21st December 2017. Every cyclist knows that there's no end to the amount of time you can spend customising your ride. From new brakes and high-performance gearsets to stronger chains and more, there's a vast amount of flexibility for tweaking your bike to ride exactly the way you want. Sometimes, it's all about aesthetics or personal preference. Other times, what's at stake is a real difference in performance or even safety. One area where you may have some questions: the tyres. We don't often think much about the tyres on our bikes, except when we're getting a flat in the middle of a ride or we lose traction on a wet surface. However, there is plenty of variety available in this area, too. In fact, there is one big question facing more cyclists every year as technology improves: to go tubeless, or not to go tubeless? The traditional bicycle tyre has an inner tube that helps it to keep its shape and work well on your frame. A tubeless tyre, on the other hand, sits flush against your rim and creates an airtight seal, with no need for any other kind of inner structure. These tyres can often use a lower pressure, and they do yield some real advantages. However, they can also have some drawbacks, and they may not be right for every rider. So how do you decide if they're worth the investment? Let's break down the pros and cons of this type of equipment to help make it easier to reach a decision.
Pro: You'll get a better grip on uneven terrain
The main advantage to choosing tubeless tyres is their ability to be used at a lower pressure than typical tyres. A higher pressure means a stiffer tyre, and for mountain bikers and others who go off-road, this is a huge advantage. It means you will get more traction as your tyre will sink to the ground more, gaining a better grip even on wet or uneven terrain. The result is a smoother, more efficient ride that allows you a greater degree of control than you had before. You can do all this without worrying about damaging the tyre. When you're looking for a way to bring your mountain biking skills to the next level, this added control can be a game changer.
Con: "Road tubeless" tyres aren't as advantageous
While you find that going tubeless can yield lots of advantages on mountain trails and rough surfaces, the benefits aren't as well-defined when it comes to riding on the road. Road bike tyres are usually thinner already, and though tubeless models exist, they don't often provide the same advantages. Pinch flats are uncommon for road riders in most conditions, and traction is rarely ever an issue; you can usually simply lower the pressure in regular tyres to account for changing weather. As a result, a tubeless system for individuals who exercise and cycle on streets and footpaths is often more trouble than it's worth. Instead, other standard solutions may be the way to go.
Pro: It's harder for tubeless tyres to go flat
The removal of the standard tube from these tyres means that the dreaded "pinch flat" is practically impossible. There is no way for the inner tube to pinch the inside of the tyre and puncture it, meaning you're free to enjoy even more unforgiving terrain than before. It?s also due to the lower pressure in the tyre itself, which contributes to the improved ride quality mentioned before. Tubeless tyres can even be "self-healing" in some cases since you will need to use a sealant within the tyre itself to create a good bond with the rim. Many punctures and tears that occur will seal up on their own if they are not too big.
Con: Fixing flats when they do happen still requires a tube
As hard as it is to run a tubeless tyre flat, it can still happen, especially if you encounter a very serious puncture. Blowing out a tubeless tyre means you'll probably need to install an inner tube to fix the seal between the tyre and the rim ? so your maintenance kit on rides won't change very much. While pinch flats won't be a problem, you're going to have to deal with messy sealant and a problematic mounting process if you want to change to a spare tyre. Sometimes, these products are also tricky to re-inflate without access to compressed air or a reliable pump. Keep this in mind when considering your purchase.
Pro: Tubeless tyres can reduce your overall riding weight
For some cyclists, every opportunity to knock weight off their bike is one they want to take. When you're looking for that competitive edge or a way to put more of a focus on challenging terrain rather than fighting with your bike, less weight matters. Tubeless tyres are one way to reduce the overall weight of your bicycle while also gaining the other advantages mentioned here. While you won't drop a tremendous amount of weight, it can make a noticeable difference to the quality of your ride. Wheels that are easier to turn due to reduced weight means you will be able to save your energy for producing power when you need it the most.
Con: Maintenance requires careful sealant application & regular touch-ups
Mounting these tyres takes practice, and often involves a fair amount of trial and error before you get the hang of the process. Meanwhile, you must use a fair amount of sealant to achieve the desired adhesion on your rim ? otherwise, the tyre won't work at all. The process can be challenging, frustrating, and messy, so be sure to avoid wearing any of your good clothes when it's time to tweak your tyres. The sealant dries out and wears away, too, so you'll need to reapply with some frequency to keep it fresh. If you aren't fond of doing bicycle maintenance and want to maintain a more simple, straightforward approach to keeping it in good shape, the extra requirements of tubeless maintenance won't be welcome.
Pro: There are many options available today for going tubeless
In the past, there were not as many product options for tubeless tyres; there may have been perhaps a dozen products on the market for those who wanted a way to abandon the traditional tube styles. In recent years, as these products have continued to grow in popularity, that's no longer an issue. Today, finding tubeless tyres that match your bike and your intended riding conditions should be an easy accomplishment. Whether you shop for them online or you look around for a local source, you should be able to match tyres to your wheels with little to no problem. Once you do, it's just a matter of learning how to fit the tyres and inflate them properly.
Con: They can cost more money and take longer to install
Because they aren't the "stock" tyres we use, tubeless products typically cost more money than their regular counterparts. They also require some specialised tools and knowledge to install. While that might be easy to do at the shop the first time you make a purchase, it will be your responsibility later. Can you take the hit to your cycling budget for a product that comes with so many added demands? If you're already a gearhead, it will be no problem; if you're just a casual cyclist, though, the gains may not be worth the effort.
Deciding on tubeless tyres
In the end, it comes down to what you want to get out of your bike-riding experience. Riding with lower pressure can create a smoother, gentler ride, and the less frequent need to stop and repair punctures and flats is undoubtedly an advantage. However, it's just as important to keep in mind that maintenance will be a trickier matter, and these tyres may not be suitable for all the types of terrain in which you intend to ride. As a result, it's important to weigh these pros and cons based on your situation. A conversation with a staff member at your local cycling shop could be in order too ? chances are they have plenty of experience with the tyres, both as sellers and as riders. Ask questions, try them out, and see if this is the way you should tweak your bike next. Follow @SportNessUK