To be or not to be Tubeless that is the question!

Tubeless Mountain Bike Close-up Racetac Bike Handles

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After our realization that we were mountain biking without an emergency kit for those unexpected situations out on the trail, we stopped by our local bike shop, Shoreline of Tahoe, to get a few tips on what to bring while mountain biking. Last week, we highlighted what the experts at Shoreline suggested to carry. During our discussion, Ken (the guru as I like to call him) brought up another awesome option that I didn’t know existed… “Why not go tubeless on your mountain bike?”

Tubeless Mountain Bike Norco Sight 2017 Ken Shoreline of Tahoe
Ken at Shoreline of Tahoe showing us how the new Norco bikes have been redesigned to support a bigger tire

Mountain bike tires are now tubeless?

Tubeless Tire and Rim Example
Sticker should read TR or Tubeless

As soon as Ken suggested that you can go tubeless, I stood there staring in total shock. Talk about advancements in the game! Similar to a car tire, this a great option if you really want to push it and don’t want to worry about popping a tire on the trail. And if you do run into certain tire troubles, you can fix them much quicker. Unfortunately, not all tire rims are made the same. To see if your bike rim supports this configuration, look at the rim and/or tire. You’ll should see a sticker that reads “Tubeless Rim” or “TR.”

How do tubeless tires work?

Shoreline of Tahoe Orange Seal Tubless Sealant Injection System
Sealant that can be put into a tube or a tubeless tire

Mountain bike tires that are used for tubeless have structure similar to a car tire meaning if you stand them up, they hold their shape. In addition to the tire, the rim is very important. Its job is to hold onto the tire and make sure it doesn’t pop out or off while you’re riding or get into a biking snafu. To think about it in really simple terms, for a tube tire, the tube is holding everything together while in a tubeless setup, the rim is the one holding on. Finally, there is an additive inside the tubeless tire that if you do get a puncture, all you need to do is pump a ton of air & super fast into the tire to reseal it!

Go Ghetto – tubeless

We understand mountain bikes and their accessories are expensive. If you’re a casual rider that spends most of your time in meadows and hitting single tracks, you could get away with what many call “ghetto-tubeless”. This isn’t recommended but it is possible. To do this, you would want to remove the tube from your mountain bike wheel and pump in an additive such as Stan’s Sealant to help create a stronger seal between tire and rim.

Slime isn’t just for Ghostbusters

Tubeless Mountain Bike Slime Self-sealing Tube Patch Attack Pre-injected Tube Freedom Tube
Examples of tubes already filled with slime to reduce punctures

Finally, if you don’t want to take the risk of going “ghetto” but still want a little extra protection, we suggest trying out tubes already filled with what they call “slime.” Like they always say… “You get what you pay for.” If you were to get a small puncture, the slime will help seal the tire, but if it’s a pinch flat, sidewall puncture, or something bigger, it may not work. This is at least another option to consider.

What to bring on the trail if you go Tubeless

Mountain Bike Sunlite Tubeless Tire Plug Kit
Tubeless tires can be patched with a plug just like a truck tire

If you do make the jump to tubeless, this means instead of carrying a pump if you get a flat, you’ll carry a CO2 Inflator, which will inflate the tire quickly! The sealant inside the tubeless tire is filled with what looks like glitter, so when you pump up the tire FAST, the sealant heals itself. And, if you get a really serious puncture, you can always patch it with a plug – just like a truck tire.

In the end, if you are a bit more aggressive with riding and don’t want to spend a ton of time fixing your tires, going tubeless might be something you consider. But as stated above, you can also go with something in-between. It’s really up to you. Happy trails!

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