Our article "Tubeless problems (and the solutions)" is one of our most popular articles found by Google. Apparently a lot of riders are searching for tubeless, so we present a sequel: the most frequently asked questions about tubeless. Is your question not answered? Drop us an email, and we'll try to include it.
With a tubeless system, you're only using an outer tire, in other words, there's no inner tube. The tire is filled with a little bit of sealant, also called latex. Tubeless is anything but new: it has been used for centuries in cars, scooters and on the MTB it has become the standard.
One of the advantages of tubeless tires is that you can ride a lower pressure than clinchers, because the chance of a snake bite is almost 0. A general guideline is 1 bar less than normal tires, with a minimum pressure of 4 bar on the road bike. Enve has a calculator on the website which you can use as an aid.
A snake bite is almost impossible with tubeless, but it's possible that the tire comes off the rim a little when you hit a pothole for example. Air escapes from the rim ('burp'). Usually you can just inflate the tire and continue cycling, assuming there is no other damage, such as a dent in the rim wall.
A hookless rim does not have a 'hook' at the end of the rim wall (see picture above). Instead, there are gutters on the inner sides of the rim wall where the tire falls in. Most hookless rims are only suitable for tubeless tires. If you do have to use an inner tube in case of a puncture, this is often allowed. By the way, some tubeless tires are not suitable for hookless rims (such as the Continental GP5000TL). The advantage of a hookless rim is that they are lighter and easier to make, so there is less chance of construction errors and the rim is cheaper.
On the mountain bike this was quite normal, but it is strongly discouraged, especially on a road bike. Normal tires are looser around the rim so the question is whether you can get it airtight, but even if you could: the pressure is much higher than on an MTB so the chance that the tire will fly off is high. So don't do it.
2-3 mm wider than the internal width of the rim.
Always read the instructions on the boxes of both the tire and the sealant and take the highest number of these two. A general guideline: take width of the tire (mm), round this up to tens and take this number in milliliters. So a 38 mm tire, 40 ml sealant. A 42 mm tire, 50 ml sealant.
In the past, sealant was poured directly into the tire, which was then fitted. This often resulted in a mess. Nowadays the valve cores can be removed. This is the easiest way to add sealant. It works most conveniently with a small bottle, syringe or tubing. There are several systems on the market for this purpose. A small 60 ml of Schwalbe Doc blue works every single time, even if you use a different brand.
This differs per brand; read the instruction on the manufacturer's website. Having said that, sealant sold now will last much longer than a few years ago. Previously you still had to refill every 3 months, nowadays it goes more towards the 6 months or even longer. Also the type of tire is important. Some tires "drink" more sealant than others. It's a good idea the simply check after 6 months. Should there be sealant left, it's possible to re-use it.
In theory that's enough, however, sometimes the tire does not want to "pop" during initial assembly. In that case you need something to give it a shot of air in one go. This could be a tire booster, a CO2 cartridge or compressor.
In most cases this is possible, but you need extra stuff and extra tools, see the question about tubeless on an old-fashioned rim.
* only for initial assembly.
It is generally believed that CO2 and sealant should not come into contact for an extended period of time. However, that doesn't mean you can't use CO2 cartridges anymore.
This is probably the most common problem with tubeless tires. Below are some solutions, with the most obvious ones listed at the top.
Always put your bike away with the wheels on the 4 o'clock or 8 o'clock position. Then your valve will be above your sealant and the sealant in your valve may leak due to gravity. It is also advisable to rinse the valves thoroughly with a soap solution when changing tires.
Tubeless ready tires are porous and need sealant to maintain pressure. Tubeless tires (such as the Continental GP5000TL) have an extra layer which means no sealant is needed. The advantage of tubeless ready tires is that they are lighter than tubeless tires. Tubeless ready tires are also smoother.
Yes, for sure. However, some tires can cause a (slight) bulge when you ride them with an inner tube. Also note that this is not possible when using hookless rims (see also the question about hookless rims).
The easiest way is to use a soapy water to find out where the leak is coming from. Some possible causes
Opinions differ on this. Officially, a plug ("bacon strap") is not meant for the long term, but in principle you can usually continue to ride with it for a few more rides. The most sensible thing to do is to replace the tire or, if possible, repair it with a special tubeless tire patch.
Sealant starts to work at lower pressure, so it is normal for a little air (and sealant) to escape before the leak is closed. It may be necessary to inflate the tire a little. It is also possible that sealant has ended up on your frame and/or clothing. Luckily it doesn't make severe stains. The advice is to wash your clothes immediately and clean the bike with soap.
A small overnight pressure loss (approx. 1 bar) is normal, especially with non-tubeless ready rims. If you lose more pressure, there may be something else going on. See the question about pressure loss solutions.
Some manufacturers say at least 10 cm (and not near the valve), but especially for wheels with higher tire pressure (like road bikes) 2 full rounds is a better idea.
Tubeless ready tyres need sealant to stay on pressure, so you can't drive without it. With tubeless tires it might be possible, but the question is whether you should want to. In that case you don't benefit from the biggest advantages of tubeless driving (i.e. hardly ever puncture again).
There are many brands of good sealant, including Stan's, Joe's, Squirt, Orange, Efeto and many others. Some will last a little longer than others, and some will close bigger holes than others. Everyone has their own favorite and the products don't avoid each other much.
Yes, you can. Carefully wipe the outer tire out of the rim on one side and then hang the wheel. Now use a large syringe (pharmacy) to suck up the sealant from the bottom. You can effortlessly reuse this. Be aware of the maximum life span of the sealant. After 6 months the best is gone.