As the tires are an essential part of a bike, they can’t be neglected at all. Away from the constant repairing and keeping a hand pump, the industry has evolved something that is called the tubeless tire. Tubeless tires are designed in a way that the tube part is sealed to the rim and so when there is a puncture the tire doesn’t deflate all at once, and the user is able to avoid accidents. Tubeless tires should have been accepted more by people, but they still haven’t revolutionized the market as its creators thought it would. Most of the times what we see is that customers are aloof of the concept of tubeless tires and they settle for normal tires.
Tubeless isn’t a thing that people get excited about these days, but we still need to get rid of some of the myths that it created the market. It will be very beneficial for everyone to know the advantages of a tubeless tire and also the disadvantages that it may bring forward.
What are the benefits of a tubeless tire?
- The main reason why bikers like tubeless tires are because it runs well on low pressure and they do not have to think about pinch flats. Lower air pressure is said to provide better traction and a certain suspension when the rider is riding in a hilly or terrain based region.
- Tubeless tires are also useful as they create fewer accidents because of their mechanism. If the tube has a puncture, the air comes out very slowly, and it doesn’t create a shock for the whole bike. The rider will have enough time to bring balance to their bike.
- Tubeless tires have also been renowned for getting fewer punctures, and it is useful in case of mountain biking.
- Tubeless tires are also great if someone likes to speed up their bike, the tire behaves faster and smoother, and the rider can easily tackle it.
As a bike tire, the tubeless tire is essentially advantageous, but it isn’t as foolproof as companies may market it as. Tubeless tires may also get a frequent puncture if one uses it in a rocky area and it may also get side wall punctures which aren’t always great. The tubeless tires may also have problems as any normal tire would.
Definition of a tubeless tire
A tubeless tire is called tubeless as it lacks the inner tube compared to the normal tires. On the onset of making tubeless tires, many companies have applied for patents, during its earliest times companies like Killen Tire got its patent approved in 1930 in the UK, and The Wingfoot Corporation derived theirs in 1944 in South Africa. Most of the earliest designs proved to be faulty, so the tubeless tires didn’t get popular. Goodrich BT derived their patent from the US in 1952, and their design became the standard product used in the cars. They made a tire made of butyl rubber which was stronger than natural rubber and also resisted the air leakages.
Most use UST tire or Universal Standard Tubeless tires which are the original form. The UST tires were prepared by Mavic especially the rim, but companies like Hutchinson and Michelin are also pioneers of preparing the tires. The tires form of a two-part system mainly the rim bed without any spoke holes which may unnecessarily make a passage of airway and the tire which is attached to the rim with a high pressure (around 60 psi). This ensures that the seal between the rim and the tire is air tight so that it is compact and seamless. In this type of tubeless tires, the low pressure can be altered to 28, and 40 Psi and the rider can enjoy enhanced traction and control.
Air pressure is quite important in a tire and people should never lower the pressure to a point where it can hurt their tire. Often many people go up to 20 PSI which should be avoided at all cost if the rider is a full-grown adult. That amount of pressure can easily cause damages in the rim, and it may make the person prone to accident anytime in their riding. It is recommended to keep it between 30 and 38 Psi for best results. The tubeless tires may get damaged, and you may need to replace them quite soon if you go to 20 Psi. It is best to maintain a limit and skip too much experimenting.
In 2006 Shimano and Hutchinson together introduced a tubeless tire especially for the use of road bicycles. The tires can be very useful in case of road racing and can soon take the space of a usual tubular tire even though the tubeless tire is heavier. The success of it mainly lies in the racer’s will to spend the extra money to utilize the added benefits.
The DO-IT-YOURSELF approach to tires
Most of the population shuns the idea of UST tubeless tires as they think that it won’t be a good innovation as it has been designed by French people. The people who are against UST have derived their own method in which they add a specialised rim strip to their already existing drilled rims (the rim strip creates a barrier to the spoke bed present in the rim) and upon that they mount a normal tire and seal it by using a latex sealant which helps in preventing the tire from leaking. One of the first systems of this type to gain a following was Stan’s No-Tubes.
People may save some money using this technique, and the tires may also be lighter, but they may also compromise on certain points. The conventional tires often lack the agile side walls that are present in a UST tire, and the conventional tires can’t also be ridden under 40 PSI unlike UST tires, and conventional tires are prone to damage in low pressure. The sidewalls aren’t strong, and that is the reason why the tires may easily get damaged. If a person uses a random sealant for sealing the tire to the rim, it can often just cause damage to the tire and may cause blisters. So, they would need to do a lot of research and maybe talk to a person who specializes in bike tires.
Some people have the question that can they use UST tires on a non-UST rim if the use the proper rim strips and sealants. The answer would be a total yes only if they do it properly. They will save a lot than buying a brand-new Mavic or Shimano UST compatible wheelset. It may still be problematic and may not last as long as a proper UST mechanism. As long as they use a real UST tire, they will be totally fine.
Disadvantages of UST tires
Yes, we have talked about the tubeless tires and its advantages for a long time. But it also has some disadvantages as any product would. So, let us look at some of them.
- Tubeless tires are quite painful when you are first installing them. That is the reason why most people end up going to a service center to fix their tubeless tires. Tire levers are out of the question as they often interfere in the sealing of the tire to the rim. So, mostly you have to do all the job by hands.
- Sometimes the UST tires may face deflating overnight, and you may be helpless about the cause. Sealants are an option when fixing them, but you have to do a good amount of research before applying the one compatible with your tire. Sealants often increase the weight of the tire and can be messy at times, but it also protects the tire from getting abrupt punctures. A solution of soapy water is needed to get the tires on and off rims, and it can be tiring, and air compressors are needed to install the tire.
- Tubeless tires often face sidewall punctures which can be heart breaking and it can often lead to the discarding of the particular tube.
- Tubeless tires do generally puncture a hole in your pocket, but you do get added benefits compared to conventional tires.
- Not a lot of options are available in the market even today. Only about 10 tubeless tires have been launched in the market till date which is quite bad compared to its popularity.
- It will always be safe to carry an extra tire with you because changing a UST tire in the middle of the road can be an experience. It will be easier just to finish the rest of the journey.
It will be dependent on the rider and his terrain about his choice of tires. If they like to ride in low pressure and enjoy smooth rides on rough terrains, then they may invariably choose UST tires as they are the most handy-dandy thing that they may acquire. The global market for tubeless tires is rising, and almost all new bikes provide tubeless tires as the basic package.