Tired of Tires and Trying(!) Tubeless

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Jul 6, 2015

Welcome to the laziest Uncle Dave instalment ever.  We’re going to take two actual technical questions, and then answer them poorly.  Hope you enjoy!

Hey Uncle Dave –

Should I run tubeless? As far as I can tell, running tubeless gives you an almost imperceptibly better feel in the corners as well as flat protection from small holes, at the minimal expense of being a pain in the neck to install, the added maintenance of refreshing your sealant periodically, the mild discomfort of burping a tire when things go bad, a sudden loss of stability paired with an odd sound in g-outs, and the virtual guarantee that, if you refill your sealant, you will break something on the next ride that will require a full tire and tape removal, which can only be done outside because you’re going to get slimed.

I’m torn.
Please help.

Dear Torn:

Let us take a minute to ponder how crappy tubeless technology is.  So many other vehicles use tubeless tires.  Do any of them require messy sealant?   An air pressure top up with every use?  Somewhat commonplace roadside disasters?  Competing standards?  This seems like a tremendously odd great leap forward in technology.  Watch this video and think about what we have to deal with.

I’ve been running a steady mix of tubeless and tubed over the last couple of years. Every time I hop on a tubeless set-up I think “Man. This is so nice. These wheels feel so light and awesome.” I will admit though, once or twice, I’ve received a bike, thought these thoughts, and then discovered that said wheels were hiding a tube when I eventually cracked them open. I’ve also held off on swapping out a really crappy rear tire because the tubeless set-up was great and I didn’t want to mess with it.

For what it’s worth, I don’t run tubeless on any of my personal bikes. My reasons are thus:

  • I hate pumping up my tires each ride
  • Dealing with sealant kind of sucks
  • On the terrain I ride, with the proper tube and installation, I never flat
  • I don’t run my air pressure super low
  • I’ve been lucky enough to have a steady stream of test bikes lately, so my personal bikes haven’t seen a lot of mileage and it hardly seems worth the effort

I can see both sides of this argument. Depending on how and what you ride, Neither decision is wrong. I’d say give it a shot and see what you think. Or don’t.


Dear Uncle Dave,

With the great technological leaps in tyres, rims and tubeless systems, why have we not improved the way we get the beads of tyres over rims? Any thoughts, ideas or tips on this for an amateur mechanic with bleeding knuckles and snapped tyre levers?

Busted Up Knuckles

Dear Buck:

It’s interesting that you feel this way.  I haven’t mounted up many tires with full DH casings lately, so I was under the impression that there had been an improvement over the last few years.

I don’t go to bike shops very often.  I can really only think of 4-5 instances in the last 10 years where I’ve had to go in to a shop.  I pride myself on being self-reliant with bicycle repairs.  Or, I just ignore the jobs I’m not interested in/incapable of doing myself.

I remember working a new bike build a few years ago and I could not get the tire to seat.  I worked and worked and worked it until it felt like my fingernails were going to come off.  It was a shameful moment, when I finally gave in and decided to walk in to the bike shop and ask them to mount it for me.  It didn’t take them very long.

What I’m saying is you might be asking the wrong guy.  But here’re a few tips anyhow.

  • I’ve used soapy water to get difficult beads to seat.  Might be an option to get a nasty bead over a rim.  You’ll probably need some grippy gloves though, if you head in this direction. (Uncle Dick’s Bead Slip {no relation to uncle Dave} works really well also -Ed.)
  • If you’re running a tube, inflate the tube to get it to seat properly.  Once it’s nicely tucked up into your tire, deflate it, almost completely.  You’d be surprised how even a tiny bit of air can make things a lot harder
  • Once you have the tire nearly seated and are struggling with the last little bit, make the effort to push the bead that is already into the groove on your rim.  This little bit of slack can make all the difference

I’m sure the comments will have something to say about this.


Ryders Thorn anitiFOG eyewear. " src="/media/original_images/ryders_antifog_1600_CW22Uok.jpgw1600" alt="ryders_antifog_1600" data-recalc-dims="1" />

Torn – your submission was this week’s letter of note. Or something. Regardless, you win a Ryders Thorn anitiFOG eyewear. 

Got a question for Uncle Dave? Not only will he say sorry, in the most sincere, Canadian way, to you alone, you may even win a prize.  Send your questions here…

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donnie  - July 9, 2015, 8:06 a.m.

im with dave. ive done plenty of tubeless setups over the years and im fairly indifferent nowadays. half the people claiming that they feel better cant actually feel the difference. same for those 2 clicks of lsc.


Andy Eunson  - July 7, 2015, 6:44 p.m.

Only noobs, use tubes. A little more work and a little mess. Sure. So what. Does one ride fill rigid because setting air pressure and various damper settings is too hard?


+1 danimaniac
jonathan_kingstone  - July 7, 2015, 2:44 p.m.

Honestly I don't get the complaints about the mess.
Inflate the tire WITHOUT sealant until the beads pop into place.
Then deflate.
Remove the valve core.
Add sealant with a syringe or the Stan's injector.
Re-insert the valve core and inflate.
The tire's already seated so it will easily inflate.
No mess, no fuss.
Pretty basic stuff.


db79467  - July 8, 2015, 2:30 p.m.

the initial setup isn't a problem. It's any maintenance that requires tire removal (true/spoke replace/valve stem/tire gash/tire swap) that needs to be done after it's set up where it becomes a mess and takes substantially longer.


