the same tubeless ready requirements we’ve mentioned. There are many ways a bike can be tubeless.
How to Inflate Tubeless Bike Tires?
Inflating a tubeless tire isn’t as complicated as it might sound. You can pump air into the tires with a foot pump, tubeless tire compressor, or compressor.
But before you start trying to pump air into your tires, there are a few pre-steps to take. To start, you should clean the wheel rim with a dry or damp cloth. A clean wheel rim ensures that the tire presses firmly against the rim, minimizing air release.
Let’s Talk Sealant
It’s also important to talk about sealants before getting to filling up the tires. There are different schools of thought on when to put sealant on your tires. The simplest method seems to be to add it before inflating them.
Sealant adds an extra layer of protection from punctures and is added to the inside of the tire. You can inject the sealant directly into the tire with a valve core remover and a sealant injector.
If you don’t have those items, you can just open up the bead of the tire and pour the sealant directly in. In both cases, the wheel should be turned as the sealant is being added to ensure an even, smooth coat.
Inflating the Tires
The pump should connect to your tire valve securely to limit the escaping air.
The valve should be turned to 3 o’clock or 9 o’clock to avoid fluid build-up.
Next, you’ll want to secure your tire to the wheel rim so it doesn’t pop out of place once you start pumping air into it. A strap or tie of some sort should do the trick.
Finally, you can begin inflating your tires. After the tire is inflated enough to create its only seal to the wheel rim that you can remove the straps attaching the wheel to the tire.
Make sure not to over-inflate your tires!
MTB Tubeless Tires Maintenance
Maintaining your tubeless tires is key to their longevity.
You should make a note of when you last applied sealant because unfortunately, it doesn’t last forever. Latex-based sealants should last around 9,000 miles.
If you don’t like the idea of reapplying your sealant, you should opt for a fiber-based sealant. That will last you the duration of your tire’s life.
It may be tempting to buy the cheaper latex option, but as they age and harden, you’ll have a hard time removing them so professionals recommend going for the fiber-based alternative.
Ideally, you should replace the sealant every two or three months. If you want to replace the sealant more often, that’s great, too.
Dealing with Flat Tires
Flat tires happen, no matter how much we hate them and try to avoid them. You can get away with patching up a pneumatic tire, but tubeless tires aren’t as easy to repair.
If you have a hole in your tubeless tire, it’s easier and safer to just replace the tire completely. After all, out of all the things to cut corners on, your bike tires are not one of them.
MTB Tubeless Tires Advantages and Disadvantages
There are many reasons why people have been switching to tubeless tires for the past couple of decades, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any negatives to going tubeless.
Here’s what you need to know about making the switch.
The biggest advantage of tubeless tires is that you can use them at lower pressures. This increases tire traction and minimizes puncture risk.
If you do get a puncture, it should self-seal. This is why using a sealant is so important.
Tubeless tires are also more comfortable to ride with, particularly because they can withstand lower pressures. Riding on tough terrain can be uncomfortable, but a softer tire means fewer bumps and bruises.
Finally, because there’s no inner tube, your tire won’t rub against rub while you ride, so it will withstand less friction damage.
If you’re trying to build a bike on a budget, tubeless tires may not be your best choice. They can be expensive and you’ll have to replace them if they have a hole.
Dealing with tubeless wheel rims and putting the tire on can be messy and difficult, so it’s not for the faint of heart.
You’ll have to carry a spare tube with you in case one pops, otherwise you won’t be able to ride the bike home. This can be inconvenient.
Finally, dealing with sealant isn’t for everyone. It coagulates, can clog the valve, and needs to be replaced regularly.
Is It Worth Going Tubeless?
There are quite a few perks to going tubeless, but you can still have a great mountain biking experience with classic inner tube wheels. If you’re willing to keep up with the maintenance, the lighter and more comfortable experience of riding with tubeless tires will be worth it.
Tubeless tires for mountain biking have become well-known. It’s simple to tell if your bike is tubeless and if it’s tubeless-ready, so be sure to check if going tubeless is an option for you!
Dealing with sealant can be annoying, and you need to be consistent when you apply it. Professionals recommend a fiber-based sealant, so avoid latex-based ones if you can!
Do you have tubeless tires on your mountain bike? What do you think of them? Which kind of tires do you prefer, tubeless or pneumatic? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!
Good luck figuring out how to make your mountain bike work best for you!