I will start this by stating I have heard many positive experiences using tubeless tyres. But just to confuse things, I will also have to state that I can’t say the same for the rest of the mountain bike test crew’s tubeless tyre experiences.
Why all the confusion? Well, in our case it is from different rims, tires, and tubeless tire systems as well as different riding styles and terrain. In the end, I do recommend tubeless tires to anyone who wants higher performance and less flats but doesn’t mind a little extra installation trouble and maintenance.
With the right setup, going to tubeless tyres is said to improve your bikes performance. This is especially true for riders who have to run higher pressures to prevent pinch flats. It is recommended to use an internal tire sealant such as Stan’s No-Tubes for a more robust system and less flats, even if you have tubeless specific rims and tyres.
If you use a tubeless kit to convert your standard tube/tyre system into a tubeless tyre system make sure your tyre, rim, and kit are compatible.
You can use non-tubeless tyres if you use an internal sealant but don’t use super-light tyres with thin sidewalls. Thicker sidewalls provide better cornering performance and if you ride in terrain with sharp rocks they provide better protection from sidewall cuts and tears. You will still need to carry an extra tube and pump. All tubeless tyre systems let you put a tube in if you get a flat and you can’t get your tyre to seal up again. If you try to lower your tyre pressure too much, you will be more likely to damage your rim when you hit rocks and you may feel the tyre roll during hard cornering. When this gets really bad, you can burp air out and end up with a flat, unsealed tyre.
Pay attention to and follow the installation instructions carefully. Take the necessary time to get compatible products and to install them correctly.
A properly installed tubeless tyre system is capable of handling any condition and riding style.
From the performance standpoint, tubeless tyres are hard to beat. Tubeless tyres don’t pinch flat so they let you run lower tyre pressures. Lower tyre pressure is the best way to improve a tyre’s contact with the ground and with that comes better bike performance. That said, tyre pressure is one of the most influential adjustments you can make to your bikes performance.
Tubeless tyre supporters claim that rolling friction is reduced in a tubeless tyre. While I can’t say I noticed either way, I do think they have some valid arguments to support this.
Using an internal sealant is well worth the little added weight. Tubeless tyres still get flats from thorns and other punctures. It is in most cases more difficult to fix a flat in a tubeless tyre than a standard tyre.
Compatibility is a big issue.
Choose the wrong tyres or rims and you will end up blowing your tyres right off the rim either during installation or on the trail.
While it is tempting to go with the lightest tyres you can find it is more important to get a tyre that will perform well and won’t end up forcing you to put a tube in later. No amount of sealant will plug a good cut or tear in a tyre sidewall.
Don’t expect to lose a huge amount of weight. Some systems are lighter, some heavier, it all depends on the system and the tyres used.
The real benefits are better performance with lower tyre pressures and fewer flats.