Tubeless systems have been around a few years for mountain bikes with obvious benefits. Without inner tubes, there is no need to worry about dreaded pinch flats which occur when the tube is pinched between the ground and the rim. And, without worrying about pinch flats, you can run much lower tire pressure which means better traction. Not to mention, if you do get a thorn in your tire or a small tear from an encounter with a rock, the sealant inside your tire can save you from getting a flat.
Now that tubeless has entered the world of road cycling, what are the benefits?
Just as with MTB, road tubeless means fewer flats than clincher systems. If you live in an area where the roads are littered with pointy objects waiting to poke a hole in your tube, tubeless is a huge upgrade that decreases the hassle of changing flats and increases safety.
By removing the inner tube, tubeless systems (like tubulars) have less internal friction which reduces overall rolling resistance. Basically, they are faster.
No more pinch flats mean you can also run lower pressure on road tubeless tires. Not only does this add traction in corners or on wet roads, it also increases comfort over longer distances.
On the flip side, you can also run high pressure without worrying about a blowout. The way the rim and bead are designed, it makes it very hard for the bead to detach from the rim.
If you still manage to get a flat out on the road, you can easily fix the flat with a regular tube. Tubulars don’t offer that same luxury.
So, what are you waiting for? Ready to go tubeless?
Tubeless valve (the correct length for your rim – some road bike rims may require a longer valve)
Sharp pick or small Phillip’s head screwdriver
Valve Core Remover or needle nose pliers
Tubeless sealant injector (optional)
Air compressor or Giant Control Tank Tubeless Inflator
Tubeless Tire Setup
1. Ensure your tires and rims are tubeless-ready. Don’t worry, it should say so right on the label!
2. Remove your wheel from your bike.
3. Remove the tire and tubes from the rim. Check out our Fix-a-Flat guide for tips on removing your wheel, tires, and tubes.
4. If your rim is wrapped with a plastic rim strip that is not tubeless compatible, remove the rim strip.
5. Tape rim using tubeless-specific rim tape.
Make sure the tape is the correct width for your rim. Road bike rims are usually narrower than mountain bike rims, and even mountain bike rims will differ depending on the brand. The tape should be wide enough that it covers spoke holes completely and fits snug to the rim without air bubbles or gaps. If the tape is too wide, it can interfere with the seal of the tire bead to the rim and make it hard to mount your tire correctly.
When you begin taping, start at least one spoke hole away from the valve opening. Make sure the spoke hole is covered completely.
Place the tape onto the rim and hold it with your thumb. Pull the tape tightly with the opposite hand and place the tape in the center of the rim. Maintaining consistent tension on the tape will ensure you do not create air bubbles that could prevent an air-tight seal inside the tire.
Tape around the entire rim and overlap the valve opening by one spoke hole.
Cut the tape with scissors and press firmly on the tape around the entire rim to ensure a good seal.
6. Using a metal pick or a small Phillip’s head screwdriver, poke a hole where the valve stem will be inserted. Be careful not to make this hole too big.
7. Insert tubeless valve stem into the valve hole and secure using plastic O-ring and washer provided.
8. Put the tire on the rim. If the tire is directional, make sure it is on correctly. Get more tips on how to change a tire by checking out our Fix-A-Flat Guide.
9. Insert recommended amount of tubeless sealant into the tire. There are two different ways of doing this:
Before putting the tire all the way on the rim, leave an opening in one side of the bead and pour the desired amount of sealant into the tire. Insert the remaining bead of the tire into the rim.
Put the tire on the rim completely. Using a valve core remover tool or needle nose pliers, remove the valve core from your tubeless valve. Using a tubeless injector syringe, inject the appropriate amount of sealant into the tire through the valve. This is a good solution if you have a tire that is extremely hard to mount.
10. After the tire is mounted completely onto the rim with sealant inside, roll the tire on the ground to disperse the sealant. Pull the bead of the tire to the edge of the rim, if possible.
11. Inflate the tire! The best way to get the tire to seal is to add air as quickly as possible. That is why using an air compressor is the best method. If you do not have access to an air compressor, use a charger pump, like the Giant Control Tank Tubeless Inflator.
To use the Giant Control Tank, you will also need a traditional floor pump. Pump the Control Tank up to the recommended pressure setting with the floor pump. Lock the inflator onto the tubeless valve. Once secure, turn the lever to release all the air into the tire at once.
Check the bead of the tire. If the bead is properly seated in the rim, you should see a line on the tire just above the rim. If that line dips into the rim at all, the bead is not seated completely.
Use a floor pump to continue to add air pressure to the tire until it is seated properly. Once seated, you can remove air to desired tire pressure.
PRO TIP: Are you using an air compressor or tubeless inflator system and still having trouble getting your tire to inflate? Try removing the valve core on your tubeless valve. This will allow air to enter your tire even faster than it would through the valve. Just be careful once you remove the inflator nozzle from the valve since all the air will rush back out of the tire! Be ready with your finger to hold the air in and quickly replace the valve core with your tool.
12. After the tire is inflated and the bead is seated, bounce the tire on the ground. This will help disperse the sealant inside of the tire.
13. Replace your wheel and take your bike for a spin. Riding your bike right after setting the tires up tubeless will ensure a good seal.
14. You did it!
*If your tires are already set up tubeless and you are just changing to new tires, disregard steps 5-7. Remove any old sealant with an absorbent cloth and check your rim tape for damage before putting the new tire on.
*Over time, the sealant inside your tires will dry up and stop protecting you from pesky flats. Hot/ dry climates will cause the sealant to dry up faster. Check your sealant levels by shaking the wheel while it is off the bike. You should be able to hear the sealant sloshing around inside. If you can’t hear anything, you need to add more sealant! Otherwise, check your levels/ top off your sealant every 30 days.