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An Untapped Upgrade for Modern Wheelsets

By James Bonney – 25 September 2019

You might be no more than a couple of inexpensive upgrades away from eliminating pinch flats, reducing roadside repairs and rolling more comfortably on every ride.

A growing majority of high-end MTB, road and gravel bikes are ready to be set up without inner tubes straight out of the box. But this isn’t always made obvious because they’re shipped with inner tubes as standard.

If you’re looking to get the most out of your elite performance bike in the long run, running tubeless is a great option – and, making the switch needn’t be time-consuming or costly.

Here at Saddleback, we’re big fans of tubeless setups for the simple reason that they enable you to get the most out of every ride. In what follows we’d like to run you through some tubeless know-how so you can reap the benefits for yourself.

What is a tubeless wheel setup?

A tubeless wheel set up does away with a traditional inner tube, instead creating an airtight seal between the rim and tyre to retain air pressure – much like in your car. Most tubeless wheel setups also employ a tubeless sealant which in addition to providing the airtight seal has the added bonus of repairing smaller punctures as and when they happen – often without you even noticing.

What are the benefits of running tubeless?

Greater comfort – without tubes you can run lower tyre pressures which means (a) more grip, as the tyres have a larger footprint, and (b) reduced rolling resistance for better absorption of trail chatter, bumps and whatever British conditions throw at you. In other words, you'll experience a livelier and more responsive ride.

Elimination of pinch flats associated with tubes – without an inner tube the tyre can deform without risk of pinching an inner tube and puncturing the tyre.

Lower risk of punctures – with a tubeless sealant, holes in the tyre up to around 6mm self-seal with only a small loss in air pressure, so you’re only a quick pump away from getting back on the bike.

Lower wheel weight – without the static weight of an inner tube you can choose how much tubeless sealant to use and thus unlock the option to reduce the overall weight of your wheels.

What are the pitfalls of running tubeless?

Our team here at Saddleback have collectively spent many decades riding both with and without tubes in a vast range of conditions, and it would be disingenuous to say that we haven’t encountered some difficulty in fitting and changing tubeless tyres, particularly in the earlier days of tubeless technology.

However, we’re best placed to give you our tried and tested recommendations to ensure that you can enjoy the fantastic benefits of tubeless hitch-free if you’re riding with ENVE, 3T or Intense Cycles. What’s crucial is matching the correct rim bed, most appropriate rim tape and tyre bead – rest assured we’ve got you covered.

Ultimately, the pitfalls of tubeless fade into insignificance compared with the long-term gains you’d experience when no longer running tubes on elite performance products.

What do I need to run tubeless on my bike?

To run tubeless on your bike you’ll need the following:

Tubeless-ready tyres (check the label on the sidewall or manufacturer’s website)

Tubeless-ready rims (if 3T or ENVE then give us a call, otherwise check the manufacturer’s website)

Tubeless sealant (gooey stuff that keep you rolling uninterrupted)

Tubeless valves (a rubber base creates an airtight seal on the valve holes)

Tubeless rim tape (of the appropriate width)

As already mentioned, a growing majority of performance bikes come with pre-taped tubeless-ready rims, tubeless-ready tyres and even sometimes a pair of tubeless valves buried somewhere in with your user manual and reflectors.

In most cases, all that remains to be added is the sealant and/or valves, which are inexpensive to buy and straightforward to fit, provided you follow instructions like those found on these Peaty’s Tubeless products.

Always ensure that your components are tubeless compatible before making the switch – if you're unsure about compatibility or fitting then contact your local shop (you could even get them to convert your wheels for you, it's straightforward and super-quick to complete). 

Whether you’re about to purchase a bike or are already riding with a set of elite performance wheels, we’d highly recommend considering the switch to tubeless!

Stay tuned for future performance hacks.

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