Before getting to the tubeless talk, there’s some unfinished business with the Park torque tools covered last week (click to read last week’s TT). John Krawczyk at Park wrote with two clarifications.
Said John: “Jim, I’m afraid some readers might falsely get the impression that all of the tools you wrote about are made here in Saint Paul. We do make the torque limiters here in Saint Paul. This is the ATD-1, as well as its sister tools the PTD-4, PTD-5 and PTD-6. The torque wrenches (TW-5.2 and TW-6.2 ), as well as our sockets and bits in the SBS-3, are not made here in Minnesota.”
Also, John explained more about the difference between torque limiters and torque wrenches: “In the tool world a torque limiter like the ATD-1 is a tool that breaks free at set torque value, not allowing any additional force to be applied, while a torque wrench (like the TW-5.2 or TW-6.2) deflects at a set torque value but the mechanic can continue to apply force to the fastener well beyond their intended torque value if they are not paying attention to the feedback from the tool.
“The advantage of a torque wrench is that it can cover a much wider range of torque values, while a torque limiter is confined to either a single, pre-set torque value (like the PTD-4, PTD-5 and PTD-6) or a very narrow range like the ATD-1.”
Tubeless Tires Talk
Here’s a question and answer with a roadie from St. Louis named Robert. It concerns tubeless tires versus tubed ones, one of the more complicated choices cyclists have today.
Since you might be trying to decide for yourself, our conversation could be helpful. Also, we have written a lot about tubeless tires since they first appeared on the scene. You can read numerous articles by using the term “tubeless” (no quotation marks necessary) in the Search field at the upper right of any page on the site.
What factors should we consider regarding the choices of changing from clincher to tubeless tires?
A little puzzled by the question, I replied:
I think you are asking about changing from tires with tubes to tires without tubes. Is that right? The reason I ask is because when you say clincher tires, tubeless tires are clincher tires, too, so you wouldn’t actually be changing.
And, another common question that you might be asking is “changing from clincher tires to tubular tires.” That really would be a change because clinchers and tubulars are completely different tire types.
Just want to make sure I answer the right question. Please let me know.
You’re absolutely right. I meant from tires with tubes to tubeless. Clearly I need to work on the precision of my bicycling vocabulary.
And, I offered this tubeless advice:
The whole tubed tires to tubeless tires choice is a bit complicated because there are different types of tubeless setups.
But to simplify, most people run tubeless tires with sealant to seal the system and prevent air leaks. Since there’s no tube, you need something to seal the air so it can’t escape, and the sealant helps with that.
Sealant also provides protection from small punctures because it rushes to the hole with the escaping air and clogs the hole with little fibers, stopping the leak and preventing the flat. Usually you don’t even know you ran over something.
On bigger holes, like larger than 1/4 inch, sealant won’t always work and you’ll have to remove the tubeless tire and install a tube to fix the flat.
So, I would say the biggest difference between tubeless and tubed tires is the sealant. You need to mess with it when you install new tires and anytime you have to remove a tire to fix a flat. With tubeless tires you also need a dedicated tubeless valve, which is removed when you puncture, because the spare tube you install has a built-in valve that needs to take the place of the tubeless valve.
Tip: If you’re riding tubeless and need to fix a flat with a spare tube, it’s pretty easy to lose the tubeless valve if you don’t tuck it away in a safe place. And if you lose it, you’ll need to get a replacement before you can go back to riding tubeless.
Sealant Can Be Messy
I said that you need to “mess” with sealant because it’s messy both when you install new tires and also when you fix a flat. During tire installation, you need to get it inside the tire and clean it up if it leaks out when popping on and/or inflating and seating the tires.
When you flat on the road and the sealant doesn’t fix the flat for you, it can squirt out of the hole, with the spinning wheel hurling it and making a mess of your bike until you can stop. Then, before you can install the tube, you need to do something with the small pool of sealant you find in your tire before you can put your tube in.
I should add here that there are genuine tubeless wheels from Shimano with genuine tubeless tires from Hutchinson that do not require sealant; however, you would have to buy both the wheelset and the new tires in order to get this setup.
Back to the sealant, if you know you don’t want to mess with basically what is liquid latex, then you probably wouldn’t want to go to tubeless tires. In defense of sealant, with practice you can get good at installing tires with it, and some riders are lucky and almost never flat. You could also pay a shop to install your tubeless tires so you don’t have to deal with it.
But The Ride May Be Softer
The reason people go to tubeless tires is usually to get a softer ride. Because there’s no tube inside, you can run lower pressures. If you run lower pressures on a tubed tire, you can hit something hard and end up pinching your tube between the tire and rim and getting a pinch flat. That won’t happen on a tubeless tire even if you run the tire at a lot lower pressure.