Cam McRae  - July 7, 2015, 10:41 a.m.

Like many here I've gotten to the point where tubeless isn't more difficult than tubed. But it is messier.

What sucks is that when you get a good gash in a tubeless tire (I've had four lately after going almost a year without a single flat) it is often destroyed. I've used some techniques to repair these holes successfully - but they are sometimes beyond repair and that's an expensive ride.


rvoi  - July 8, 2015, 8:34 a.m.

A major sidewall repair is probably not safe at speed for either setup so it is only going to be a temporary solution - gets you back to the trailhead or allows you to ride a few more times before you cough up for a new tire. I don't see how it is different between tube or tubeless other than the relative ease of the still temporary repair? I ride tubeless and carry a tube, a few Park tb-2 tire boots and a patch kit. It's the law of inverse preparedness. If you don't have it, you will need it. If you have it, you won't need it. So it is rare that I need to use them. Tubeless has been very good to me!


Morgan Taylor  - July 8, 2015, 8:58 p.m.


litespeed74  - July 7, 2015, 6:56 a.m.

I love tubeless! I HATE getting it setup. Usually after 2 -3 hours of fighting with the tire/rim and getting Stans all over me I have to then find a compressor to get air into the tire. After that it's all good! But yeah, I usually have more stans on me than in the tire.


bprinsen  - July 7, 2015, 12:47 a.m.

after major struggles and unsuccessful attempts at getting a dh tire onto a rim using my hands and tire lever, i have had good success mounting dh tires onto a rim by having the wheel lying horizontal on the floor and working the tire onto the rim with my hands, starting from 12 oclock , and then using my feet (wearing my 5-10 shoes or hiking boots with a tough sole) to wrestle the last bit over the rim at 6 oclock, working and keeping the tire into the middle of the bed as i go.
a little hard to describe more accurately, but hopefully this helps.
a tire that has been warmed up in the sun seems to be easier to mount.


kain0m  - July 6, 2015, 10:34 p.m.

To get the tires onto the rim, start opposite of the valve and work your way there. Keep the tire in the middle of the bed (more precisely, in the lowest part of the rim), then you should be able to get the tires on without tools. If you get stuck, go around the rim and check that the tire is in the lowest part. Once again start opposite from the valve, and go in both directions at the same time. If it still does not want to jump over, try using your thumbs to push it right at the spot where it is stuck. If you use a tire lever, don't put it where the tire stil has to cross, rather go from the seated part towards the valve. (the valve should always be the last place to go, as the tire can't sit as low as elsewhere)

To get the tire seated correctly, put a few PSI into them, and then roll the wheel with some weight on it so that the tire looks like it is completely flat. This will help the tire to "roll" into the seat. If that doesn't help, repeat with a bit more pressure - but don't go overboard, too much pressure will making seating the tire more difficult as it increases friction. Sometimes pulling the tire upwards at the spot where it is stuck also helps.

If you don't succeed with all of this, try high pressure, but watch for the max pressure the rim can take.


Bavaria 2.0  - July 6, 2015, 10:31 p.m.

Complaining about checking and tuning tire pressure is like complaining about having to lube your chain. Why is there no lube-free chain? There just isn't. Some would call that an opportunity. So go on. Keep running 45, flat free PSI in your tubed up Nevegals. The rest of us will keep rolling our lighter, better handling tubeless tire miracles - and that does not include UST.

Ignorance isn't a choice. Stupidity is. I don't mean that! It just came out. Whatever works for you.


Dirk  - July 7, 2015, 8:04 a.m.

Nice straw man. He's pretty scary.


Raymond Epstein  - July 7, 2015, 8:52 a.m.

I am no princess of pea detecting ability, but the difference between running tubeless and tube tires is pretty obvious. Sure you won't flat as much, but it's the traction that is immensely better. It takes some trial and error to figure out the right pressure for your riding style and yeah you need to spend and extra 1:48 minutes topping off your air before each ride, but that's about it. Set-up can be vexing, but again with some practice it becomes pretty easy. Don't eff around with a floor pump. Get or borrow a compressor. If you buy sealant from a shop they will generally let you air up your tires. Bring them some beer and/or cookies and they will help you with seating them and you will learn some tricks too.


Dirk  - July 7, 2015, 10:45 a.m.

Fair. I've gotten used to just keeping a floor pump in the back of my truck, which is more of a hassle than the actual filling required.


Raymond Epstein  - July 8, 2015, 7:08 a.m.

I usually don't schlep a floor pump with me unless I am heading out of town. Again, I pump it up yaaaa! (sorry) before I head out occupying the aforementioned 1:48 minutes prior to leaving. I carry a tube, a CO2 inflator, a mountain morph pump (almost as good as a floor pump), a tube with me and don't worry about it.


EAZY  - July 6, 2015, 10:24 p.m.

Running ghetto tubless on mavic wheels and high roller 2 dh casings. Personally this set up took about as long as it takes to change out a tube. Ill always carry a tube just incase but I don't think ill be using tube as my primary.


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