An endless FAQ to tubeless bicycle tyres

by Dave Rome


Regardless of your chosen cycling discipline, tubeless tyres have benefits to offer over standard tube-type setups. Those benefits are certainly more obvious with wider tyres and rougher surfaces, but even skinny road racing rubber can gain from losing the inner tube.

However, tubeless isn’t just a matter of removing the tube and riding blissfully into the sunset. Tubeless carries real compromises, including new knowledge and more maintenance than trusty tubes. Whether the positives outweigh the negatives will be up to you, but this article should certainly help toward tipping those scales in a positive direction.

In this endless FAQ (it’s called that as it’s long and we’ll regularly update it), we skip the crap and share what we’ve found to be the best methods, the best parts to use, and the best ways to save you from feeling deflated. This comes from almost two decades of experience in tubeless, going all the way back to Mavic’s original UST system for mountain bikes.

(Last updated: 1st of April, 2019)


Tubeless in a nutshell

What is tubeless?

Mavic Road UST
Mavic’s UST system is pictured here, but the cross-section of most other tubeless setups looks similar, at least in concept.

Much like on modern cars, a tubeless system on bicycles is an airtight system where the tyre is held on to the rim with little more than tight tolerances and air pressure. As it is airtight, no inner tube is required to hold air like on a standard clincher system, and no glue is required to keep the tyre connected to the rim as per a tubular system.

Tubeless was first introduced for mountain bikes some 20 years ago and has become the standard choice amongst enthusiast and competitive mountain bikers. It was introduced for road use about twelve years ago, but the initial uptake was slow. However, the boom in wider tyres for road and gravel has seen increased attention given to the technology.

What are the benefits of tubeless?

With no inner tube to pinch puncture, tubeless allows you to run lower tyre pressures. This results in increased traction and a smoother ride. Additionally, removing the inner tube reduces rolling resistance since the tyre ends up being more supple after that additional layer is removed. Schwalbe is one company that offers tubeless, tubular, and clincher racing tyres, and tubeless is supposedly its fastest system.

Tubeless is also considered more resistant to puncturing. Since there’s no inner tube at all, there’s also no inner tube to pinch-flat (although the tyre casing itself can still be pinched). Liquid sealant inside tubeless tyres also helps to seal small cuts on the move.

All of this is most beneficial off-road where wider tyres and lower running pressures are more common. The benefits are more nuanced on the road, but they still apply.

What are the main drawbacks of tubeless?

Compared to using a humble inner tube, tubeless is certainly more involved, in terms of both initial setup and maintenance. Slow air leakage is hardly uncommon with tubeless and so you may need to top up to your preferred pressure every few days. Likewise, the tyre sealant that helps to create an airtight seal and provide on-going puncture protection will dry out with age and must be replenished every few months.

Compared to clincher systems, tubeless tyres are also sold at a premium. And when looking to road or gravel tubeless tyres, there are often fewer choices compared to what’s available for tube-type clincher use.

If tubeless is so fast, why don’t more pros use it?

Tubeless is already the standard in mountain bike and gravel racing. However, it’s yet to hit wide-spread acceptance in the top ranks of professional cyclocross and road racing.

Tubulars have been proven in pro road racing for years, and while they’re not so practical for the regular cyclist, they make a lot of sense for someone who doesn’t need to worry about fixing flats or replacing tyres. Tubulars still afford an impressively lightweight setup, a unique road feel, and in the case of professional racing, you can ride them after a puncture without risk of the tyre rolling off. For cyclocross racers, tubulars also allow inflation pressures that are even lower than tubeless (Katie Compton runs approximately 13psi in her 33mm-wide tyres!) since air pressure doesn’t affect (much) how the tyre is held on to the rim.

Perhaps the biggest reason, however, is legacy. Pro teams – especially older ones – have hundreds of tubular tyres, rims, and wheels on hand, and switching to tubeless would require a huge investment in money and time. By all accounts, tubulars will remain the common pick in pro racing for many years to come.

Should I go tubeless?

There are a few things to ask yourself here.

1. Are you planning on running tyres that have an actual width of at least 28mm?
2. Are you prepared to top up your sealant every 3-6 months?
3. Do your existing wheels support tubeless use?

If you answered no to any of these, then stick with tubes.

Is tubeless lighter?

Tubeless is typically lighter than a tubed setup, at least where wider tyres are involved. However, on the road, the answer is not so easy.

