Tubeless tyres are one of the most exciting and appealing developments in the bike world as their big promise is the elimination of pesky punctures which can easily ruin any ride. However, despite that obvious appeal they aren’t without their problems and the technology, still in its infancy, does pose some challenges and everybody has experienced a tubeless failure, either personally or via a cycling buddy.
Here are the tubeless fails you need to avoid…
Tubeless Tyre Fails:
- Incorrect tubeless-ready components
- Badly installed rim tape
- Poor quality tubeless valves
- Installing tyre the wrong way
- Getting air into the tyre quicker than it is escaping
- Not enough sealant inside the tyre
- Sealant drying out
- No spare tube
The biggest problem facing tubeless tyre users and the most common cause of failures is installing the tyre in the first place. Get it wrong and you can have a messy explosion of sealant or a tyre that refuses to inflate. It can be infuriating but there are a few tips to hopefully eliminate these problems.
The first is to ensure you are using proper tubeless ready and compatible wheels and tyres. Fitting a non-tubeless tyre is just not going to work but if it does it can be potentially dangerous. Tubeless tyres have a different bead designed to provide a secure connection with the rim. Compatibility between different tyres and wheels is often a cause of problems too. Some tyres can be incredibly tight and impossible to fit while some can be so loose they almost fall off the rims. Here the technology is rapidly improving with updated standards ensuring compatibility issues are becoming less of an issue.
Some problems that often befall tubeless installation revolve around the rim tape. The tape around the rim hasn’t been properly installed which can lead to air loss when inflating the tyre. Be sure to use tubeless tape designed for your wheels and remove any old tape before you start and make sure the rim is clean and dry. Then install the tape following the manufacturer’s instructions.
Use a high-quality tubeless valve designed for your rim. Air can escape around the tubeless valve if it’s the wrong sort for your wheels or not installed correctly so pay careful and particular attention to getting it properly. Also make sure to choose a tubeless valve with a removable core as this can help when inflating the tyre – removing the core provides a bigger channel for rapid airflow which you often need for successful inflation.
When you install the tyre, make sure it’s on the right way. There’s often a direction arrow on the side wall. Don’t worry, we’ve all been here too. A common fail with tubeless installation is the tyre seating. Make sure you locate the tyre beads into the central well of the rim. If this still doesn’t work a really good tip is to mix up a cup of soapy water and brush onto the beads on the tyre. This will help ensure the beads slip into place quickly and without hesitation when inflating the tyre.
Getting air into the tyre quicker than it is escaping is another common failure. A large chamber track pump will help compared to a minipump. Sometimes that’s not even enough and a specific tubeless inflator with a chamber you pressurise and release a sudden rush of air is needed to seat stubborn tyres. Removing the valve core can also help. If you have access to an air compressor you should be able to inflate even the most stubborn tyre that refuses to seat on the rim.
Not enough sealant inside the tyre can also lead to a flat tyre. Modern tubeless tyres and wheels are designed to be used with a liquid sealant. It serves two purposes but the first one is to coat the inside of the tyre and rim and provide an airtight chamber which provides the air retention you need. And once you’re riding the sealant is also able to plug most small punctures. So make sure you’re using the right amount of sealant for it to work properly and here the best advice is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Sealant drying out is another cause of tubeless fails because it does dry out over time. How long depends on the brands but you can expect at least six months after which you want to check it and possibly top it up. Some companies provide clever dipsticks that let you check the sealant level without removing the tyre which is a bonus but sometimes you’ll have no option but to carefully remove a section of tyre to make sure you have a healthy quota of sealant sloshing around inside the tyre.
While tubeless can be fantastic when it works well, it’s always worth carrying a spare inner tube in case. In fact, consider one spare for each wheel. Because while tubeless can seal smaller holes there’s a limit to how big a gash the sealant can plug and bigger cuts might require the installation of a tube. Sometimes specific tubeless tyre plugs can work well and these are worth considering because they can often help with bigger holes and be good enough to get you home without needing to put an inner tube in.