Tubeless tires are getting more and more popular each day. Many people are seriously thinking about switching their setup whereas some other people remain skeptical about it. Tubeless MTB tires provide better traction, reduce flats, and make the bike lighter.
If you are interested in tubeless MTB tires but aren’t sure whether you go for it or not, this article is for you. Join us as we explore the drawbacks and benefits of tubeless mountain bike tires.
What Does Tubeless Mean
Just as the name suggests, tubeless tires are… well, tubeless (duh!). This wheel setup has no inner tube. Instead, the valve, rim, and a particular type of liquid latex sealant are used to maintain the air pressure. This concept is getting popular among mountain bikers as this allows better traction and fewer flats on the trail.
Tubeless MTB tires are impermeable by design and use a unique rim bed that creates a tight grip, leaving no chance of air escaping. However, tubeless tires are not 100% flat-proof and require a little more maintenance than regular tires.
So, what happens when you get a flat on a tubeless tire? Here, the sealant works its charm. The sealant quickly repairs small holes without losing much air pressure. If the hole is small enough, you won’t probably even notice the sealant at work.
Benefits of Tubeless Mountain Bike Tires
The primary benefit of using tubeless MTB tires is, that you can reduce the air pressure inside your tire (around 7-10 psi), allowing better traction. High tire pressure may be better suited for streets, but it creates issues off-road where there are a lot of rocks, thorns, roots, and jumps.
High tire pressure can’t filter road vibration and creates an uncomfortable feeling. Lower tire pressure means less rolling resistance. It can also absorb some of the road vibrations, making the ride more cushioned and comfortable.
Lower tire pressure also helps to improve tire traction. Lower pressure allows more of the tire to touch and grip the ground, creating better traction and momentum. This helps bikers make sharp turns and go uphill/downhill more stable and secure.
Additionally, when your tire hits a bump, lower air pressure absorbs much of the shock by allowing the tire to deform more than a high-pressure tire. This will protect your forward movement, giving you a faster, smoother, and more efficient offroad riding experience.
There are no bikers who don’t hate flat tires. Pinch flats AKA snakebite punctures are pretty common and can ruin your riding experience within seconds. Repairing flat tires is another hassle no bikers want to go through.
Tubeless MTB tires can significantly reduce flats, making your driving experience a lot smoother. If the hole is small enough, you probably won’t even notice it as the sealant will patch the tire almost immediately.
How does it do that? Well, the liquid latex sealant is used for exactly this purpose. The air pressure inside forces the sealant out of the hole and when it does, it hardens and seals the hole within mere seconds.
Check out how this tubeless tire effortlessly passes a torture test:
However, if the hole is too big (bigger than ?th of an inch), you’ll still need to stop and repair the tire before you continue riding. There are a couple of ways you can fix a tubeless tire, like patching the tire or inserting a plain old tube till you finish your ride and have a better look at it.
Tubeless tires are lighter than the regular ones. The average 29er Presta valve tube weighs around 200 grams (7.5 oz) each. On the other hand, a typical tubeless tire has around 125 grams (4.4 oz) of sealant.
That means you’ll be saving around 150-400 grams (5-14 oz) per bike. This may not seem like a lot, but it’ll vastly improve your riding experience as heavier tires are harder to accelerate and require more energy.
With lighter wheels, you’ll see a slight improvement in your energy to distance ratio and it’ll be easier to maintain your momentum. It’ll also be slightly less tiring to carry your bike in case of an emergency.
Remember, mountain biking requires frequent braking and accelerating. Although the weight reduction isn’t much big, you’ll definitely notice the difference in your overall driving experience.
Drawbacks of tubeless MTB tires
Like there are two opposite sides to every coin, tubeless MTB tires also come with some drawbacks. The primary one is the costly upgrade.
If you want to switch to a tubeless system, you’ll have to buy a number of components like rim tapes, sealant, air compressor, and valve stems, which will increase the cost substantially. And if your rim isn’t tubeless ready, it’ll cost you even more.
However, it can be expected that you’ll get more bang for your buck as these components are higher in quality. The maintenance of tubeless MTB tires is also a bit tricky. The sealant tends to dry out over time and needs replacing. You may also need to carry a patch kit/repair kit anyway as the sealant can’t fix bigger punctures.
The installation process is also trickier. Changing a tire can become really messy if you’re not careful. You’ll need to check your tires before every ride as the tires may lose some air pressure in between rides. Running your tire at low pressure will also make your rims more vulnerable to damage.
The cost of going tubeless
This depends largely on your current setup. If you have tubeless-ready rims, valve stems, and tires all you’ll need is a quality sealant. The smallest bottle of sealant comes at 8 oz and costs around $10-20.
A pair of basic tubeless valves cost around $10-15. Lighter aluminum valves will cost more. As for the tires, they usually cost between $25-90 each, depending on the brand. The most expensive thing you’ll need to invest in is the rims. Although it’s possible to convert your existing one into a tubeless-ready one, you’ll need a tubeless conversion kit.
The price of tubeless rims ranges from $150-800. A conversion kit on the other hand costs around $35-70. You’ll also need quality rim tape if that’s not included in the conversion kit. That’ll cost you about $12-50.
So, if you want to build a tubeless system from scratch (except the bike frame, of course!), it’ll set you back at around $220-1,000, depending on the brand.
That sums up our today’s guide on the benefits of tubeless MTB tires. Hopefully, this guide will provide you with enough information to make an informed decision. Thanks for reading this far, and happy cycling to you.