Tubeless is a leap of faith for some, black magic for others, or simply that thing that all cars have had since the 50s.
Tubeless is exactly what it sounds like – a tyre with no inner tube inside. It requires an airtight rim and a more robust tyre, which are now both readily available at any bike shop. Starting out in the MTB world, tubeless proved itself in a harsh, unpredictable environment and now is fast becoming the standard for on road bikes. To get to where we are, a better bead lock between the tyre and rim has been important to nail.
Tubes aren’t so bad, but the main reasons to eradicate them come down to added weight, snakebite punctures (more on that below), heat and rolling resistance.
Reducing weight can be an obsession for some cyclists, but rolling weight is important for spin up and fatigue. The holy grail of weight loss is rotating weight and at the extremities of the rotating mass (tyres, shoes, pedals) is where it makes a big difference.
Snakebites are when the tube gets trapped between the rim and tyre during a square hit (think a rock or pothole) and creates two holes (hence snakebite). This type of puncture is eradicated with tubeless, leaving only a true puncture (when a sharp object penetrates the tyre) to ruin your ride.
Heat can be a factor too for tubes. On a hot day, on hot tarmac, internal temp on road tyres can hit high degrees. Tubes can fatigue, stretch, expand and reduce, all taking a toll on their integrity. Add sustained high speed braking on a descent on a hot day and pop… NOT IDEAL.
Rolling resistance is a science in itself. The more resistance, the more effort required and who likes wasting effort? There’s a whole thing on energy deflection and absorption too, but let’s keep our brains intact here. In short tubeless has less rolling resistance.
Clear as mud?
#mysterymechanic and ask me about your tubeless set up if you need a hand…