Once you have gotten your first mountain bike and have started to hit those trails, one of the most common problems that you are likely to face is a flat tire. Perhaps you have heard that tubeless mountain bike tires are better, but you still don’t see how they work or maybe you don’t think that these would be a good fit for you.
However, one of the best things that you can do is to switch to tubeless mountain bike tires. If you do not know what a tubeless tire is, tubeless tires are essentially tires that don’t have tubes. In a little more detail, these are tires without an inner tube where the outer part of the tire works as its own tube in order to keep the tire inflated.
So, instead of an inner tube, a tubeless tire is setup with a tire that tends to be much thicker than tubular tires, a rim, and a valve. Most of the time, a tubeless tire will also consist of sealant, as well which goes in the tire as one of the last steps when you are installing it.
1. You Can Ride With A Lower Tire Pressure
With tubeless tires, you can ride with a lower tire pressure. When you are riding on the trail, the only contact point between you and the ground should be your tires. Therefore, enhancing how well our bikes feel while riding them can prove to be much more valuable than any other type of accessory that we may choose to adorn our bikes with.
To measure the tire pressure of your bike, you should invest in a tire pressure gauge and keep it with you along with the rest of your gear. There is a certain way of figuring out what the best tire pressure for you is, though you should keep in mind that one of the things that affects what the right amount is for you is the amount of weight that you put on the bike – including you weight and the weight of your gear.
That being said, your optimum tire pressure is something that will change if the weight you are putting on your mountain bike changes. The first step in getting this right is to test the pressure of your mountain bike tires on a trail with flat corners and roots for a 3 minute loop.
Your focus on these test loops should be on measuring how much grip you are getting from your tubeless tires with every turn you make. Focus on how comfortable you feel when you run over roots or make hits, how bumpy the ride is in general, and if the rim is being hit at all during the ride.
Once you have done the test you should repeat the loop, only this time you should change the tire pressure by 3 PSI whichever way you think it needs changed. Continue to run the loop over and over again until you get it right where you want it.
If you are going down with your air pressure you will notice your grip and traction increasing with every test, but as the pressure starts to go too low you will also observe your stability becoming less and less ideal. If you start to feel bumps in trail impacting the rim of your tires, then you’ve set the tire pressure too low.
The last thing to note in terms of tire pressure is that the bottom bracket of your bike distributes 40% of your weight to the front and 60% of your weight to the rear. This being the case, you should subtract 3 PSI from the front wheel, and see how well you ride.
After all of this, you will have calculated your baseline measurement of PSI and should now understand how air pressure impacts the ride you’re having while on the mountain. Whenever you are adding more gear to your pack, consider your PSI baseline and adjust the tire pressure accordingly.
2. It Maximizes Mountain Bike Control
A mountain bike with tubeless tires installed on it will allow you to navigate the mountain biking trails as close as effortlessly as you can get. The reason for this is that tubeless tires help you to maximize control of your mountain bike.
In order to explain how this works, first I’d like you to consider the air pressure for tires. This is measured in Pounds-per Squared Inch, or PSI for short. The standard PSI for mountain bike tires ranges anywhere from 35 to 45 PSI. However, if you go tubeless, this amount of pressure can be dropped all the way down to 25 to 30 PSI, without it negatively affecting the way your bike performs for you.
When it comes to tire pressure, there are two factors to consider. The first is the grip, and the second one is stability. A high tire pressure supports the sidewall of the tire, which increases the stability and protection of the rim, but if that pressure is too high then you will have poor traction on the ground since the area that the tire contacts the ground will be smaller.
The area where the tire is touching the ground can sometimes be called the contact patch, and low tire pressure is something that increases the area of the contact patch, which in turn increases the grip between the tire and the trail.
This means that a lower tire pressure allows your tires to have better traction when cornering, and this means that the softer tires can now wrap around trail obstacles or imperfections when you turn. If the tire pressure is too low, though, then you run the risk of damaging the rim by accidentally making square edged hits. The softer air pressure also subtracts from the natural spring of the tire, making you unstable on your bike.
3. Better Bump Compliance And Smoother Ride
In case I was not clear before: When you switch to tubeless tires, you should apply a low PSI to your tires. The reason for this, is to promote a better bump compliance during your ride, as well as ensuring that your ride is smoother than it was before.
As mentioned before, a lower air pressure on your tires allows your tires to become softer and to essentially mold themselves to the shape of the tiny imperfections on the trail or of a corner. Because of this, these obstacles will not cause much of an impact anymore, since the inner tube is no longer in the way.
Going up or down hill on a trail will now feel less bumpy, and you will find that you can actually start to ride faster now due to the fact that small impediments, like rocks or twigs, won’t slow you down during your descent as much.
With less bumps going down hills, you also won’t get dislodged from your bike so easily. Small rocks, branches, or roots that stick out of the ground won’t be enough to trip or cause you to become dislodged from the bike.
Mountain bikes were the first type of bikes to utilize tubeless tires. Before this, clincher tires were adopted. Tubeless tires are better in comparison, because they create less friction which would normally come from having an inner tube within the tire. Less friction means more speed, and when combined with a setting of a low PSI, then you can also expect to have a smoother ride with less bumps and resistance.