The following table gives one example of how the weights stack up. In this example, tubeless is 15g heavier per wheel compared to the equivalent clincher setup, assuming the same wheel and rim tape are used. Using more or less tyre sealant, a lighter tubeless valve, or a lighter inner tube will sway the results.

Road tubeless versus clincher weight comparison

Tubeless Tyre and rim compatibility

What defines a tubeless tyre?

Tubeless road, cyclocross, and gravel tyres typically incorporate a reinforced bead that is resistant to stretch, along with a bead that is totally smooth around the entire circumference with no ridges or pockets where air can escape. Oftentimes, the bead itself will have a specific shape that is designed to interface more tightly with a tubeless-compatible rim. As tubeless is a feature, the tyre will obviously be advertised and marked as such right on the casing. Never use a standard road tyre for tubeless as there will be a significant chance the tyre will blow off the rim once it’s inflated to a reasonable operating pressure.

Mountain bikes are run at lower pressures, and generally there is less internal force trying to blow the tyre off of the rim. As a result, many riders have had good success converting standard tube-type tyres to tubeless, but that should only be done at your own risk; we don’t recommend them.

A true tubeless mountain bike tyre will feature a specific bead construction along with an airtight casing that (theoretically) doesn’t require sealant. There are also “tubeless-lite” or “tubeless-ready” tyres that are built with tubeless-specific beads, but standard casing that require tyre sealant to create an airtight seal. The latter style is far more common in modern tubeless systems as they allow for a substantially lighter and more compliant tyre construction.

What defines a tubeless rim or wheel?

Tubeless rim design
True UST rims and wheels have a specific rim bed profile, but there is far more variability in other designs that are labeled as tubeless-ready.

Tubeless rims have two basic requirements: they have to securely hold the tyre, and they have to hold air.

Some brands, such as Fulcrum, Mavic, and Shimano, produce rims with no spoke holes on the outer rim wall, which makes them inherently airtight. More commonly, other tubeless-compatible rims require a special sealing tape to create an airtight barrier from the spoke holes.

Most tubeless rims also feature a special shape that helps lock the bead of the tyre in place. A newer trend is for no bead hook at all, otherwise known as hookless rims. These simply rely on tight dimensional tolerances to keep the tyre in place. Regardless of rim shape, a smooth centre channel is usually included to help get the tyre on and off, and to create an initial seal that aids with initial inflation.

Can I convert a non-tubeless rim to tubeless?

Some brands, such as Stan’s NoTubes, offer kits that convert regular rims to tubeless ones. This is common practise in mountain bikes, where many riders have successfully converted to tubeless use with the correct parts. Sometimes this only requires tubeless tape and valves, but other times, specific rubber or plastic rim strips are required to provide a tighter fit that’s easier to inflate. Either way, conversions are inherently hit-or-miss, and a substantial amount of care should be exercised before setting out on a converted setup.

On the road, and where higher operating pressures are used, it’s safest to only use recommended rims for tubeless use – despite what some may say.

I’ve seen new bikes claim to be tubeless-ready; what does that mean?

Giant Tubeless Ready
Many bikes come equipped as tubeless-ready. Giant is one of the only bike companies to ship bikes fully setup as tubeless.

More bikes are being marketed as “tubeless-ready” these days, but it’s important to note what that really means for that specific bike. Ideally, a “tubeless-ready” bike will come equipped with tubeless-compatible rims and tyres, but is assembled with inner tubes to make things easier for dealers until the bike is sold. Most bike companies will include the tubeless valves, rim tape, and sealant needed for the full conversion, while other companies require the customer to purchase these parts in addition to the bike.

Otherwise, a tubeless-ready tyre can be run without a tube if you add sealant, and a tubeless-ready rim can be run without a tube if it’s matched with a tubeless tyre, but if your supposedly “tubeless-ready” bike only includes one of those two halves, you’re only part of the way there.

What standards exist for tubeless?

As far as industry-wide standards for tubeless on road, cyclocross, or gravel bikes go, the situation is somewhat bleak. Hutchinson and Shimano introduced a proper road tubeless standard back in 2006, but it’s essentially been abandoned by the rest of the industry. Other road tubeless adopters have instead developed their own various tubeless systems, with little-to-no cooperation among relevant parties. As a result, some combinations fit too tightly, while others may be questionably loose.

