There’s no denying it; tubeless can be a massive pain in the arse sometimes. You’ll go for months without a flat, relishing in the added traction, enjoying all the benefits of ditching the tubes. And then it all goes to shit. There’s sealant everywhere, all over your bike; you’re up at the servo at 9:30pm in the driveway stealing their compressor; you and your half boozed mate are grabbing frantically at the tyre, trying to get that son-of-a-bitch to bead while a third mate works the track pump so hard the o-rings melt. And it’s always, always the night before a big ride or race.
So here are our top five tips. This is not a complete guide to going tubeless, but simply a few little gems that can make tubeless a joyful experience, rather than a latex covered nightmare.
1. Get a compressor or a big, bad-ass pump:
If you’ve got a garage, get a compressor. You can pick one up for less than $100. It doesn’t have to be amazing – even the cheapest made-in-China plastic compressor will leave a track pump for dead. If you don’t have a garage or you need something portable, get a motherfu%ker high-volume track pump. Lezyne make the best high-volume pump we’ve used to date. It’ll only reach 60psi or so, but it moves a lot more air per pump stroke, and that’s what you need.
2. Don’t skimp on sealant:
If you’ve gone to the trouble to ditch the tubes, you may as well make sure you don’t have to go through the process again in a hurry. Add plenty of sealant to each tyre – that way it won’t dry out so fast, and if you do get a puncture you’ve got far more chance that it’ll actually seal back up like it should. Take the time to periodically check your sealant isn’t all dried up too – ideally you want to have enough sealant that you can hear it if you give the wheel a little wiggle.
3. Remove the valve core:
When it comes to actually pumping the tyre for the first time and trying to get it to bead, it always pays to remove the valve core. (This is possible with most valves, but unfortunately not all – for example, Shimano’s UST valves don’t have a removeable core…. Pain in the butt.) Removing the valve core makes it far easier to get more air into the tyre, much more quickly as it doesn’t need to squeeze past the constraints of the valve mechanism. More air, faster = more likelihood the tyre will bead/seat nice and fast.
4. Don’t go tubeless to save weight:
While you often do end up with a lighter bike through going tubeless, this shouldn’t be your main motivation. There are plenty of other, more important benefits; less pinch flats, more grip, a smoother ride. If you’re trying to save weight, you inevitably end up with tyres that are too fragile and are susceptible to flats, thereby exacerbating a problem you were trying to avoid in the first place. We’ve witnessed plenty of races ruined by running filthy light tyres that aren’t appropriate for tubeless. Get a tyre that is tubeless-ready (most brands offer tubeless-ready rubber now, for almost the same price), and preferably one with some kind of sidewall and casing reinforcement or protection. This doesn’t mean you need heavy UST rubber, but a bit of extra protection makes a world of difference to the reliability of your tubeless setup.
5. Make the most of your lack of tubes:
Without tubes, you’re free to do all kinds of irresponsible and ride-enhancing things. Like dropping your tyre pressure! There’s no point in going tubeless and keeping your tyres hard as a rock – let some air out and feel the benefits. If you’ve always run your tyres in the mid 30s, try dropping them to the mid 20s and just see what happens. Obviously, you don’t want to go too far and roll your tyres off the rim, but there’s plenty of benefit to be found through running less air. And without the constant threat of pinch flats, you can afford to experiment a bit more.