Tubeless tires, which are tires lacking an inner tube, have several benefits, especially for mountain bikers. These include low air pressure, enhanced control and no worries about pinch flats. But going tubeless, which can either be done by investing in a UST, or Universal System for Tubeless, or getting a conversion kit, still has its problems.
Tubeless tires are generally much more expensive than regular bike tires, especially when you first get them since you'll need rims that accommodate the tubeless tires. A new set of rims and wheels can run anywhere from $400 and up. You can go tubeless cheaper with a conversion kit that uses a sealant, but the sealant probably won't last as long as an upgraded rim and tire tubeless system. Regular wheels lack the reinforcements found in the tubeless system.
Some tubeless tires still have the problem of leaking unless you use a sealant to keep them airtight. Make sure to pick a sealant that is safe for the type of tubeless tire you choose.
The sealant you need for converting to tubeless, and still may need with a tubeless system, has its own set of woes. It is messy and, when a tire bursts, it can spray all over you or your bicycle parts. Since it is impossible to wash off once it dries, you better keep some wet rags on hand. The sealant also softens the tire's rubber, leading to a greater chance of punctures and tears.
Forget trying to use a traditional bicycle pump to inflate tubeless tires. You will definitely need some type of power inflation device with compressed air. You will also need CO2 cartridges to run your power inflation device. This adds one more cost and another item you need to keep on hand.
Carrying around a backup inner tube is still a necessity, another problem for tubeless tires. Tubeless tires are incredibly difficult to repair while you're out and about, especially if you are trekking down a mountainous trail.
Tubeless tires have a few other drawbacks. Installing tubeless tires can be tedious and difficult. Since tire levers would warp the tire beads, tubeless tires need to be carefully and gently massaged into place. Tubeless tires are still prone to flats. While pinch flats may be less common with tubeless tires, there is still the same threat of puncture flats if the tire is ripped by a rock, thorn or other sharp object.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.