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23-04-2020 | Frank Jansen

5 tubeless problems (and solutions)

Tubeless is here to stay on the mountainbike, and is knocking on the door on the road bike. An increasing number of riders take the leap. Especially if you use modern, tubeless ready rims, the installation process is dead easy. Perhaps even easier than clinchers. However, if you use old fashioned rims to ride tubeless tires, it might be a struggle. And what if you puncture on the road? In this article, we'll discuss 5 common tubeless problems and the solutions. 

Picture: the new Continental GP5000 tubeless tires which CycloWorld is currently testing (credits Frank Jansen)

1. The tire will not set on initial installation 

This is probably the most common problem with tubeless tires. It mostly occurs when using tubeless tires on older rims, which are not specifically made for tubeless tires. The easiest solution is to inflate the tire with a large boost of air. This can be done with a compressor, pressure vessel (like Schwalbe Tire Booster) or a CO2 cartridge. If you use CO2, make sure not to add sealant in the same step, since many sealants are affected by CO2. By the way, the boost is something that's only required on initial installation.   

Another possibility is that the tubeless rim tape is not air tight. A second layer might help, but not if the tape if too narrow. Always make sure the tape is 2-3mm wider than the inner width of the rim.

2. The tire sets, but air escapes at the rim walls

This is also a problem that occurs mostly on older rims. The bead of the tire are not evenly seated at the rim wall: and therefor the tire is not centered. Empty the tire, spray soapy water or a special product like Schwalbe Easyfit on the side wall of the tire and rim. Inflate the fire and the tire wil center. 

There's an alternative cause. There are two types of tubeless tire: tubeless and tubeless ready. The latter needs sealant to maintain pressure. If you don't add that on the initial installation, the tire might loose pressure. 

3. The tubeless tire won't fit the rim 

We're repeating ourselves, but this problem occurs pretty much exclusive on older rim types. Modern rims have a gutter in the middle of the rim bed. When you put the bead of the tire in the gutter, you create room to fit the tire on the opposite side. Older rims don't have such a gutter. Luckily there are a few tricks. Apply soapy water or tire grease to the rim. Or just use a tire lever. Since there's no inner tube, puncturing it is out of the question. But the best solution is probably a heavy duty tire lever. By the way, VAR tools makes a portable version.  

4. Clogged up valve cores

As time goes by, it's normal that sealant might clog up valve cores. It's recommended to clean valve cores when changing tires by rinsing them with soapy water and cleaning them with something like compressed air. Changing them every now and then is also a good idea. Valve cores can be bought very cheaply of Aliexpress. Of course, preventing is better than cure. Especially after installing new tires, make sure your valves are in the 4 o'clock or 8 o'clock position when you stow your bike. In that way, the valves are above sealant levels, and excess sealant might still leak away because of gravity. 

5. My tubeless tire is fine, but contains a hole too large for sealant

In this case there are two options. The first possibility is putting a plug in the tire from the outside. Companies like Dynaplug and Lezyne offer such a solution. This is merely meant as quick way to get home. This repair is quite common on cars. The other option is repairing the tire from the inside, using a special patch. Hutchinson and Velox sells these kits for little money. This is not something you will do at the side of the road; you will have to take some time. If you puncture while riding the better option is to install an inner tube and put a bank note in between the tube and the tire. 

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