Blog: confessions of a cyclist, or one rider’s conversion to tubeless tyres

Confession time.

I consider myself a cyclist, not just a roadie. As far as I am concerned, if it’s human powered and has wheels, there must be enjoyment to be wrung from it.

This has led me to split my riding times pretty evenly down the years between road and trail, observing the two disparate camps drag developments into each other’s tech sphere. Exhibit A? The current hoo-ha over disc brakes, a development welcomed by some, considered sacrilegious by others, and a conversation for another day, perhaps.

My conversion to tube-free rubber and latex sealant could be permenant

Another cross-code development, however, quietly bubbling away in the background and commanding considerably fewer column inches than disc brakes, has been tubeless tyres.

We have long had options in the road world as debate raged over tubular vs. clincher: performance vs. convenience. I came down on the side of ease-of-use some time ago: a week gluing tubs in the garage of Stephen Roche’s hotel for one of Britain’s most successful road teams convinced me that if I never saw a tub again, it would be too soon. However for racers, blessed with an ability to thrust an arm in the air and summon some long-suffering mechanic, this has never been a consideration: all can be sacrificed in pursuit of speed.

A week gluing tubular tyres in the garage of Stephen Roche’s hotel for one of Britain’s most successful road teams convinced me that if I never saw a tub again, it would be too soon

So back to my mountain bike, and perhaps to a third way: tubeless. I have always been a big guy with what can be politely described as an “aggressive” riding style. All this means is that my riding buddies have spent a large proportion of their lives waiting for me to fix my latest pinch flat. A strike rate of at least one pinch flat per ride, making this less and less funny for all concerned.

A long time ago I started using tubeless, at first Mavic’s UST system (heavy tyres, prone to losing air overnight) before progressing to Stan’s No Tubes system: one which, by the judicious addition of latex sealant into the tyre, offers a lightweight system that seals smaller punctures and, by removing inner tubes from the equation, prevents pinch flats. Years of happy service have ensued.

Until a couple of months ago, I had never considered tubeless for the road, lack of pinch flats and a “maximum pressure only” regime leaving me without the need. Or so I thought. Schwalbe supplied the necessary test materials and I was finally able to give them a go. But without pinch flats to avoid, what would be the point? Well grip, comfort, and lack of rolling resistance are three answers supplied by my experiences thus far. I’m intrigued to see how the latex sealant stands up in the resistance of small punctures, but I haven’t had one in a while so cannot report. For the first time in years, I am running 100psi intentionally.

This vaulted position gives opportunity to become blasé about some pretty fine kit but it is interesting to make a change to the bike that offers such an impressive performance upgrade for such comparatively little outlay. A statement of never going back to tubes was uttered to the ed, and after much consideration I can’t see that changing. So vive la révolution, and thanks to our dirt cousins for the heads up. I suppose they’ll be wanting our electronic gears soon in repayment?

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