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I've noticed that a lot of people use or promote tubeless tyres for mountain biking. Why is this?

It seems a lot of hassle to get a special rim conversion kit and goop to put in the tyre. As far as I can see it still makes a lot of sense to carry a tube in case it all goes wrong out on the trail any way.

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Are they that popular, where I ride, we'd regularly change tyre for the conditions and tubeless just doesn't seem worth it... I don't know anyone who rides with tubeless! –  Dog Ears Sep 9 '10 at 7:44
    
Interesting discussion. I've never, in all my years & miles, had a flat on my MTB, even in fairly harsh conditions and it is a standard tubed tire. I do however get flats on my tubed roadbike with frightening regularity. I'm lucky to get 50-75 miles without a flat. Are there tubeless road bike conversions? –  Brian Knoblauch Sep 9 '10 at 12:41
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5 Answers 5

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Although this is purely anecdotal, I know from my own experience mountain biking that most of my flats were from so-called "pinch flats" (where the tube is pierced by pinching or friction with the tire/rim rather than piercing by an external object). This was highly annoying. After having switched to tubeless some years ago, I've not yet had a single flat. And, obviously, without a tube to get pinched, there's no way to get a "pinch flat".

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+1 for being the most important reason (in my opinion). –  Dog Ears Sep 9 '10 at 7:35
    
I suspect you CAN get a "pinch flat", only the tire carcass (absent sealant) holds the air well enough that it only moderately increases the leakdown rate. –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 9 '12 at 11:08
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Avoiding pinch flats is very important for most mountain bike riders since there is a tendency to run lower pressure to both dampen the effect of rough terrain (especially on rigid mountain bikes) and gain more traction on rough ground. Lowering the air pressure typically exposes more risk of pinch flats. The disadvantages are that it's a more difficult setup, often requiring an air compressor to seat the tires and inserting sealant. Patching tires is also a different experience when using a tubeless setup. However, there is always the option to insert a tube to help you get home in a pinch. –  Benzo Jul 9 '12 at 16:42
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Tubless tires let you run less pressure than a tubed tire can. They're also less prone to flats.

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And, of course, lower pressure means greater traction. –  Clay Nichols Dec 10 '11 at 1:55
    
Isn't there any problem with the tires coming unseated at low pressure? –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 9 '12 at 11:08
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They are especially useful in areas that have a lot of thorns.

I agree with you that tubeless conversion are a hassle, however you do get tubeless specific rims that don't require a conversion (e.g. UST by Mavic, TNT by Geax or TLR by Bontrager) that simply things tremendously.

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Against pinch flats (snakebites) I can understand why - but can you explain why the tubeless tires are especially good against thorns? I don't get it. –  ttarchala Jul 9 '12 at 9:22
    
@ttarchala -- I suspect it's the sealant. Can be used in tube tires, but a hair easier with tubeless. (Though no doubt messy when you eventually have to demount the tire.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jul 9 '12 at 11:05
    
And much less messy if you put it in a tube. Well, unless you completely tear the tube open. But adding sealant to a tube makes it even heavier. –  Kohi Jul 10 '12 at 1:00
    
You should mention that tubeless ready with sealant is effective for thorns. Pure tubeless with no sealant is not effective with thorns. –  Blam Jul 2 at 14:55
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One of the main adavantages is reducing flats.

I don't think it's such a hassle converting rims to tubeless. I just converted mine with this kit: http://www.sincamaras.com/INGLES/indexenglish.HTM. I know there are several other on the market but my local bike shop recommended me this one. I decided to install it because in my area, this winter, a lot of vegetation has been cut around the trails and everyone is having lots of flats due to the spikes on the ground. With the sealant liquid I hope to hugely reduce the number of flats I got last months.

9th July 2012 update: After almost a year and a half with this system I can say I just got one flat and it didn't affect my ride, I found it later at home.

Another important advantage of removing the tubes is making wheels lighter.

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I prefer the feel of tubeless tires. Using the same tire, there is less rolling resistance by removing the tube.

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