To go tubeless or not for your MTB bicycle tyres, that is a question some of you might ask yourselves. For me it's clear: the South African bush has so many thorns and sharp rocks, that tubeless is by far the best way to prevent punctures.
image source: mbr.co.uk
The advantages of tubeless tyres are:
- reduces risk of punctures, especially pinch flats;
- you can run lower pressures, which improves traction;
- depending on the system you use, tubeless can be lighter than riding with tubes, and
- better absorbation of shocks.
The disadvantages are:
- You will need to maintain the sealant level, and it's hard to judge how much sealant is left;
- you will have to buy tubeless ready rims with rim tape and tubeless ready tyres;
- tubeless tyres can be a pain to install;
How to install tubeless tyres?
There is plenty of advice on the web on how to install tubeless tyres. Although some say you have to have a compressor or a special pump to install tubeless tyres, I usually just use my foot pump. Make sure the tyre doesn't show a big gap before you start pumping: distribute the tyre evenly around the rim, and have the wheel hanging, e.g. not on the ground with the tyre flattened.
If you smear the edge of the tyres close to the rims with some sealant, they normally fit easier. Make sure you wait until you hear a few big pops, that will tell you the tyre is installed properly. Put a lot of pressure in them and turn the tyre around (ideally for a few hours); the sealant will then be able to go everywhere where there is a little hole. Deflate to the right pressure when you start riding.
How to plug tubeless tyres?
I answered this in one of my of previous posts, and I have copied part of the text below. If you fail to plug the tyre with a plug, you will have to put your spare tube in. Make sure you remove all thorns and clean out your tyre first, and you have to remove the valve. If you have a side wall cut, you would have to carry a big patch that will hopefully hold after installing the tube.
When you get bigger holes that the sealant is not able to stop, you might need to plug your tires. There are a few plugging kits on the market, some fancier than others, some are really expensive, some come with glue, a small knife, some can fit in your handlebars, etcetera. What I use to plug my tires is this:
That’s all. It’s an insertion tool with plugs. You can actually install already one of the plugs, and wrap it in cling foil, ready to use. For longer rides I carry some extra plugs, perhaps some bigger plugs as well. You can carry a small knife as well, or e.g. a shaving blade, to cut of any excess plug that will stick out. What you have to do is: find the hole, insert the tool and make sure the plug is more or less halfway, then remove the tool, make sure the plug remains in the tire, and cut off (only some of) the plug sticking out so you have a slightly smoother ride, and that’s it!