If you are running about 100psi in a tubed tire, you can usually go down to 85 or 90 in a tubeless tire – even lower if you are a lighter rider, like 150 pounds.
For performance, other than the softer ride, you may not feel too much difference. Because there’s no tube in the tubeless, the tubeless tire makers say that the tires roll with less resistance and corner better due to being more compliant with less layers of rubber between the road and you.
For Me, It’s Really Hard to Feel the Difference
After thousands of miles on genuine tubeless (the Shimano/Hutchinson Road Tubeless system) and sealant-only tubeless setups – using Stan’s tubeless rim strips, valves and sealant – I would say that it’s really hard to feel the difference. If you ride an expensive tubed tire and compare it to an expensive tubeless tire, you would want to do a blind test and see if you can feel and pick the faster, better-rolling tire. I’m not sure you could. It’s really close.
But you can and will feel the pressure being lower. Whether or not it’s worth it to deal with the sealant probably depends on how handy you are working on your bike and how you feel about the ease of working on your tires.
Another consideration is how often you get flat tires in the first place. Tires with tubes and no sealant are easier to deal with than tubeless with sealant.
Tip: If you want a softer ride from a tubed tire, try installing latex tubes (versus the standard butyl tubes). Just know that latex tubes lose air rapidly so you’ll have to top them off before every ride.
That’s a quick overview of some key points, Robert. Hope it’s helpful.
Readers, please add your tubeless tips for Robert.
Jack Hohag says
Related Question? Admittedly a digression, but in the topic of wider tires allowing less pressure, resulting in a faster and more comfortable ride, is this also true, to any degree, with 700c x 23mm tubed clinchers?
Harvey Miller says
This point you’re questioning isn’t clear. If you mean: do tubulars reduce the rolling resistance when compared to 700cx23mm tires, the answer is yes.
John Marsh says
Jack, here’s some good reading on the subject: https://www.roadbikerider.com/tech-gear/category-specific-tech/tires-tubes/2534-the-tire-pressure-revolution-by-jan-heine-2
Greg Titus says
I used to ride with 23 mm clinchers (for over 15 years). Then I switched to 25 mm clinchers. I was able to lower my standard pressure (from 105 to 90 psi) and noticed a significant increase in riding comfort—almost like getting a new wheel set!—and certainly no increase in rolling resistance. Won’t go back to the 23s, and here in SE Iowa, we flat so seldom that the sealant hassles with tubeless just doesn’t seem like it’d be worth it. (BTW, I weigh 168 lbs). If I had tubeless, I’d still be carrying a spare tube, so no weight savings there, either. Had a friend puncture on tubeless during a ride, and the sealant sprayed all over his bike, him, and some on me before it sealed the hole. I bet that’s very rare on tubeless, but just saying.
Harvey Miller says
I suggested to Stan’s that they consider reconfiguring their sealant so that, when it sprays over the bicycle, rubbing it leaves a polished look.
It’s easy to clean it off though and it rarely occurs anyway. Also, when riding tubeless one doesn’t have to carry an extra tube and risk the potential problem. I’ve never had to use the extra tube I carry (15,000+ miles and counting). Depending on where you live if you can’t fix the puncture, there’s Uber.
John Marsh says
My experience almost exactly mirrors Greg’s. I switched to 25s several years ago, and drastically dropped the pressure at the same time. Huge difference in ride feel. My next evolutionary step will be to get wider rims next time I build a wheelset, to allow for even more air volume and a bit lower pressue.
Jim Langley Bicycle Aficionado says
Interesting question, Jack – and one I just got from my teammate. He only weighs about 125 pounds so he doesn’t want to go to wider (and usually heavier) tires. But, he asked me if he could lower his 23c tires’ pressure from 100 psi to take advantage of the softer ride the bigger riders on the team are enjoying that have gone to slightly wider tires and lower pressure. I told him that since he’s such a light rider there’s every reason to think that he can drop his pressure to 90 psi in back and 85 in front and get significantly more ride comfort. So, it comes down to the rider’s weight and whether or not you’ll bottom out the 23c tire if you lower the pressure. Note that the only way to know for sure is to try it. Some tires marked 23c are actually wider and/or narrower than that. You can measure them fully inflated to get an actual width to get an idea if you actually have more or less width. If it’s more, it’s more likely you can run lower pressures without issues. Hope this helps!
Usually, you need to tighten the tubeless tire valve ring so it doesn’t leak between the valve seat and the rim. Make sure you carry a small tool so you can unscrew the valve ring if you need to install an inner tube because it might be too tight to unscrew it by hand. Also before you install the tube make sure to inspect the interior of the tubeless tire for small objects that might be imbedded in the tire and sealed by the sealant, but will puncture the inner tube.