More recently, Mavic released a new tubeless standard called UST Road. This system includes specific dimensional and pressure requirements for the tyres and rims in the hopes of providing more predictably consistent (and safer) fitments. However, so far, no other companies have signed on.

Mavic, together with tyre companies Michelin and Hutchinson, introduced the Universal System Tubeless for mountain bikes in 1999. That original UST standard is now mostly defunct, but it at least serves as a basis for most recent tubeless interpretations.

How do I know if my tyres or wheels are ready for tubeless?

Tyre manufacturers will almost always indicate directly on the product when it is tubeless-compatible. The chart below shows the tubeless nomenclature used by a number of popular companies.

Bicycle tubeless nomiker table

Wheel or rim compatibility is typically less obvious, and will usually be stated in the component’s specification list. If in doubt, contact your place of purchase.

So I can run any tubeless-compatible tyre with any tubeless-compatible rim, right?

With hundreds of possible combinations, and no widely accepted fitment standards, it’s unfortunately impossible to give clear guidance as to what does and doesn’t work.

Mountain bike tubeless setups are pretty robust, and you can run just about any tubeless mountain bike tyre with any tubeless rim (widths and diameters considered). But on the road, as long as you’re using a claimed tubeless-ready tyre and rim, you should be fine, although variations in rim and tyre diameters still yield a disconcerting amount of variability in terms of ease of serviceability. The one exception is with Mavic’s new UST tubeless system, which legitimately works as intended, and is enviably easy to set up. If you’re in doubt, contact your rim/wheel manufacturer for advice.

Is there a way to know if a particular tyre and rim setup will be safe to ride?

This is a grey area. While a loose-fitting setup may work for a lighter rider with a smooth style, it could prove a disaster for another rider. James Huang’s own test is to fully deflate the tyre while leaving it on the rim. From here, he’ll forcefully push the tyre sideways against the ground and test to see whether he can roll the deflated tyre from the rim. Even so, he’s found that that test works for him, but it’s still hardly universal or foolproof.

The reverse of this test is being able to get the tyre on in the first place. Although rare, some oversized rim and undersized tyre combinations can fit together so tightly that they aren’t practical to use, even though they’re very secure.

Again, the lack of a proper industry standard is a problem.

All about tyre sealants

What is tyre sealant and why do I need it?

Tyre sealant is a liquid added into the tyre. It’s required with tubeless-ready tyres to make them airtight, and acts as a preventative measure on both true tubeless and tubeless-ready tyres to seal small punctures. Usually latex-based, most tyre sealants also feature solid additives to help physically plug holes. Better tyre sealants will typically fill holes and small cuts up to 3mm in diameter.

What tyre sealant is best?

Stan's No Tubes sealant

There are many tubeless tyre sealants on the market and all claim to be the best.

We’ve found the tried-and-true Stan’s NoTubes sealant to be a reliable choice. Stan’s newer Race Day sealant is better at sealing larger punctures, but the thicker formula is more likely to clog valve stems, and it also needs to be replenished more often since it dries faster. On the road, I’ve found the larger sealing particles of the Race Day sealant to better resist the higher tyre pressure which tends to blow out more conventional sealant formulas.

James Huang, and a handful of others, have also had great success with Orange Seal, stating that it lasts longer and seals better than Stan’s. The general advice from users is to use more Orange Seal than you would with Stan’s, simply because it tends to coat the tyre more thoroughly on the first application.

Likewise, there were votes among the CyclingTips staff for Peaty’s tubeless tyre sealant, with its thick consistency and mixed-in glitter reportedly sealing some extremely large holes. As with the Stan’s Race Day formula, the thick nature of this sealant means you need to use more than you would with a thinner sealant, which not only adds extra weight, but also costs a little more.

I’ve heard that tyre sealant evaporates, so how often should I replenish it?

This answer will vary based on the sealant you use, the climate you live in, and your tyre construction. Hotter and drier climates will require sealant to be replenished more often – about every three months for popular products – while those in cooler and wetter climates may extend that timeframe to around six months. Likewise, a weeping tyre (see below) will need fresh sealant more often.

There are some sealants, such as Finish Line’s Tubeless Sealant, which claim to last forever (which, in our experience, is not the case). Ultimately, you’re best off selecting a sealant for its proven sealing properties, rather than its claimed longevity.

How much tyre sealant should I put in my tyres?

This is up to you. The more sealant you use, the longer it’ll last and the better puncture protection you’ll have. The only negative is additional rotating weight.

