Has the World gone completely tubeless?
In all my years as a avid cyclist and guide there is one thing that always rears its ugly head and plagues cyclists the world over. It happens when you least expect it and usually at a critical point in a ride when all you can think is that this couldn’t have been a worst place for it to happen. Im talking about…….the curse of the Puncture!
On a trip to Mallorca last September we experienced a night of unseasonably wet weather. A flash storm that had thundered its was across the Mediterranean island, had left us with a noisy nights sleep and a hope that it would have passed by the morning. To our amazement when we woke up we were greeted by sunny skies and a gentle sea breeze as the water lapped at the shore. We sat eating our breakfast overlooking the bay and the mood in the camp was upbeat.
No sooner had our days ride started and the first puncture of the day had stamped its mark on one of the group. No worries I thought, a quick inner tube change and we’ll be back riding in no time. Ten minutes later and a second puncture. Well best to get them out the way at the beginning of the ride I told myself. Another tube changed and back on the bikes.
As the first hours riding played out the familiar hissing sound of a puncture kept on coming. I think we totalled six or seven punctures that morning. So what was going on? It seems the storm from the night before had washed some nasty debris onto the quiet Mallorca roads that we were riding and it had a strange magnetic like attraction to rubber bike tyres. When we finished the ride my mind was working overtime, trying to work out what we could have done differently to avoid all those punctures. Was it the wrong tyre pressure?, wrong tyre choice? or wrong roads and route? I just couldn’t work it out.
It turns out there might be a solution out there after all. Rather than preventing punctures the secret is to embrace them. Thats where Tubeless tyres come in. For years now, mountain bikers have been using tubeless tyres and they have proved very successful. You simply remove the inner tube and fill the cavity inside the tire as it sits on the rim, with a latex solution. As you ride over a sharp object puncturing the tyre, the air pressure inside forces the latex solution to squirt out of the puncture hole and on contact with the air outside it sets hard, sealing the puncture. a quick hiss and a squirt and your still riding with only minimal loss in tyre pressure. Should this fail to repair the puncture, a standard inner tube can be easily inserted to get you home. Like all new technologies that come from mountain bikes it takes a while for the road cycling community and manufactures to adopt it, but this one looks like its finally here to stay.
It sounds simple right? well not so fast. To make use of this clever technology you will need tubeless specific rims on your wheels, a strip of rim sealing tape, a tubeless valve, latex puncture sealant and a special tubeless tyre. For most of us this will mean a new wheel set unless your wheels are designed to take the tubeless technology already. Tubeless rims have a much bigger bead that runs inside the rim on the back of the braking surface that allows the special tyres to hook onto them, creating a much tighter fit than a standard clincher tyre and rim. At the time of writing not all companies are making rims that are tubeless compatible. Stans no tubes have been pioneering this technology for a while now and are leading the way with other big names like Bontrager, and Enve starting to follow. These companies are producing wider rims allowing you to take a wider 25mm or 28mm tyre which is on trend right now. Tyre choices are ever growing as more companies embrace this technology such as Schwable, Bontrager and Hutchinson. Early models of tubeless tyres were received with mixed reviews but the current bread seem to be much better with many likening them to the ride quality and suppleness of tubulars.
So are there any downsides? Not many as far as we can see. The tubeless tyre, rim, sealing tape and latex combined can weigh slightly more than a standard clincher setup with inner tube but the weight difference in our eyes is negligible compared with the benefits of this great system.
Here at Ridestrong we have been riding tubeless tyres for the last few months now through some very rough winter conditions. We love the confidence it gives you to go further afield without worrying so much about punctures or getting stranded. We can’t recommend them highly enough. If your fed up with punctures or in the market for a new set of hoops then now might be the perfect time to jump on and go Tubeless!