John Lye says
Hutchison is not the only maker of tubeless tires. I find that Maxxis Padrones get better mileage. I now ride 25mm rather than 23mm tires. Just a note, the sealant does not work as well if there is a sidewall puncture. I think there are other wheel manufacturers as well, but I ride Shimano Ultegra.
Doug S. says
How hard is it to put a tube in a the typical tubeless rim/tire setup if it gets a large puncture while on the road? I bought a front wheel with a dyno hub for my long distance night riding. It came with a Stan’s tubeless rim. It is very difficult to install and remove the tire during regular maintenance in my home shop. Fortunately I never had a flat one the road with this wheel.
Thank you for the best (clear and concise) article on the pros and cons of tubeless road tires. I would add to the comments on going from 23c to 25c tires that if you found this makes a difference in ride quality do consider trying (if possible) 28c on the rear with 25c up front. If you ride some rough roads this setup is a big step up in comfort.
Brian Nystrom says
It sounds like many of you may still be running more pressure than necessary. I’m ~170# and with 25c tires on standard road rims (not the wider rims that have become popular in the past few years), I run 72/82 psi front/rear. It takes the worst of the sting out of a stiff carbon frame, doesn’t seem to add any appreciable drag and I have yet to suffer a pinch flat in the 6 years since I switched from tubulars to clinchers. I also run sealant in my tires (using tubes with removable cores) and I can’t recall the last time I had a flat on the road.
Having grown up riding on less-than-perfect New England roads, I learned to ride “light in the saddle” for someone my weight and I keep a close eye on the road surface, which undoubtedly contributes to my lack of pinch flats. If you tend to be less cautious or are more of a “basher” than a “glider”, you may want to run extra pressure to compensate.
One issue I’ve had that has not been mentioned is the difficulty of keeping a tubeless tire inflated if you rotate riding multiple bikes. One of mine has Stan’s ZTRs and while the rear has never been a problem, the front tire would, if not monitored, rotated and inflated every 4 – 5 days, inevitably pop out of the locking bead. (My guess is a minute flaw in the tire bead) The really big problem was that once that happened I could never get that tire and wheel combo to reseat with a standard presta floor pump, large diameter floor pump or multiple cartridges. It always had to go to the LBS to have the bead locked in with a compressor. Clearly this would be a big issue if it ever leaked down on a ride… requiring a tube of course.
Given that and the goat heads that are an ever present threat where I live I gave up and just added tubes to both wheels and injected them with Stan’s sealant. A “buggered” but so far effective compromise that arguably utilizes the “worst” features of both systems. As of yet, no bubbles of sealant between tire and tube. Needless, to say the whole experience sort of tempered me on the need for the “latest and greatest” bike tech. No longer looking to convert any of my other bikes to tubeless. (25mm on a standard rim, slightly less pressure, a ride difference though not overly dramatic, but much better cornering I’ve found)
Mark Beaver says
My experience with a couple of sets of tubeless-compatible wheels and tires-with-inner-tubes is that it is very important to press the bead of the tire away from the rim all the way around the wheel before attempting to remove the tire. The tires on my DT Swiss RR440 (tubeless-compatible) wheels were almost impossible to remove when using traditional Velox rim tape; after I put in “tubeless” rim tape (which is (a) very thin and (b) pretty slippery) I can remove the tire quite easily. Pinch the beads away from the rim all the way around the wheel before trying a tire lever – the bead falls into the “well” in the middle of the rim and gives more room to remove the tire. The slippery tubeless rim tape allows the bead to slide more easily inside the rim bed. And no, I have no intention to try to run these tubeless – ever.
tony m says
I rode tubless tires for a few years. The ride was a bit softer/smoother, and there was the benefit of self-fixing flats (I ran sealant). But the issue for me was seating the bead on the rim. I’ve tried numerous things (different mounting techniques, soapy water, mini air-compressors, tubeless-specific pump), but unless eerything was perfect, the beads wouldn’t seat. I would have to go to my LBS and have them seat the tires using their large compressor. And sometimes, they would have to go to a port right near the compressor, as one of the remote ports would deliver enough pressure to seat the bead. I still have the wheels/tires, but I have tubes in them now. The problems outweighed the benefits for me.
The plus side of the “better” clinch of tubeless, I think, saved my bacon during a puncture while descending. Running Shimano/Hutchinson with sealant and sliced the rear while going pretty fast downhill. Got a great spray of sealant, but the hole sealed and the tire didn’t come off the bead. Working with sealant is a pain, but keeping the rubber-side down is worth it. AND the ride is like being on velvet.