Do you still ride with a tube – or do you already live tubeless? The tubeless alternative is becoming increasingly popular. Patching a bicycle tube is now a thing of the past. Tubeless tires is the name of this innovation, which has become popular especially in the sport of mountain biking and road biking (cyclocross). Also for the everyday rider, various tubeless tires are available for the trekking or touring bike. What you need to know about this novelty, you will learn here.

The History Of The Tubeless Tire

Tubeless tires are based on the same concept that has been used in car tires for 60 years and in motorcycle tires for 30 years. But the implementation in the bicycle turned out to be a bit more difficult because of the more filigree construction. This is because tubeless tires are a special wheel system.

Tubeless has been established on mountain bikes since around 2005. Initially in the professional segment, but also soon with everyone. To date, tubeless tires under 35mm size (eg road bikes) are rather rare. This is mainly due to the narrow tolerances between narrow road bike tire and rim. But for 2021, a breakthrough of the tubeless road bike tire is expected. When most professional teams switch from tubular to tubeless. Whether that will then make history remains to be seen.

Advantages Of The Tubeless System:

  • Puncture resistance
  • Better handling due to lower air pressure (shock absorption/suspension)
  • Lower running resistance (less friction due to inner tube)
  • Lower weight (usually; not always guaranteed with older and cheaper systems).

Disadvantages Of The Tubeless System:

  • Higher effort to install (barrier to entry).
  • Higher maintenance (renewing the sealing latex milk)
  • To date (2021), less choice of products
cross-section of tubes
A tire with tube compared to tubeless in cross-section

Less Internal Pressure, Higher Puncture Protection – Ideal On Mountain Bikes

The initial advantage of tubeless tires on bikes was that they can be inflated with much less internal pressure without sacrificing performance, but at the same time have a much higher puncture resistance – which tends to be lower on tires with low internal pressure. This makes them best suited for mountain bikes, where you have more grip with the lower internal pressure. The additional puncture protection that results from the system is absolutely unbeatable compared to conventional tires. Thanks to the internal sealant, the tubeless tire is even able to heal itself – smaller holes are repaired within milliseconds by the liquid sealant. In addition, the air escapes much more slowly in the event of damage than it does with a damaged bicycle inner tube.

Tubeless Tires For The Road Bike

Now, however, there are also isolated tubeless tires that are also intended to be suitable for everyday use and on road bikes. Especially Schwalbe is a pioneer of this new technology. Allegedly, their new tubeless road bike tires would have less rolling resistance and thus more speed than normal road bike tires and would weigh even less than it would a normal wheel system.

The lower rolling resistance is physically due to the fact that the tube in the normal tire also creates friction. With tubeless, there are fewer parts that are deformed when the tire comes into contact with the asphalt and creates friction. An advantage that is very obvious, is that tubular tires are still more popular in the peloton than tubeless ones.

The great success of tubeless in the professional field is yet to come – but with previous innovations on the bike, it was more often the case that it took until they gained widespread recognition. Conservative cyclists are to be found precisely in racing – but most bicycle technicians also believe here in a triumph of tubeless in the near future.

Complex Conversion

One possible reason for the hesitation of many cyclists to try the new technology is the complexity of the conversion. This is because tubeless tires are actually not just about the tire – the entire wheel must be compatible with the system. You can’t fit tubeless tires on all rims – in fact, the tubeless concept means that the sidewalls of the rims have to withstand much higher pressure than normal rims do. That’s why you need to find out if your rims are compatible – or “tubeless-ready,” as they’re also known – before converting.

Normal rims can also be converted to tubeless rims. However, this is a case for hobbyists and tinkerers. Even with household duct tape (or fabric tape), some think to have converted their rim to a tubeless system. However, this is not a patent remedy and will need some trial-and-error.

Briefly – What Do You Need For The Conversion?

In short, they are:

  • Tubeless rim tape (sealing the rim)
  • Tubeless milk (internal sealing, puncture protection)
  • Tubeless valves (valves come separately)
  • Floor pump with pressure tank or compressor (in rare cases, the floor pump alone is sufficient)
  • Tubeless-compatible tires (not all tires are compatible, see Products and Standards Tips below).
  • Even if the rims are tubeless-ready, you may still need tubeless rim tape. This is because the rims must also be airtight for the system to work. But some rims have holes, even though they are tubeless-ready.

Then you need a tubeless kit, which includes the following material: Tubeless valves, sealing fluid, and mounting fluid (or “assembly fluid”). This mounting fluid is used when installing the tubeless tires on the rims – it provides a lubricating film to successfully slip the tires over the rims. However, many craftsmen recommend as an alternative for unruly tires: soapy water.

But even this is often not enough – in some cases, you still need a high-quality high-pressure air pump or compressor, with which you can pump as much air as possible into the tire at once. In order for the tubeless system to work, the tubeless tires have much thicker tire beads and the rims have special inner spaces to keep the tires air-tight. Depending on the particular tire and rim, you may need a strong high-pressure push to fix the tires to the rim.

Once the tubeless tires are fixed, however, they can be inflated with all conventional bicycle pumps!

Is The Tubeless Tire On My Bike Worth It?

Whether tubeless tires really bring an increase in performance is debatable. The trend seems to be toward tubeless tires – but whether the switch is worth it right now is not so easy to answer. Many cyclists do indeed notice higher speeds – but most tubeless testers are in the mountain bike sector.