If you use a more watery sealant such as Stan’s, then aim to use between 30-60mL for road tyres, 60-120mL for most mountain bike tyres, and somewhere between that amount for gravel.

Interestingly, Joe’s No Flats has found that the higher pressure and fast rolling speed encountered with road tubeless calls for more sealant to be used. They recommend 60ml per tyre as the fast rolling speed creates a centrifugal force on the sealant, resulting in a thin strip of sealing liquid along the tyre’s centre. The more sealant you run, the wider and deeper that strip of sealant becomes.

What is the best way to check the condition of old sealant?

There are a number of gadgets on the market for this, such as the Milkit system. None of these are perfect, however, and the easiest (and cheapest!) solution is to deflate the tyre, pull a small section of bead off of the rim, and look inside. If the sealant inside looks murky or is no longer liquid, add more sealant and re-inflate the tyre.

An even easier method is to simply remove the wheel from the bike and give it a shake. If you don’t hear any liquid sloshing inside, it’s time to top up the sealant. Likewise, if you hear a rattle or knocking sound, it’s likely your sealant has dried up and left you a sealant “Stanimal” or “goober”. These are basically sealant snowballs. Pull a bead off and see what marvelous creature your sealant has conjured.

What is the easiest way to add fresh tyre sealant?

Filling through a Tubeless valve
A small bottle of sealant or a syringe allows you to inject sealant through the valve.

The method above is the easiest if you’re already checking. Alternatively, you can often inject sealant through the valve stem. To do this, you will need a small squeeze bottle of sealant or a syringe and a piece of tubing (a drinking straw can work). Remove the valve core and inject the sealant through the stem with your chosen tool. If it’s the small squeeze bottle, be sure to hold the tip of the bottle firmly against the valve to minimize leaking.

Whatever method you choose, be sure to shake the bottle of sealant first. This will ensure the sealing particles are not left out. You want that pulp!

Will tubeless sealants harm my wheels?

Raoul Luescher of Luescher Teknik Pty Ltd has specifically tested for this and found no evidence that tubeless sealant leads to corrosion in wheels. While the ammonia in some popular sealants is known to corrode aluminium, the use of this chemical is very minimal. As Luescher points out, tubeless system that is properly set up should be fully sealed, and so sealant shouldn’t be in regular contact with the wheel nipples at all. Aluminium rims are almost always anodized, too, and should already be protected.

One theory for the correlation between wheel corrosion and tubeless sealant comes from Adrian Emilsen of Melody Wheels, who believes that some leaky tubeless tapes allow sealant to seep into the nipple bed and retain water and salt. On this basis, it shouldn’t be an issue if you’re using a quality tubeless tape that’s correctly installed.

Should I add glitter to my tyre sealant?

Adding glitter or similar fine particulates is an old trick to help with clogging larger punctures. Peaty’s tyre sealant is one product that includes glitter from the factory. In our experience, the newer tyre sealants do a fine job already without having to resort to such tricks. Additionally, covering yourself, your bike, and your riding mates in glitter may be funny when it happens, but a pain to clean off.

How do I fix a valve that is clogged with sealant?

This is unfortunately pretty normal. You can start by pulling out the valve core and cleaning it with a rag. A thin framing nail or similar object can then be inserted through the open valve stem to clear it out. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, then I’d suggest replacing your tubeless valves altogether.

Why is sealant weeping through the sidewalls of my tyres?

Schwalbe TLE tyre - sweating tubeless
A little sealant “sweat” is fairly normal with some thin-walled tyres. Some thinner sealants, such as Stan’s, do this more commonly.

As most tubeless-ready tyres are somewhat porous, it’s quite common for tyre sealants to weep through the sidewall. Some tyre brands and sealant types do this more than others. For example, I’ve experienced it plenty with Specialized, Continental, and Schwalbe mountain bike tyres, especially with age.

It’s not something to worry about, but there are things to be aware of. A weeping tyre will require you to replenish the sealant more regularly. Additionally, that moisture on the outside will likely collect debris when riding, and so wiping your sidewalls down periodically will ensure you don’t drag the mess where it shouldn’t be.

How do I clean up a sealant spill?

Use a rag and water to wipe up spilt sealant before it dries. If it’s on your clothes, Stan’s NoTubes recommend an immediate cold wash with a light detergent. If left to dry, the sealant will likely stain.

