Tubeless Tires – Why & How To Do It

Q: To run a tubeless setup it’s important to have a solid combination of tires and rims that work well together. They must mesh in such a way that an air-tight seal is created between the bead of the tire and the edge or hook of the rim. In the past, it’s often been difficult to find rims that mount up easily and hold a seal. So what is your preferred tubeless rim style? UST? Stans? Hookless?

Tom: I really like the modified UST setup WTB is using. It has a UST hook, but still uses rim tape instead of a solid rim bed which saves weight.

Noah: I switched from a Stans Flow EX (that doesn’t have the UST hook) to the WTB Frequency Team i25. The rims are very similar in most ways, but I had much more success with the WTB rims and their UST hook. I’m currently running  DT Swiss rims that have a similar rim shape to the WTB’s and, so far, I’ve had good luck with those as well.

Tasha: I have run multiple “tubeless ready” systems from a couple different companies (DT Swiss and Syncros) and have not had any major issues. Having a UST-influenced hook is key for the tire to seat well, but a solid rim bed seems unnecessary.

Tasha Heilweil, Tubeless Tires 101, Blister Gear Review
Tasha Heilweil on Zen trail, St. George, Utah.

Xan: Stan’s rims work pretty well for me, although I do sometimes have issues with burping. I’ve also messed around with a set of hookless unbranded Chinese carbon hoops. Sadly, they only made it through about 12 rides before the rear rim cracked. But on those 12 rides, they didn’t burp once.

Marshal: I have had equal success with the WTB profile and the newer hookless rim profiles. Prior to these designs, the only design I could reliably run tubeless was true UST rims and tires.

Q: If tire choice based on tread pattern and compound wasn’t complicated enough already, it’s important to make sure that your tires will work in a tubeless system. While most tires can be mounted tubeless, some are much easier to set up than others. What tires mount up well for you?

Tom: Start by looking for tires that are marked as “tubeless ready” or “UST compatible.”

Because they don’t have mold parting lines on the bead and have a less permeable casing, they mount up much more easily than standard tires. I’ve had great luck with Maxxis TR (Tubeless Ready) tires and Specialized 2Bliss tires.

Noah: Everything from WTB and the Schwalbe Supergravity tires both set up super easily. I’ve also had good luck with newer Maxxis tires.

I’ve had less luck with a couple different Continental options. Some really didn’t work, and some eventually worked but were a bit of a hassle (like the Trail King that I just reviewed). A 45NRTH Nicotine tire that I reviewed a little while ago was also a mixed bag. The CST Ouster is thus far the only tire that I couldn’t get to work tubeless at all.

Tasha: Maxxis tires have been foolproof for me. I have never had to use an air compressor and/or core remover while mounting Maxxis tires (specifically High Roller IIs and Ardents).

I used to run Schwalbes, and would occasionally have issues getting them to mount. The only tires that have given me substantial issues are Continentals. In my experience, using an air compressor to mount Continentals (Mountain King, Trail King, Race King) is essential, and I often need to pull out all the tricks in the bag to get these tires to seat well.

Xan: Yep, Maxxis definitely takes first place in my book for user-friendliness. I’ve mounted everything from Ikons to Minions with absolutely no hassle. My go-to tire is the High Roller II, which will seat on a Stan’s Flow EX with a floor pump and without sealant if you want it to.

Specialized 2Bliss and WTB tires haven’t given me any real trouble, either.

Similar to Noah and Tasha, I’ve had some negative experiences mounting Continentals. I haven’t spent a ton of time with Kenda tires, but Nevegals have given me trouble as well.

Marshal: I find that once tires get below ~800g (for a 29er), they get to be hit-or-miss mounting up with a floor pump.

In my experience, Maxxis TR and WTB tires have made for the easiest installs at home, especially after the tire is used a bit and stretched out. Schwalbe, Specialized, and Onza would fall in second place—easy to mount when new, but a bit trickier to get back on there after the tire is well used.

Q: A good sealant mix is essential to making any tubeless setup work well. It should help make the system airtight, and fill small punctures without drying out and clumping up in the tube. Often a particulate such as shredded rubber or glitter is added to help fill larger punctures. What is your preferred mix?

Tom: Stan’s NoTubes sealant because it works and is easy to find. By the time my tires are old enough to get small sidewall holes where sealant would help, the sealant has usually already turned into a useless prickly clump.