What can be said in any case: Tubeless tires are more puncture-proof than any other tires. But they are also more expensive and more complex to mount. It makes sense to try them out on a new bike – because tubeless-ready rims are also compatible with normal tires. Thus, if necessary, you can switch back to conventional tires without replacing the rims.

Overview Of Tubeless Tires

This table gives an overview of tubeless tires that are suitable for road bikes, city bikes or trekking bikes. Since the majority of the newer MTB tires are tubeless-ready, you can find the tubeless MTB tires here with us: mountain bike tires at a glance.

As you can see, there are already some imaginable tubeless options for road bikes on the market – but in the trekking sector, you’ll have to make do with slim variants of MTB tires.

With the weight specifications, you have to consider that you save the weight of the bicycle tube here.

Tubeless Conversion Tool Overview

Matching also an overview of various products that are necessary or useful when converting to tubeless – from the Schwalbe complete kit to the inexpensive Tesa Tape for the hobbyists.

Tubeless Systems: UST, BST, etc.

There are various abbreviations circling around in tubeless marketing. In fact, however, there are only two different tubeless systems: UST and tubeless-ready. Some count a third tubeless system: here, the daring bike hobbyist uses an ordinary standard tire, which he makes tubeless with sealing milk.

Update 2020:

In addition to UST, there is also an additional new standard since 2020. This is mainly relevant for road bike tires. In an ETRTO working group, two terms were established as a new quasi-standard for rims and tires with particularly narrow tolerances: TSS (Tubeless Straight Side) and TC (Tubeless Clincher). These are official terms that may only be used if you actually follow the agreed-upon standards. Below is the definition of these.

Everything else is marketing. Here is an overview of the two tubeless systems and other abbreviations in the tubeless field.

Tubeless Systems And Standards

UST: UST stands for Universal System Tubeless. A UST tire is a tubeless-only tire that should only be ridden with airtight UST rims. UST tires have an airtight butyl layer and, if mounted on UST rims, can be ridden without sealing milk. You can still use additional sealing milk. UST tires are mainly used in MTB sport.

Tubeless-Ready: Tubeless-Ready tires can be ridden with a tube or they can be converted into tubeless tires with the help of sealing milk.

TSS: Tubeless Straight Side is a new standard that is still relatively young (2020). This describes rims without hooks on the flank, which should make the tires more compatible with rims. TSS rims have a max. the pressure of 5 bar.

TC: Tubeless Clincher is a standard that is also very young (2020). This should be particularly well compatible with TSS rims. It is expected that especially narrow road bike tires will follow this standard.

Road UST: Road UST (or UST-Road) is a special subgenre of UST used by Mavic. These are special wheelsets for the road bike with matching tires. The emphasis here is on matching: the tires are to match the rims extremely accurately from the Manufacture.

BST: BST stands for “Bead Socket Technology” and is not an independent tubeless system. It is a special rim technology of Stan’s NoTubes rims. The rims are to fit more precisely to the shape of the tire beads, which is to grant a better, more airtight unit. BST is specifically for MTB tires with a maximum of 3.1 bar air pressure. BST rims fit all tires – there are no special BST tires.

BST-R: BST-R is the rarer “road” version of BST and was also designed by Stan’s NoTubes. So BST-R rims are designed for road bikes and can withstand up to 7.9 bars of air pressure. The Avion Pro Tubeless wheels are an example of BST-R rims.

Tubeless Tires: Finally A Solid Rubber Tire?

When you think of a tubeless tire, you might first think of a solid rubber tire: a tire completely filled with rubber instead of air space. But this is nonsense. In the 19th century, there were bicycles with solid rubber tires for a time. But that is anything but efficient. The modern tubeless tire creates an air-tight space between the tire and the rim. When you inflate a tubeless tire, you pump air into the space between the tire and the rim. Therefore, in addition to the tire, you also need a special “tubeless-ready” rim.

But if you’re interested in a real solid tire, you can try them out on the rental bikes of certain Asian providers like Obike or Gobee. bike. These can be found in Frankfurt and Munich, among other places. But experience reports show: It’s no fun with the solid rubber tires. After all, you only use them because they are more puncture-proof and the Far East-based providers thus save on repair costs.

FAQs – Tubeless Tires

Which Tape for Tubeless?

To seal the rim, you should use special tubeless rim tape. You can always find conversion specialists who use Tesa film or similar, but whether that holds in the long term is questionable. In addition, the rim tape should fit specifically to the width of the rim, so that it also fits securely. You can read more about this here: Tubeless rim tape.

What does Tubeless Easy Mean?

“Tubeless Easy” is a new technology from Schwalbe that makes it easier to convert to tubeless. Specifically, it is a special sidewall that is more airtight. This is because, with tubeless tires, it can be difficult to get enough air into the space between the tire and the rim to get the tire in the right position. Tubeless Easy tires make this step easier.

Tubeless: What is it?

Tubeless is a new wheel system – tire and rim form an airtight unit. This means that you save on the bicycle tube. This offers incomparable puncture resistance. For this, you need both a special tire and an airtight rim.

Which Tires for Tubeless?

Tubeless-compatible tires must be explicitly marked by the manufacturer as tubeless-ready! Also, many tires are available as tubeless and as non-tubeless. So if you don’t find a sign on the tire, you should ask where you got the bike or tires. Most new MTB tires are tubeless-ready, but not all. Therefore, you should inform yourself before the conversion.

Conclusion – Tubeless Tires

Tubeless tires and solid tires are two completely different things. Tubeless is an innovation of the last few decades, while true solid tires are a throwback to the 19th century.