Running mountain bike or road tyres ‘tubeless’, as the name suggests, means without an inner tube has many advantages. A tubeless setup is lighter (your bike is minus the extra weight of two tubes), more resistant to pinch flats (so you can run tyres at lower pressure with more grip and more confidence) and, because a tubeless tyre will contain liquid sealant, it also helps to avoid penetration punctures from thorns and sharp stones.
Tubeless tyres also roll faster – by conforming more readily to the ground and absorbing impacts, rolling resistance is reduced for a faster overall speed.
However not all tyres and wheel rims are ‘tubeless ready’, so if you want to run a tubeless setup on your bike you may need a conversion kit. This normally consists of replacement valves, rim strip (to seal the spoke holes) and sealant.
It’s worth noting that Stans have a very useful guide on compatibility and rim configuration.
Read on for more information on the different types of tubeless conversion kit available and what you need for your bike to ‘go tubeless’.
Maxxis High Roller II MTB Tyre – TR
The perfect All-Mountain and Downhill version of the High Roller has arrived! This Maxxis High Roller II MTB Tyre – TR features an open and aggressive tread design to provide you with excellent soil penetration and superb mud clearing ability. Coming as Tubeless Ready (TR), the High Roller II MTB Tyre boasts the tubeless benefits in one lightweight and durable package.
Continental Der Baron Projekt Folding MTB Tyre
The Der Baron Projekt Folding MTB Tyre from Continental sits at the very pinnacle of the riding discipline it was designed for. Combining exceptional rolling performance and superb traction thanks to the BlackChili Compound, top-level puncture protection thanks to ProTection casing and added stability and reliability via Apex sidewall reinforcement; this tyre can be your best companion on your journey to the top of the podium, as it has done for others countless times before.
Schwalbe Magic Mary Addix MTB Tyre – SnakeSkin
The Schwalbe Magic Mary Addix MTB Tyre is the perfect choice for any Track or Trail situation. Being a favourite amongst Downhill and Enduro riders, it performs to the same huge level as its world cup durability and reliability has proven.
Schwalbe Hans Dampf Addix MTB Tyre – SnakeSkin
The Schwalbe Hans Dampf Addix MTB Tyre has an exceptionally balanced tread profile, effortlessly putting the rider in full control when riding over rough terrain and when blasting down flowing singletrack trails.
Michelin Force AM Competition Line MTB Tyre
This All-Mountain tyre is packed with cutting-edge technology to provide you with a competitive edge on your rivals. Made from GUM-X3D rubber compound, which greatly improves grip on loose terrain and braking stability, this tyre will ensure you extract every bit of performance possible from your run.
Here’s how to change your tubeless tyre:
Schwalbe Pro One Road Bike Tyre
This Schwalbe Pro One Road Bike Tyre is a fast and grippy tyre that performs well with a tube but even better as a tubeless tyre. With Schwalbe’s patented MicroSkin construction, the Pro One Road Bike Tyre is fast, reliable and lightweight.
Hutchinson Intensive 2 Tubeless Road Tyre
The Intensive 2 is designed for durability, comfort and grip. It has a polyamide anti-puncture casing and tubeless capability, punctures are a thing of the past. This tyre has the credentials to be used solely as a training tyre or for long distance rides.
Hutchinson Fusion 5 Tubeless Road Tyre
The Fusion 5 is an all rounder designed to combine grip, efficiency, durability, puncture resistance and comfort. This combination enables this tyre to reach a high level of performance when out on the road. The key technology options for this tyre are available in the Tubeless format and have all the same benefits but are less likely to suffer from punctures while the rotational resistance is lower. The All-Season compound is specifically developed to offer efficiency and grip in all weather conditions using striated side channels to aid the evacuation of water when the roads are saturated. Ideal for long winter rides, spring roads and dry summer epics, the Fusion 5 is a must have for cyclists facing uncertain weather conditions.
WTB Resolute TCS Light Fast Rolling Tyre
The WTB Resolute TCS Light Fast Rolling Tyre is the perfectly balanced all-weather gravel tyre. It features small square knobs across its tread, which provides consistent grip and traction on a wide variety of terrain. The generous spacing between the tread creates efficient mud clearing when the weather turns wet. This tyre is truly an all-season set and forget gravel tyre for top performance in all weather conditions.
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme MicroSkin Road Tyre
The Supreme was the first Evolution line Marathon and now it is in its second generation. The new OneStar compound makes it even faster.
Effetto Caffelatex MTB Tubeless Kit
Caffélatex is a truly innovative tyre sealant, free of ammonia and other aggressive chemicals; it is kind to the tyre casing and provides an excellent seal for punctures up to 6mm. It now comes in a handy kit containing everything you need to convert your wheels to tubeless.
This complete kit comes in a handy tool bottle, containing a 250ml bottle of sealant, one roll of tubeless tape (enough for two wheels), and two tubeless valves with conic adapters for Schrader or Presta compatibility. The kits come in small, medium or large, designating the width of rim tape provided.
Joe’s No Flats Eco Tubeless System – XC
Fits XC rims, 26″ and 29″ 17-19mm inner rim width. Colour coded BLUE. Joe’s Tubeless Rim Strips are specifically designed to secure the tyre inside the rim, with no loss of air from the rim. Weight 50 grams per strip including valve. Fits rims with FRENCH/PRESTA valve hole openings.
