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02-11-2021 | Frank Jansen

Tubeless FAQ

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.

Frequency Asked Questions

What is tubeless?

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.

What are the benefits of tubeless?

  • Leaks are almost always closed automatically by the sealant.
  • Snake bites are almost impossible.
  • Lower rolling resistance than ordinary butyl inner tubes.
  • Lighter than clinchers.
  • More comfortable because you ride at a lower pressure.
  • More grip thanks to the lower pressure.

What are the disadvantages of tubeless?

  • Installation can be a challenge, especially on with older wheels.
  • In case of a leak, the sealant can stain your bike and/or clothing (see also this question).
  • Tubeless tubes are more expensive than normal tires.
  • There is less choice in tubeless tubes than regular tires.
  • Clincher tires with latex inner tubes have even less rolling resistance.

What pressure should I ride?

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.

What do you do if puncture?

  • Use an inner tube and put a piece of an old tire in front of the hole/tear. Advantage: it always works. Disadvantage: it takes time, you'll have to remove the tire. Sometimes is causes a small bulge in the tire.
  • Insert a plug .Advantage: easy and fast, no need to remove the tire. Disadvantage: does not always work, and certainly less often with tubeless tires with a higher pressure (such as road bike). Emergency fix, might last a few rides but not longer.
  • Use a special tubeless patch. Disadvantage: no road side repair, it takes time. The tire must be removed.
  • Add extra sealant. Advantage: easy, no need to remove the tape. Disadvantage: small chance of success, it can cause a mess.

What is a burp?

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.

What is the difference between a tubeless ready rim and a regular rim?

  • A tubeless ready rim has a gutter in the middle of the rim bed. This makes it much easier to fit a tubeless tire (these tires are slightly smaller than regular tires).
  • With tubeless ready rims there is often a gutter on both sides of the inside of the rim wall where the tire falls in (see 'rim bead seat' in the picture below).
  • Tubeless ready wheels are often already equipped with special tubeless (airtight) rim tape, or they have a closed rim bed.

Source: ENVE

What is a hookless rim?

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.

How do I repair a big hole or tear?

  • On the road the easiest option is putting a special plug from the outside of the tire, also called bacon strap. This is mainly meant as an emergency solution, you may be able to do a few more rides with it, but it's not permanent.
  • Another solution is to repair the tire from the inside with a special tubeless tire sticker. These are sold TipTop, Hutchinson and Velox. Some rider just use patches for inner tubes.

Is it possible to ride tubeless on a regular tire?

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.

How wide should the rim tape be?

2-3 mm wider than the internal width of the rim.

How much sealant should I use?

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.

How do I add sealant without spilling?

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.

How long does sealant last / how often should I change sealant?

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.

What do I need for tubeless on a tubeless ready rim?

  • a tubeless tire
  • a tubeless valve (usually comes with the wheel)
  • tubeless rim tape is in most cases already wrapped around the rim or the rim doesn't need tape
  • a floor pump
  • sealant

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.

Can I fit tubeless tires on a normal rim?

In most cases this is possible, but you need extra stuff and extra tools, see the question about tubeless on an old-fashioned rim.

What do I need for tubeless with an ordinary "old-fashioned" rim?

  • A tubeless tire
  • Tubeless valves
  • Tubeless rim tape 2-3 mm wider than the internal width of the rim (once)
  • Degreaser*
  • A floor pump
  • Sealant
  • A tire booster, CO2 cartridge or a compressor*
  • Soapy water or a product such as Schwalbe Easyfit*

* only for initial assembly.

Can I still use CO2 cartridges?

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.

  • If you flat on the road and stick an inner tube, of course that's not a problem.
  • Do you use a CO2 cartridge to inflate the tire when first mounting it? Then deflate the tire after popping and only then add sealant.
  • Do you insert a plug en route and then want to inflate with CO2? Then when you get home you will want to change or top up your sealant anyway. Using a CO2 cartridge to get home is therefore not a problem.
  • If you want to add pressure and you only have CO2, do it in small doses. Latex can withstand lower temperatures, but it cannot withstand a sudden "shock".

What can I do if the tire won't set?

This is probably the most common problem with tubeless tires. Below are some solutions, with the most obvious ones listed at the top.

  • Remove the valve core when inflating. This will allow a lot more air through the valve, increasing the chance of setting.
  • Give the tire a blast of air all at once. This is done with a compressor, a tire booster or a CO2 cartridge. If you choose a CO2 cartridge, make sure that you do not immediately add sealant when you inflate the tire. Many sealants are not compatible with CO2.
  • Spray the tire and rim wall with soapy water. This is not a bad idea anyway, because it also ensures that the tire centers better.
  • Put a strap over the middle of the tire and pull it tight. In this way the beads are pushed upwards.
  • An extra layer of rim tape can also help.
  • Mount an inner tube, pump hard and leave it for an hour. Then, remove the tube from one side, fit the tubeless valve and try to inflate it.

What can I do to prevent my valves from getting clogged up?

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.

What's the difference between tubeless and tubeless ready 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.

Can I ride a tubeless tire with an inner tube?

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).

Air is still escaping somewhere, what can I do?

The easiest way is to use a soapy water to find out where the leak is coming from. Some possible causes

  • The tubeless valve is not tightened properly.
  • There is a dent in the rim wall. Bend straight with a wrench.
  • The tire is not properly centered. Deflate, spray the rim wall and tire well with soapy water and pump again.
  • The tubeless rim tape is worn or too narrow. Remove the tape, make the rim grease free and mount 2 rounds of new tape in the right size.
  • You have not used enough sealant. Add another 20 ml.
  • The sealant is not well spread over the tire. Turn the wheel extensively in all directions.

I used a plug to fix my tire. Can I keep riding with the plug

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.

I punctured, sealant sprayed out of the tire, is that normal?

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.

My tire loses pressure at night. Is that normal?

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.

How much should the rim tape overlap?

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.

Can I also drive without sealant?

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).

What is the best sealant?

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.

Can sealant be re-used?

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.

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