Imagine never having to worry about a puncture ruining your ride… the technology is here and it works brilliantly, says Jonathan Manning
Paradigm shifts in cycling technology are few and far between. Moving the gear shifters from the downtube up to the brake lever was one, the arrival of carbon fibre frames another, and the development of tubeless tyres could well be the next.
If the concept is simple, the engineering tolerances and manufacturing challenges are difficult. In broadbrush terms, tubeless tyres are similar to car tyres, sitting snugly and directly on the rim of the wheel, with no inner tube.
They fit like standard clinchers (whereas tubular tyres ridden by professionals are glued to the wheel’s rim wall), and consequently have to fit flawlessly tight around the rim wall, to form a completely airtight seal, regardless of any holes for spokes and valve.
The advantages of tubeless are twofold; lower rolling resistance and better puncture protection. With no inner tube, there’s no friction between tube and tyre, which means improved rolling resistance.
More importantly, with no inner tube pinch punctures become impossible, while punctures caused by thorns or flints are repaired virtually instantly as the sealant (pre-poured into the tyre) cures on contact with air.
In theory, tubeless technology should also prove lighter because there’s no inner tube, but in practice the combined weight of the extra rubber compound to ensure a completely airtight fit, the sealant, plus stronger rim walls on the wheel mean weights are very similar between tubeless and
What you need…
Main image credit Shutterstock