Rock garden slash your sidewall? Pothole pinch your inner tube? Goat heads turn your tires into pincushions? Maybe it's time to go tubeless.
A flat tire can strand you in the backcountry, ruin your race, or make you late for work. If you're tired of roadside and trailside repairs, tubeless may be for you.
What is it?
A tubeless tire system replaces your inflatable rubber tubes with two to five ounces of latex-based liquid sealant. The sealant coats the inside of your tires as they spin and, should they puncture, will seal leaks before too much air escapes. Developed for mountain-biking in 2001, tubeless systems are now ubiquitous in all off-road disciplines from enduro to gravel. And, as road cycling transitioned to wider tires over the past few years, professionals and recreational riders alike adopted tubeless systems for their speed, reliability, and simplicity.
As with most options in cycling, a tubeless system comes with tradeoffs. Properly installed tubeless systems are lighter, have less rotational weight, prevent pinch flats, mitigate and seal punctures, and allow you to run lower tire pressure for a larger contact patch, better traction, and more progressive pneumatic suspension for a smoother ride. However, tubeless installations can be more laborious than traditional tubed setups, and they often have a slightly higher upfront cost. They can also be messy and require special tools including an air compressor or high-volume floor pump. Finally, while tubeless may free you from roadside or trailside maintenance, you should still pack a spare tube and regularly check your tires' pressure and liquid sealant level before starting a ride.
Okay, But Why Go Tubeless?
Want to take the plunge, but need a little convincing? Alright... for mountain biking tubeless is almost a given. With tire widths pushing three inches, you can run low pressures to increase your "contact patch," or the patch of tire surface in contact with the trail. This grants you better traction while cornering, prevents your rear wheel from spinning out during rough, punchy climbs, and smooths chattery hardpack. Tubeless means you can run those desired low pressures without pinch-flatting your tubes every time you roll through a rock garden.
The same principles also apply to road tubeless. Even in the professional peloton, cyclists are choosing wider tires for comfort and speed. New, wider tires with supple sidewalls inflated to lower pressures roll faster over paved surfaces than narrower tires inflated to higher pressures. The added speed comes, in part, from superior pneumatic suspension. Narrow tires must be inflated higher to prevent pinch flats; as a result, they transfer more vibrations from the road into the rider, which leads to "suspension losses." Going tubeless allows you to run lower pressures, which even out those vibrations and reduce suspension losses. The result? A smoother, comfortable, and faster ride. Never pinchflat again!
What you need
Ready to try tubeless? Performance has you covered for all your tubeless needs. First, check whether your bike's rims and tires are tubeless-ready. If not, take a look at our stock of wheels and compatible mountain and road tires. Once your rims and tires are ready, check out our Tubeless Accessories for high-volume pumps, sealant, rim tape, and inflation valves! When you're ready to install, follow our how-to guide for tips.