4. Less Punctures And No More Snake Bites
One thing that I have not touched upon yet, is that if you choose to go tubeless then you can expect to eliminate the amount of punctures that your tires can receive. Most people will find that getting punctures in your tires when you go out riding proves to be a real pain, especially if you get these on a regular basis.
Some people suggest a cheap trick for eliminating punctures from occurring by introducing tire liners to you. While these tire liners can prevent some of the first few punctures that your tires might receive, they can cause even more punctures whenever your tires flex after a sharp turn.
Most of the time tire liners cause the sidewalls of your tires to get cut which is more expensive to repair than a regular puncture. With tubeless tires on your mountain bike, you won’t have to worry about punctures anymore unless it is a huge tear. Even these are easy to fix with a plug kit, and this is much faster than a patch kit that you would have to use on a tubed tire.
For the smaller punctures the liquid sealant inside your tires will automatically patch any small holes you acquire on you tires as you ride. As you ride, the wheels will spin, and this in turn will cause the sealant to flow throughout the inside of your tires.
After you finish riding, take a look at the surface of your tires and you may notice some small white patches, and these are evidence that the sealant did its job of sealing the punctures that your tire received without you having to get off of your bike.
5. Tubeless Tires Are Better Than Puncture Proof Tubed Tires
While there is some debate on this, most might agree that tubeless tires are indeed superior to puncture proof tires. Tubeless tires are made of softer materials, which provide better grip, traction, and rolling resistance so that they turn safely and ride smoother.
On the other hand, puncture proof tires are made of much stiffer materials which makes it great for riding on solid ground, but you will lose your grip on ground consisting of loose dirt and debris which you will often find on a mountain biking trail.
If you choose a puncture proof tire over a tubeless tire then you should know that these do not offer that much puncture resistance despite their name. Self-sealing slime tubes are not much better either since this type of tube is not able to seal cuts or snake bites, but only small holes made by thorns.
6. They Are Easier To Carry And Maintain Air Pressure
As I mentioned before, the tubeless tires contain sealant, and as the wheels are spinning the sealant will flow through the tires. If you get a puncture, then you might have some air dissipate for a few seconds or less. That hole will then be sealed off in mere seconds by the sealant, and over time this sealant will act like a glue and rubber as it fuses with the tire.
Not only is it easier to maintain the air pressure in the bike because of this, but the bike is at least a 100 grams lighter or more due to the elimination of the inner tube, though the weight of the sealant inside will make it closer to even.
7. They Take Less Time To Install And Maintain
Compared to the high frequency of flat tires that you will experience and that you will have to repair when you are using tubular tires, this alone will save you time. The amount of time that it will take for you to install tubeless tires on your mountain bike is considerably less most of the time as well, except for if the sealant is in the way.
The tires themselves cost around $20-30 each, and you will also need tubeless ready wheels. Just to let you know, all mountain bikes rims can be made tubeless read with some cheap tubeless rim tape. If you want something stronger, than you can even use Gorilla Tape. Or, you can get rims that are made to be used with tubeless tires.
It can be messy to apply the sealant inside of your tires, but you will only have to do this once every 3-6 months in most cases. This, along with how long it takes to mount a tubeless tire if you have to prep the rim first, represents one of the few cons of having tubeless tires.
This might sound strange, but you might still have to carry tubes, but only during your first few weeks since you may not be sure if the sealant will be able to truly seal the punctures in your tires. This will happen if the breach is too big for the sealant to self-repair, so you still need to fix it by installing a tube.
Once you have tubeless tires, it is especially important that you know when to replace them since it is much more dangerous to try to wear these beyond a certain point. The first thing that you should look at when you are trying to determine if it is time to replace your tires is the rubber.
Rubber hardens over time, and you may find that after a few months your tires will simply start to crack for no apparent reason. The tire casing, also known as the sidewall, can also begin to separate as it rots or cracks, which is known as dry rot.
If you have tires that are like this, then do not ride your bike with these tires. They may still have some air in them, but once you hit the road the air will start to dissipate and you may even experience a blowout which will surely frighten you and other cyclists on the trail even assuming that you can avoid crashing and getting hurt from it.
If you see any bubbles or bulges on the sidewall of your tires, then do not ride your bike either. A bulge is something may occur right after a really tough landing and sometimes the first sign is that you experience a strange bump while riding.
It can cause your tire to blowout eventually, so you’ll need to fix this bulge or replace the tire immediately when you see such a thing. If it’s a small bulge, then you can sometimes fix it with a tire boot, but riding your tire without fixing it will only make it worse.
As a general rule you should replace your rear tire every 3,000 miles and your front tire every 4,000 miles. However, if you are mountain biking then you really don’t need to pay attention to this, since the abuse that your tire receives from the trail will easily render this meaningless.
Your rear tires will tend wear out more quickly than your front tires, because they sustain about 60% or more of your weight. Generally speaking, the lighter you are, the longer it will take for your tires to wear and the heavier you are, the faster they will wear.
A sure sign or red flag that your tire should be replaced is if you experience a high frequency of flat tires. If this happens to you several times while on a trail, or plethora of times throughout the week, then it is time for new tires. Also, obviously if your tires have cracks along the sidewalls of your tires, then you will need to replace those tires.