There is a growing popularity for tubeless bicycle tire setups among mountain bike and road bike riders. The word is out on the extra level of convenience that comes with a tire sealing its own punctures. Yes, the sealant is essentially the secret, magic ingredient that's put inside the tubeless bike tires to plug punctures as they happen.
Tubeless tires have a long history in the mountain biking world and are gaining popularity in road and commuter bikes. When shopping for a new bike look for "tubeless ready" or "tubeless equipped" in the specifications: tubeless setups require tubeless ready rims, rim tape, tubeless valve as well as tires. Most mountain bike tires over a certain price point come tubeless ready, tubeless road bike tires take a bit more searching, but there is an ever growing selection.
Most of the time, the tubeless tire sealant is prepared using a natural latex base which dries when exposed to the air. The latex base sticks with various particles so that the hole is clogged instead of the latex flowing out.
How to use the tubeless tire sealant?
The first step is to remove the bike wheel and unseat one bead of the bike’s tire. This doesn’t mean that you cannot do it with the wheel still on the bike; it is just easier and cleaner if removed. Sealant injectors are to be used for enlivening the sealant through the valve stem. Most sealants already have fiber-like particulates to clog the holes, but you can also rely upon used injectors.
The next step takes us to the partial tire removal method. I mean, you could simply add more sealant but it may water down the mixture. So, it is suggested to remove the "tire boogers" and any remaining liquid.
It's also advisable to remove any larger chunks of dried tire sealant to reduce the weight added due to their presence. Some people may also want to wipe down the tire’s inside as well, but it is optional.
Next comes the idea of choosing the most suitable sealants. There are a variety of options available in the market: Orange Seal, WTB, and the OG Stan's Tire Sealant. Many brands are rolling out multiple formulas depending on your needs, lighter weight for racing and standard for every day riding.
Ideally, sealants come with a handy bottle used for measurement, and the value somewhat varies according to different brands. If the bike has bigger tires, you might need a greater proportion of sealant and lightweight tires need less. A tad bit of extra sealant should be added rather than worrying later about a little less.
The fourth step is all about seating the tire using a floor pump. When both sides of the tires bead are seated in the rim of the wheel you may require an air compressor to provide a thrust of air for sealing the tire and getting the beads bonded between the tire and rim.
The last step is to adjust the tire, reinstall the wheel and set off for a ride. It is always advisable to remove one tire bead regularly (in about a few months to inspect whether the sealant has dried up or not. If this is the case, you should be ready to replace it.
Troubleshooting a Tubeless Tire Sealant
Troubleshooting the tire sealant is important if you sense a leaking out of sealant, instead of filling it. This can be fixed by using a tubeless tire plug to plug by hand.
A tubeless tire plug comprises small rubber strips which can be directly poked into the hole with a needle. The rubber tends to stick to the tire and react with particulates in the sealant. You may also put a bunch of "pokes" if there is more than one hole.
What are the benefits of tubeless bike tires?
- The most obvious benefit is less flats. While a flat is still possible in cases of major tears to the tire they are far less common.
- Another benefit for mountain biking is without worrying about pinched flatting your tube you can run your tires' air pressure much lower.
- If you're a cyclist always searching for another way to reduce the weight of your bike cutting out tire liners and thorn resistant tubes can greatly cut down on rotational weight.