Will sealant leak out if I fully deflate the tyre?

It depends. Great-fitting tyre and rim combinations will keep the bead in place even when there’s no pressure inside the tyre, and no sealant should leak out. However, many combinations lack a perfect fit and so a part of the tyre bead will sometimes pop off when the tyre is deflated, which then allows space for sealant to leak out. Given this, it’s best to keep air in your tyres when stored or traveling.

Sealant escapes when I attach my pump. What am I doing wrong?

You’ll need to use gravity to your benefit when inflating tyres with sealant inside. Always place the valve at the top or side when inflating, and never at the bottom where the sealant will be resting. This will prevent making a mess and save your pump from being filled with sealant.

Tubeless-specific products

I’m looking for tubeless tyres for my road bike. What would you recommend?

Schwalbe Pro One

Currently, almost everyone except Michelin offers tubeless road tyres, so there are plenty of options, depending on your priorities.

Our team has had good success with the Schwalbe Pro One, a performance tyre that offers great grip and rolling speed. However, the grippy tread is a little prone to cutting. The newly announced Continental GP5000TL looks set to become a very popular option, too – we’re currently testing them.

I’m looking for tubeless gravel tyres. Anything you would recommend?

Like mountain bike or cyclocross tyres, gravel tyres need to offer the right tread design and compound for your terrain. If you’re after a fast rolling, well-rounded tyre for road and gravel, we’ve had great luck with the Schwalbe G-One tyres, and in fact, they were suggested by multiple editors in our 2018 Most Loved Products. However, there are many great options in this space – such as the more affordable and durable Panaracer Gravel King SK, and Donnelly Cycling’s collection is a favorite of editor-in-chief Caley Fretz.

My rims call for tubeless tape. What should I use?

Tubeless tape
When it comes to tubeless tape, width is most important.

If your wheel brand doesn’t call for a specific tape, then you have a number of options. Our first preference would be for a tubeless-specific tape, such as from Stan’s No Tubes. It’s a bit expensive and not super durable against tyre lever attacks, but it’s easily sourced and reliable. Gorilla tape is a popular alternative that is readily available at hardware stores and is suggested by a number of wheel companies, such as Enve. Another option is 3M Kapton tape, which is particularly thin, so it’s a good choice if you’re trying to get a slightly looser fit between your tyre and rim.

Whatever you choose, pay close attention to the width of tape that is suggested for your rims. If nothing is specified, just make sure the rim bed is completely covered, from sidewall to sidewall.

What are the best tubeless valves?

Tubeless valves
There isn’t too much to tubeless valves, but be sure to match the length and the seal shape to your rim.

Pay attention to valve stem length if you’re using deep road rims. Otherwise, any “standard” length valve should do the job. I’ve had great success with using Stan’s NoTubes Universal valve stems on a number of systems, and have even found them to offer a superior fit where other styles of valve stems are suggested (such as Shimano, Bontrager, and DT Swiss wheels).

If grams (nine of them, to be exact) or colours matter, I’ve found the WTB TCS alloy valve stems to offer an equally reliable fit. These are what I use on most of my bikes. Similar valves are available under many other brands, and while most look the same, they’re not always equal.

Whatever you do, avoid carbon fibre tubeless valves! They’re the only valve stems I’ve ever snapped.

Installing tubeless

What tools do I need to install tubeless?

Assuming your rims are set up with tubeless tape, then you’ll only require a floor pump with a high-volume air flow and maybe a set of tyre levers. The tighter the tyre fit, the easier the system will be to inflate with a basic floor pump. Looser tubeless setups will require a more immediate burst of air, and so an air compressor, tubeless floor pump (covered below), or a tubeless-specific “booster” canister (such as from Milkit, Schwalbe, Bontrager, and others) may be required.

One thing that is definitely not recommended is a CO2 canister. That quick shot of air comes with a serious drop in temperature, and many sealants don’t react well to that level of cold.

How do I know if my existing rim tape is right for tubeless?

Zipp 454 NSW
Even some of the latest and greatest rims are not designed for tubeless.

The easiest way is to check with your wheel builder or wheel manufacturer and ask the question. Failing that, look for any marking on the tape that suggests it is for tubeless use; both Specialized and DT Swiss tapes are clearly marked, for example. Similarly, Stan’s NoTubes tape, which is widely used, is a telltale glossy yellow.

