Should I Go Tubeless??
The short answer is, yes! Making the move to tubeless is a terrific way to cut back on pesky flats and an excellent way to increase your bike's ride quality and efficiency. Ditching your comfort zone and going tubeless is nothing new for riders who regularly venture off-road. However, this has recently become popular within the road cycling arena. For 2018 bike companies like Giant/Liv and Cannondale Bicycles now ship multiple road, cross and mountain models tubeless ready with sealant included in the box.
There are multiple benefits to ridding yourself of the "tubed life": the biggest being its resistance to going flat on the next group ride or solo adventure. Tubeless tires are developed with a thicker sidewall and a tighter construction to help support your weight and to keep the sealant locked in. In fact, there are multiple tubeless sealant options these days. My favorite happens to be Orange Seal Endurance, but there are other brands like Stan's NO Tubes who also make a great tubeless tire sealant. If you are still not quite sure about ditching the tubes all together you can put some sealant into your tubes for a little added protection without the heavy weight of Slime. On multiple occasions I have pulled thorns and other random objects from my tubeless tires to be amazed that it sealed the hole. I am fully convinced that a tubed tire would have had me go through the road side flat changing procedure, you know what I'm talking about! Another great benefit to riding tubeless is the benefit of running a lower air pressure and smoothing out the road along with reducing your rolling resistance and increasing handling. If you ride off-road, you are fully aware of how important a couple of psi points can throw off the handling of a bike or too low can make you burp a tire. This is relatively new to the road world seeing as how the ranges have been mostly 90psi for lightweight riders and up to 120psi for the heavier riders. Now we can bring the psi down for both ends of the spectrum while smoothing out the pavement and keeping the momentum.
There are a few requirements for going tubeless however and the process is relatively simple for an experienced home mechanic or any of us in-shop mechanics. The necessities are having the proper rim or having a rim that can be sealed using tubeless specific rim tape, plus a tubeless valve while using the proper tubeless tire and sealant. One thing that you will need for most but not all setups is an air compressor or a floor pump with a separate high-pressure canister. There are some tire and rim combinations that are a bit trickier to set the bead on, for these you will need to use a high-volume air flow chuck forcing air through the removed valve core to set the bead; don't let a couple popping sounds scare you too much as the bead sets! As recent as two years ago, it was extremely hard to find a decent tubeless road tire. Now you can walk in and select a pair based on flat resistance, whether you want a lightweight race day tire or a combination of both lightweight and light puncture resistance. Keeping up with the sealant levels is important, in the hotter months you will need to pay closer attention to the amount of liquid sealant you have left in your tires. A good rule of thumb for the summer months is just to check once a month using a small zip tie through the removed valve core like a dip stick. In the colder or winter months checking every couple of months will suffice just fine. Keep in mind that you will lose a small amount of sealant every time you pump up your tires and every time you knowingly and unknowingly get a puncture.
Making the switch to tubeless may not be for everyone but in my opinion, it is a far better system than the standard tube and tire combination. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always call or come into the shop and we can discuss all aspects of making the switch and whether your setup is the best to do it with. I still carry a tube and a saddle bag but it's mostly for my riding buddies, not me.