Tubeless is everywhere; from fat bikes, mountain bikes, and road bikes, fewer and fewer riders rely on tubes when they ride. Believe it or not, just how tubeless rims and tires work is a bit mystifying. Don't worry! Bob breaks it down here, and he'll show you how it works in real life at this week's tubless clinic!
What makes a rim tubeless ready?
A tubeless ready rim will have a sidewall with a hooked design, which helps catch and hold the bead. Older rims will appear rounded without a hook shape. The shape of the rim will force the bead up snug against the outer hook, and will have a deep section in the middle to make it easier to remove.
The most reliable tubeless systems are those marked UST (Uniform System Tubeless standard). Rims and tires must meet a certified standard to use the UST label. A UST tire will have a square shaped bead to match the UST rim. Inside the tire carcass will be a butyl liner, basically inner tube material formed into the inside carcass of the tire body. This extra material does make the tire heavier compared to non-UST tires.
UST rims will have either no nipple holes in the rim tire bed, or these holes will be completely sealed. The UST rim bead seat is designed to accept and hold the beads of the UST tires. UST tires can be used on a UST rim without tire sealants. The most common brand to use UST rims/tires is Mavic.
You must use a tubeless ready/UST tire and rim for the appropriate seal.
Best tubeless rim tape?
The best rim tapes will vary from person to person. In the end, I think that any company that produces specific tubeless rim tape will work just fine. I prefer a more pliable tape when setting up a new wheel. My preferred tape isn’t actually tape at all. I love using the Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex rim strip. Made using a proprietary polymer blend, Caffélatex Strip has very high mechanical strength and resistance to punctures. It’s also very stable from a chemical standpoint and cannot be damaged by water or sealant. They are also reuseable. Because they have don’t have a memory, changing the strips from different wheels have very little effect on the sealing properties. This method is by far my choice when setting up fat bike wheels. Because of the exposed spoke nipples, using tubeless tape can be very tricky to get a proper seal. With the Caffelatex strips, they set flush to the rim with very few imperfections. If I had to use tape, I’d either use the Velocity tape or Stans. The Stan’s tape is slightly more pliable than the Velocity, to help reduce creasing in the tape. However, I don’t feel as the Stan’s tape holds up as well as the Velocity tape.
Tubeless tire choices?
Pretty much every company in the bicycle tire industry offers some sort of tubeless tire. In my experiences, if a company makes a tubeless specific rim and tire, using the same brand for both applications is ideal. Obviously, you can mix and match but the easiest tubeless setups are when I use the same company for rim and tire choices. Mavic’s UST system, in my opinion, is the least problematic, and the easiest to set up.
A very useful tip when setting up and new tire to a rim is to unpackage the tire and lay it flat on the floor for a few hours to let the tire take shape. New folding tires can be a pain to set up, because of the way they’re packaged.
There are a ton of sealant options. I really like the Orange Seal, but they do have a tendency to clog the valve stems far more often than other sealants. Orange Seal Sealant consists of multiple sizes and shapes of solid particles or what they call "nanites". When a puncture occurs, the nanites quickly seal the hole keeping the air in the tire and you rolling down the trail or road. They mix the nanites with their proprietary latex sealant to co-exist with the nanites and prevent added clotting.
The Stan’s sealant (preferrably the Extreme sealant) works well for most conditions. Instead of the “nanites” Stan’s uses something more similar to fine grit sand. I think that it dries up more quickly than other companies. I also feel that I have to add a decent amount more during the initial set up than other brands.
Our preferred sealant here is the Serfas Tire Medic sealant. It works very similarly to Orange Seal and Stan’s, the one exception is that the clotting particle is more similar to tiny fibers.
Tubeless valve stem?
There are a billion different companies making tubeless valve stems. I’ve not found any that really work better than others. The only exception that I’ve found is the Mavic UST valves when used with the Mavic rims. Velocity valve stems work very well as long as the inner channel of the rim allows for proper fitment. DON’T FORGET TO TIGHTEN THE LOCKNUT!