Alternatively, assess whether the tape looks air and watertight. If the tape is cloth, is made of porous plastic, or has a loose fit on the rim, then it is not suitable for tubeless use.

How do I install tubeless rim tape on my rims?

Start with a bare rim that has been thoroughly cleaned with rubbing alcohol. Find a tubeless tape that matches or is a couple of millimeters wider than the internal width of your rims. Starting one spoke hole before the valve hole, wrap the tape tightly around the circumference of the rim. Cut the end with scissors once you’ve overlapped past the valve hole. For road setups, use two layers of tape to better handle the higher running pressures.

Park Tool details the steps here:

Are there any tricks to installing the valve?

Assuming your rim has been freshly wrapped in tape, then you want to pierce a hole in the tape without tearing it. The pro tip here is to use a lighter and heat up a sharpened spoke, center punch or similar round pointy metal tool. Once hot, gently pierce the tape with the tool. This will create a perfect hole without tears.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BfWF1A9AWe6/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=bjhj7faxq1u8

From there, push the valve through and install the supplied valve nut (and o-ring on the outside if supplied). While the valve nut serves little purpose with clincher tyres, it’s required on tubeless to create an airtight seal.

Tighten the valve nut firmly with your fingers. If you hear air escaping around the valve, tighten it further. You shouldn’t need tools to get the valve nut tight enough. If you’re confident the valve is airtight, but you still hear air rushing through the spoke holes, you likely have a leak in the tape somewhere.

How do I remove a valve core? How tight should it be?

Tubeless valves
Most tubeless valves have removable valve cores.

Removable valve cores have small tool flats on them. Ideally, use a dedicated valve core tool to unscrew it from the valve stem. Alternatively, you can use pliers provided you’re careful. Simply reverse the process to install it. It should be tight enough that you cannot remove it with your bare fingers.

How do I install my tyres without sealant going everywhere?

Although this takes more time, I advise first doing a “dry” installation. This involves installing the tyres and inflating them without the use of sealant. Once the tyre beads seat and the tyre starts to inflate, you can then deflate the tyre and – ideally – inject sealant through the valve (with the valve core removed) without fear of the liquid seeping out around the tyre beads.

My tyres are impossibly tight. How do I get them on to the rim?

Tight tyre
Tubeless tyres and rims often fit more tightly than standard clincher setups. Correct technique goes a long way to easy setup.

With little stretch in the bead and a typically tighter fitment, tubeless tyres can be challenging to get on and off the rim. Our guide to dealing with impossibly tight tyres has everything you need to know and do to overcome this. Do beware that you should pay careful attention if using tyre levers to install a tubeless tyre as it’s easy to damage the sealing tubeless tape. A little bit of soapy water can act as a lubricant and help ease the process. There’s also a few “hook” type tyre tools on the market to ease such installation, such as the TyreKey out of the UK.

How do I inflate a tubeless tyre?

With the tyre wrestled on to the rim, you should now be ready to add air to the system. Generally speaking, a well-fitting tubeless tyre will make a few loud popping sounds as the tyre bead firmly pops into place against the rim sidewalls. Look for a uniform bead around the circumference of the wheel, as low spots will reveal a tyre that’s not fully seated.

Park Tool shows common installation methods here:

What is the best inflation tool for tubeless?

The best tubeless setups have a precise fit between the rim and tyre, and will require nothing more than a regular floor pump to pressurise the system. However, not all setups are the same, and sometimes the use of a regular floor pump to seat a tubeless tyre can be exhausting – or futile.

An air compressor used to be the secret weapon for tubeless installs, but recent years has seen an influx of tubeless pumps and inflator canisters hit the market.

A tubeless-specific floor pump effectively combines a regular floor pump with a chamber that can be charged to a specified pressure and then released in one sudden burst. Great examples of this include the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger, Topeak JoeBlow Booster, Lezyne Digital Pressure Overdrive, and others.

Airshot and Bontrager Tubeless Charger pump
Tubeless floor pumps, inflation canisters, or an air compressor can help greatly with fussy tubeless setups.

If you already own a floor pump you love, then consider a separate tubeless canister that you inflate to pressure. I’ve had great success with the original Airshot, although similar products now exist from Schwalbe, Giant, Specialized, Milkit, and Topeak. There are also plenty of examples for DIY canisters using a Coke bottle or similar, but given you’ll be pumping the thing over 100psi, I’m not a fan of such ideas.

I’m struggling to get the tyre to inflate. What should I do?