Stans No Tubes Downhill Tubeless Kit
The Downhill Kit includes two molded rim strips equipped with 32mm removable valve core Schrader valve stems, a pint of Stan’s Sealant, measuring cup, spout, a roll of Universal Yellow Tape, and stickers. This kit will fit most downhill rims measuring 36mm to 39mm wide
A wealth of information is available on how to use a conversion kit to make your tyres run tubeless – check out the kit manufacturer’s website or visit YouTube for a video tutorial – but here’s a quick rundown of the main steps.
You will need: A tubeless conversion kit that includes rim strips and valves (either separately or with the valve moulded into the strip) and sealant; soapy water and a brush or sponge, a floor pump or ideally an air compressor; lots of patience.
1. Remove the old tyres and any rim tape.
2. Carefully clean the rim bed and the inside of the tyre to remove any grit or old sealant (light sandpaper following by a rub-down with baby wipes will do this).
3. Apply the rubber rim strip to the rim bed, taking care to do so. This needs to be as airtight as possible so apply it under tension and move it from side to side to seat it properly. Smooth it down with a cloth as you apply it in order to get rid of any trapped air bubbles.
4. If you are using a rim strip with moulded valves, ensure the valve lines up with the valve hole so you can insert it. If using a separate strip and valves, cut a small, clean cross in the strip over the valve hole, insert the valve and tighten it in place with the locking nut (if your valve hole is too small – e.g . designed for a Presta valve when most conversion kits use Schrader – you may need to drill it out using a 21/64”/8.3mm drill bit).
5. Mount the tyre on the rim (this can take some effort with tubeless-ready or UST tyres that have reinforced beads, so strong tyre levers are advised). Positioning the tyre bead in the centre channel of the rim, mount one bead beginning opposite the valve and finishing at the valve. Once the first bead is mounted begin mounting the second bead opposite the valve and again finish at the valve.
6. Use a brush or sponge to apply a generous amount of soapy water to the bead and rim, all the way around. This will help to seat the bead on the rim hook, and you will be able to see where any air is escaping post-inflation (look for tiny bubbles coming out at the bead or through the tyre sidewall).
7. Now comes the tricky bit – inflating the tyre so that the bid sits properly on the rim and creates and airtight seal. Many experts advise use a compressor for a quick blast of air, but if you haven’t gone one to hand it is possible to do it with a high-volume floor pump. When inflating, hang the wheel up by the rim so that the tyre is not deformed by contact with the ground. It’s advisable to do a ‘test inflate’ first, and you may need a couple of runs at it.
8. Once the tyre is inflated, look for any escaping air (tiny bubbles in the water). If this is down to the bead being incorrectly seated on the rim, deflate and try again. If there is air escaping through the sidewall, it indicates a porous area, which is where the liquid sealant comes in.
9. Deflate the tyre, remove the valve core and pour in the recommended amount of sealant (2-3oz) using the supplied funnel. Re-inflate the wheel, then rotate and bounce it to ensure adequate dispersal of the sealant – it should seal any areas where air is escaping though the tyre, with a little left over that will remain liquid and seal any future punctures.
10. If the wheel isn’t holding air, re-apply a layer of soapy water and look for tell-tale bubbles. Rotate the wheel to slosh sealant over the affected area.
11. Inflate to the recommended pressure (usually not more than 45psi for MTB tyres) and you’re done. Tubeless!
There are three main ways to run tubeless tyres on your bike – either with Universal Standard Tubeless (UST) wheels and tyres, with tubeless-ready rims and tyres or by using a tubeless conversion kit to make ordinary wheels airtight.
• UST wheels and tyres: These are tyres and rims designed specifically to be run tubeless, with tight tolerances between the tyre bead and rim. UST tyres will have a reinforced bead and an extra layer of butyl in the casing to make them non-porous.
• Tubeless-ready wheels and tyres: Tubeless-ready tyres don’t have an additional airtight layer, relying instead on liquid sealant to stop air escaping, but they do have the reinforced bead. Tubeless-ready rims will typically have a tighter-fitting bead hook that holds the tyre in place, and a shallower ‘drop channel’ (the centre of the rim) which makes inflation easier. They will still need a tubeless conversion kit to be run tubeless, but are designed to make the job easier.
• Tubeless conversion kits: These typically consist of a rubber rim strip (with valves) to help create an airtight seal on the rim and liquid sealant and can be used to convert ‘ordinary’ tubes and tyres to tubeless (the valves have removable cores to allow you to ‘top up’ with sealant). ‘Going tubeless’ on a normal set of wheels and tyres can be a little trickier than with UST or tubeless-ready options – creating an airtight seal, seating the tyre and inflating can take some practice – but it is the most inexpensive conversion option if you don’t already have UST or tubeless-ready rims and tyres.
When choosing a tubeless conversion kit be sure to match the included rim strip to the size of your wheels – MTB rims come in three different diameters of 26”, 27.5” and 29” and rims for different applications may also vary in width (e.g. XC racing rims will be narrower than those intended for DH or Enduro).