Noah: I was using Stan’s for a while, but doing some tire reviews recently, I’ve found myself switching tires fairly often and going through a lot of expensive sealant, so I started mixing up my own. I’m using a slight variation on “Wade’s Secret Sauce” as discussed in this massive MTBR thread:

I’ve added a bit of glitter to my mix, since hopefully those little particles help clog up any punctures or tears I might get.  I’m also using the tubeless variant of the Slime. All told, I probably spent around $30 acquiring the ingredients, and that made about 80oz of sealant. It’s been indistinguishable from Stan’s aside from the color and sparkliness.

Noah Bodman reviews the Zoic Tradesman Flannel Riding Shirt, Blister Gear Review.
Noah Bodman, Eureka, Montana.

The next time around, I’d probably add more glitter – I haven’t had problems with my batch, but it seems like there aren’t enough particulates in there to actually help all that much in the event of a decent sized gash in the tire.

Tasha: I have only ever used Stan’s sealant. Switching tires often can become pricey, but I always conserve Stan’s by pouring it from the old tire into the new one.

Xan: I use Stan’s sealant and I tend to add more than the recommended amount to make it last longer. It’s good to note that sealant in a tire with a thinner sidewall will dry up more quickly than if it’s in a thicker tire. Therefore, I often throw a little extra sealant in thinner XC tires.

Marshal: I have been using Stan’s the last few years and have not had a issue with it.

NEXT: Installation Techniques, On-Trail Repairs, Etc.

8 comments on “Tubeless Tires – Why & How To Do It”

  1. Great tips. When I set up a new tire, assuming I won’t go riding right away, I like to leave it pumped up to 50-60psi over night. I also spin the tire around sideways (like a top) on both sides to coat the inside with Stan’s. I just think that coating the inside of the tire, plus the high psi, helps push sealant into the pores of the tires.

  2. Great article. My tips/additions, after 10 years of tubeless experience:
    1. After setting up tubeless, slosh tire laterally 10 times, rotate 1/8 turn, repeat for two full tire rotations.
    2. Bontrager may not make the best wheels in the business, but their TLR tubeless system and TLR tires are great. I’ve also had perfect luck with Roval Carbon (hooked version) and Derby AM rims.
    3. Schwalbe Snakeskin tires seal up easily. The regular versions of the Racing Ralph and Rocket Ron can be inconsistent in their success.
    4. When installing a new layer of Gorilla Tape on a rim, inflate an old tire and tube onto it and leave it sit for 10 minutes to really “press” the tape firmly into place.
    5. Sears has great sales a couple of times a year. Ask for a compressor for a gift. It makes tubeless life so much more enjoyable!
    6. It’s hard to beat Stans sealant. Not cheap, but if you really use a lot, sweet talk your LBS guys into filling a bulk container for you (I’m pretty sure that my LBS still gets it in 5-gallon pails).
    7. When you start seeing sealant seeping through the sidewall, it’s about time to quit spinning the karmic roulette wheel of blown tire death, and go shopping for a new tire!

  3. Instead of soapy water, I moisten the outside of the tire bead with a little Stan’s sealant before inflating. That way, I get the quicker seating that soap and water provides, and the Stan’s helps fill any small gaps between the (inflated and seated) bead and rim.

  4. Great tips, thanks!

    Like Maciej above, I wet the exterior of the bead with Stans prior to inflation, it seems to help immediate sealing and lubricates the bead.

    2 Liter Soda bottle tire inflator instead of a compressor! (can take it on road trips as well),2/Joe-Barnes-DIY-Coke-Bottle-Tubeless-Compressor-Hack,8450

    All tape fails after a few years, usually due to sealant getting under the tape and ruining the adhesive. So retape stubborn deflating tires, or every few years.

    Scotch version of tubeless tape = $6 for 60 yards, similar or same as Stans tape.

    A sidewall cut is the death of the tire for tubeless.

    Water helps to reseat a stubborn bead when fitting a tube in the field.

    Lots of cut tires = expensive habit!!!


  5. How much sealant would you guys recommend putting in? Say in a 2.4 in tire. Is it worth it to have extra sealant sloshing around? Or will that just quickly dry up?

    • In a 27.5 x 2.4 tire I pour in Stan’s until there is a small sloshing pool. That is usually just enough to distribute all around a tire. It is approximately 2 full scoops of sealant. The sealant does dry up, but not too quickly. Having some excess in your tire will allow it to seal small punctures and let you finish a ride without throwing a tube in.

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