Why Run Tubeless? Part 1
The hype surrounding tubeless has built to a tipping point and remains strong in peoples mind every time they get a flat or set out to buy new tires. Running tubeless wheels are becoming a huge choice in the mountain bike world. As every mountain biker’s worst enemy is a flat tire, why not switch to tubeless? What makes the Tubeless setup beneficial?
While not go into to much detail there are just about as many benefits to running your wheels tubeless as there are reasons to not run tubeless. If you are running a UST tire and UST rim with sealant such as Stan’s or Caffelatex you will have the benefit of running your tires at a much lower PSI than you could have with a regular tire and tube. With a lower PSI you will have the benefit of better traction and control when on the trails. You’re also going to have a less rotational weight to work against you when pedaling up those hills or sprinting out of the gates. Best of all, no more pinch flats!
From a performance standpoint, tubeless tires are hard to beat. Tubeless tires don't pinch flat so they let you run lower tire pressures. Lower tire pressure is the best way to improve a tires contact with the ground and with that comes better bike performance. That said, tire pressure is one of the most influential adjustments you can make to your bikes performance. While it is tempting to go with the lightest tires you can find it is more important to get a tire that will perform well for your specific riding needs and won't end up forcing you to put a tube in later. While a good sealant will plug most punctures you’d encounter on a ride, no amount of sealant will plug a good cut or tear in a tire with a thin sidewall. So don't base your decision solely on how much weight you can shed from your wheels. Some systems are lighter, some heavier; it all depends on the system and the tires used. The real benefits of tubeless are better performance from lower tire pressures and fewer flats.
On the flipside, there are a few drawbacks of running Tubeless. Making the switch can be expensive and that is one of the main drawbacks. Not only are the UST tires and the UST wheels more expensive but you also have to buy sealant, not to mention you will still be carrying a tube for back up in your bag. Depending on your tubeless setup, getting the sealant installed can be a messy job as well. If you’re on the trail and get a major flat that causes your tire to loose most of it’s air, you are going to need a CO2 inflator with an extra cartridge or two to get going again not to mention a new jersey. Yes, a new jersey and cleanup, some punctures will literally have your sealant spraying out of the tire until it seals itself all over your bike, cables, and that brand new Fox Jersey!
Set ups, where to even start: UST, Tubeless Ready, 2Bliss, Ghetto Tubeless, Non-UST, Standard, Conversion kits, or the homebrew concoction you make in the back yard to seal up the holes (anti-freeze, glitter, pepper). In the end it is all personal preference with compatibility being the big issue. Choose the wrong tires or rims and you will end up blowing your tires right off the rim during installation or on the trail. Next time, in this three part series, we’ll take a look at the different set-ups in further detail and help you figure out which is right for you.