There are many tips and tricks here. Try these in order.

– Air flow is typically the biggest limiter. Start by removing the valve core from the valve (using a valve core removal tool or a set of needle-nose pliers). This will allow a larger volume of air to flow faster into the tyre. If you have access to a tubeless pump, canister, or air compressor, now is the time to use it.
– If you don’t have access to a compressor or tubeless pump, then a burst from CO2 canister can also do the trick. However, this method is not only wasteful, but can adversely affect the sealant given the extreme cold produced inside the tyre.
– A little soapy water around the bead of the tyre can help ease the bead into place. The soap also aids in slowing the release of air around the bead.
– Have a friend help hold the tyre taut against the rim to help create a temporary seal. Pulling the tyre against the rim bead at the valve can also be a useful approach for loose fitting and/or wider tyres.

I’ve tried everything suggested but the tyre still won’t inflate. What next?

Failing all that, take the tubeless valve out, install a tube and inflate to pressure, and then leave it overnight. When you come back to it, deflate the tube and carefully lift just one side of the tyre off the rim, leaving the seated bead intact on the other side. Install the tubeless valve, push the loose bead back into place and inflate.

If you still can’t inflate it at this point, you’re either dealing with a terrible (or faulty) combination or are missing earlier steps.

I got my tubeless installed, but it was flat by the next morning. How do I fix this?

You’ve got a leak. There could be a few things causing this and dipping the wheel in a bucket of water can help diagnose it.

Most likely it’s leaking from the sidewall of a tyre. To fix this, give the tyre a shake while turning it on its side (imagine driving a bus with your wheel). Your goal is to distribute the sealant around the entire surface of the tyre casing. Once done, lay the wheel flat on a bucket or similar and leave for a few hours. Repeat the shaking motion and flip the wheel. It’s also a good idea to immediately ride the inflated tyre(s) around the block for a few minutes. The repeated casing flex helps the sealant fill any remaining tiny holes in the sidewalls.

If the leak is coming from your tubeless valve, then make sure you haven’t torn the surrounding tape. Check that the valve’s rubber grommet is matching and sealing to the rim shape; some rims call for specific valves. And of course, check that the valve nut is tight.

If the leak is coming through some spoke holes, then you either having a valve seal issue or a poor rim tape seal. Redo the rim tape installation with fresh tape and ensure the rim is cleaned with an alcohol-based solvent first. Installing a tube overnight can help seal the new rim tape against the rim.

Fixing a tubeless flat

What happens if I get a flat tyre?

Most punctures on tubeless will self-seal with the sealant inside the tyre (assuming it hasn’t dried out). Often you won’t even need to stop, while other times pulling over and letting gravity focus the sealant to the puncture can help.

Dynaplug
A tyre plug can quickly seal even larger punctures. It’s inserted from the outside of the tyre.

If the hole is larger and/or not sealing, then a tyre plug can be inserted from the outside. If the repair is done quickly (and if you’re quick to put a finger on the hole while you get the tool ready), you can likely continue riding without having to top up the tyre pressure.

If you don’t have tyre plugs, or the tyre is properly cut, then you can just install an inner tube as usual. As you would with a clincher system, it’s best to use a patch or boot on the tyre to prevent the inner tube from poking through the hole if it’s particularly big. Installing a tube uses the same process as a clincher setup, but remember that you will need to remove the tubeless valve stem first.

On really remote mountain bike rides, some of our staff choose to carry a small bottle of tyre sealant in addition to tyre plugs, an inner tube, and a mini-pump. It’s highly unlikely you’ll get stranded with such a setup.

Can a tubeless tyre be repaired?

In case of a puncture, a tubeless tyre plug can be used to create a reliable fix. If at home, a torn tyre can be patched from the inside, but it can be a messy job given the sealant inside the tyre. Replace the tyre if there is any damage to the bead.

What tubeless tyre plugs are best?

Dynaplug Racer
The Dynaplug Racer is my favourite, but the American company has a range of great tools.

Without sounding dramatic, there are Dynaplugs and then everything else. Dynaplug combines its trademark “spike” tool and the plug into one, so it’s extremely quick and easy to use. Other systems use a fork and a rubber strip that is pushed through the tyre. These are typically fiddlier to use and more awkward to carry. Read our Dynaplug review to see how this product works.


Have you used tubeless before? What has been your experience? Any tips missed? Let us know in the comments below.

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