Why go tubeless?
Going tubeless will allow you to run lower pressure in your tires without the fear of pinch flats. Lower pressure in your tires means greater traction and more control out on the trail. Tubeless wheels can also reduce the rotational weight, making your bike feel more playful than traditional tube tires.
It’s a simple way to upgrade your ride and give you another advantage out on the trails.
1. Choose the right rim for you
When making your tires tubeless, you have to main options for your rims: UST and Tubeless Ready. Tubeless-ready tires have the same sealing tire bead as UST tires, but much lighter casings. But since these casings aren’t airtight, they require liquid sealant and rim strips to keep things from leaking.
These days, there are plenty of options for making your tires tubeless. Stan’s No Tubes sells complete kits with everything you need and most rim types come with a tubeless ready version.
2. Apply rim tape
Rims that are advertised as tubeless ready may already have rim tape installed. If not, you’ll need to seal the rim bed with some tape. Make sure you get the right width tape for your rim.
Before installing the rim tape, you’ll need to clean the rim bed of any dirt, dust, or debris that could cause the tape not to stick. A rag or paper towel with a bit of rubbing alcohol usually gets the job done. Next, install the rim tape and make sure it’s nice and tight. Tight tape will make for a better seal. The tape should also be wide enough to cover the entire rim bed.
3. Install valve stem
Next, you’ll want to make a small hole for the valve stem. Using a small razor blade, make a small x-shaped cut over the spot where the valve stem will go. Then install the valve stem and ensure it is secure.
4. Add sealant
Apply a little soapy water to the bead and tire. The soapy water will help the tire seal nicely. Next, seat one tire bead completely on the rim and the other all the way except for a 5-6 inch section near the valve.
Hang your rim somewhere stable so you can add the sealant. With the rim hanging, (you could hang it on your bike stand or on your bike handlebar) the valve should be at the 6 o’clock position.
There are a variety of different sealants on the market. We like Bontrager sealant or if you’re looking a no-maintenance version, Finish Line sealant is supposed to last the life of your tire (we are currently testing this out). No matter what sealant you use, be sure to shake the bottle well before adding the sealant to spread the coating agent throughout the mixture.
Add as much sealant as the bottle tells you to. Each sealant will have its own recommendation. But be generous – better to add a little more than not enough.
5. Finish sealing your tire
Rotate your tire so that the 5-6 inch unsealed section is now at the top (12 o’clock position). Finish seating the last section of the tire bead.
Now it’s time to inflate your tire. You will need a powerful floor pump, or better yet, an air compressor to seat your tire. It might take a decent amount of pressure to get the tire to seat, but be sure not to exceed 40 PSI as you can pop your tire off the rim.
7. Shake it out
This step is crucial to ensuring your tire is completely coated on the inside with sealant. Spin the tire a few times. Then, holding the wheel flat in front of you, shake it toward and away from you, rotate the tire a bit more and give it a few more rotations. Repeat the process, until you’ve worked your way entirely around the tire, then flip the wheel over and repeat the process on the opposite side.
8. Make sure there are no leaks
Rub some more soapy water around the sidewall where the tire meets the rim. If you can see bubbles generating, try to swirl the sealant to that part of the tire to seal it up.
If you don’t have any leaks, you’re ready to roll! We like to let the tires sit for a few hours or overnight to ensure we have a reliable seal. Lower the pressure to your riding pressure (generally somewhere between 20 and 24 PSI depending on your tire width, weight, and the terrain on which you will be riding). Fatter tires require less pressure than skinny tires. If your bike feels unstable, try adding a little more air to your tires.
Tubeless tires are designed to keep the good times rolling, giving you increased traction and fewer pinch flats to ruin your ride. However, to keep your tires in good, sealed condition, be sure to add some new sealant every 3-4 months. After half a season of riding, the sealant dries up and isn’t doing the best job of keeping a tight seal. If you have removable cores for your valves, you can simply add sealant by taking out the valve and using a squeeze bottle so you don’t need to remove the tire. If not, you can remove a section of the tire and dump it in through the opening like you did when you first sealed your tires.
On your rides
It’s always a good idea to keep a spare tube around and bring it with you on long rides. Even though you have tubeless tires, flat tires still happen and a tube can get you home in a pinch.