3/14/13

Why You Need Tubeless Tires on your MTB - Ep 128

I remember when Tubeless Tires and Disc Brakes came onto the scene. My friend Ryan got a Gary Fisher X-Calibar equipped with both. I remember being so jealous of the stopping power these new brakes and the decreased flats/increased traction  that the tubeless tires provided. Neither technology was perfect at the time (~2002?) but within a few years everyone was racing with at least one of the new technologies if not both.

So the question is, 10+ years later why is everyone not using Tubeless tires on their MTB ? We will leave the road, cross and fat tire sno bike arguments for today but in MTB I can not see a valid argument. I know of a few high level racers (Alban the 2012 Leadville Winner and Marathon Super Hero) who still use tubes at certain times and have done testing on rolling resistance etc. These are the exceptions to the rule and examples like today's Bike Skills Project episode give a perfect reason why most, if not all, people would be well served to invest in tubeless tires. 

Tubeless tires allow lower pressure (better rolling efficiency over bumps), fewer flats,better traction and improved cornering.

Common reasons not to switch and = possible arguments/fixes :
1) It takes too long to switch between tires  = If you have switched tires in the last month see #2, otherwise I am not sure this is a valid argument due to infrequency of the inconvenience . By that I mean the benefits would far outweigh the cost.

2) I switch tires regularly and it really takes a long time = seating tires is a skill , eased by an air compressor but it rarely should take more then 20min for a set of tires to be switched out
             *see one of the many mechanical editions of bike skills project to up your game

3) What if I flat ?  = you won't flat as much and when you do it is exactly the same  procedure, except you need to unscrew a nut to take the valve out .

4) Won't they roll slower ? = I have heard some arguments about the sealant and lack of tube-tire friction but these always seem to be trumped by the increase in smoothness of ride (i.e. decreased vertical motion = less energy expended)

5) Expensive = If you patch your tires (easy) they can last so long and many 'normal' users will go months without any change of tires/sealant . Tire prices, sealant prices, valve prices, wheel prices are all quite low now that the technology is 10+ years past point of being very good.

Do you use tubeless Why or Why Not ? (post to comments!)

Have an idea or want to be a guest on bikeskillsproject ? Please post to comments or email me

2 comments:

  1. The only drawbacks / cautions I have learned is to keep the sealant fresh or it won't have the ability to seal a puncture even though it is holding pressure prior and seems ok. The sealant will separate in time. The other is running too low pressure in high traction situations (rim type has some impact here) where the extra tire bite can cause the bead to shift and 'burp' off the air. Aside from those preventable issues, the only flats I have had have been from sidewall rips. Given the options, I'll never go back to tubes.

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  2. Thanks as always for reading/watching

    Quite valid Cautions/tip on keeping sealant fresh.

    I am not sure the replacing the sealant every 3(?) months is something I would call a drawback, as that means you got 3 months of trouble-free riding if it hasn't been changed !!!

    Rolling tires are sort of the way it goes , matching tire pressure to terrain and riding smooth (skillfully) helps a ton too .

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