Road bike tubeless tyres are a fantastic upgrade to any road bike. Benefits include increased grip, lower rolling resistance and increased puncture resistance. Our tubeless tyre fitting service is a quick and easy introduction to the world of road bike tubeless tyres however we often receive questions about tubeless tyre maintenance and puncture repair. The aim of this blog is to answer some of the most common questions and give you a better understanding of the practicalities of running tubeless tyres.
What happens if I puncture?
A huge advantage of road bike tubeless tyres is the reduced risk of puncture. There are two reasons for this, firstly as there is no inner tube the risk of pinch punctures is totally eliminated. The second reason is the latex sealant used ensures that the tyre remains airtight and is sealed to the wheel rim. The sealant contains tiny rubber particles that plug holes and repair punctures on the go. They are designed to seal holes up to approximately 2 mm wide so for most common punctures such as a small piece of glass, stone or a thorn the sealant will instantly block the hole sealing the puncture. Often you will be unaware that you have even had a puncture and it’s not until you finish your ride and spot a small damp patch on the tyre that you realise the sealant has sealed a hole.
Of course, tubeless tyres are not totally puncture-resistant and the sealant will struggle to repair larger tyre cuts. The high air pressure can force the sealant through rather than sealing larger holes. The pressure may drop slightly in the tyre as some air is lost and thus also allow the sealant to seal the hole and it is still possible to ride home on tyres with around 60 psi in them. However, there are a couple of quick and easy solutions to get you back up and running if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from a tyre cut that won't seal.
Tubeless Repair Kits
Tubeless plug kits are a quick and easy method of fixing a tubeless puncture. Essentially the tubeless plug kit is a piece of rubberised cord that you force into the tyre cut. The plug fills the hole in and allows the latex sealant to work sealing the puncture. The tubeless plug kit is a very quick and easy way to fix a punctured tubeless tyre on the roadside and you can continue to use the tyre for many miles after the repair.
The most common method of fixing a tubeless puncture is to simply fit an inner tube. This repair is a quick and easy way to get you home. You will have to remove the tubeless valve by undoing the lock ring and then fit a new inner tube as you would with a standard clincher wheel. Remember to check that there is nothing sharp on the inside of the tyre such as glass or sharp stones as the sealant may well have sealed numerous other punctures with the sharp object still in place. Just make sure you have a spare tube with you out on your rides and make sure the valve is long enough if you are using deep section rims.
What If the cut is too large to reseal with the options above?
Once home (after fitting an inner tube &/or tyre boot) it is possible to repair smaller cuts in a tubeless tyre with tube patches. We will often secure the patch and reinforce the tyre by applying duct tape to the rear of the repair (inside tyre) and even sometimes using super glue to seal the tread back together, however, please check with your tyre manufacturer's advice on this before undertaking such a repair.
Tubeless tyre maintenance
The main maintenance that you will need to carry out on your tubeless tyres is ensuring that the sealant remains topped up. The sealant is water-based and so it can dry out, the general rule is to check the sealant levels every couple of months and if required top them up. There should be a small puddle of latex inside the tyre. If no liquid is visible then you will need to add more sealant to the tyre.
If the temperature is particularly hot then it is advisable to check the sealant more frequently as the heat can dry it out more quickly.
For more information on adding sealant and fitting a tubeless tyre please watch our How to Fit a Tubeless tyre video.
What if my tyre loses air pressure?
There are a couple of reasons for unexplained pressure loss in tubeless tyres. The first has already been addressed and that is simply that the latex sealant has dried up. The simple solution is to top up the tyre with sealant and this should then seal the air leaks.
Another issue can be damaged rim tape. If the tyre has lost pressure or you have changed tyres the rim tape can become damaged or in some cases peel up. Renewing the rim tape ensures a good seal with the rim and will seal any unnoticed leaks.
Our tubeless tyre fitting video explains fully how to replace the rim tape. You can view it here.
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