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I have owned a Trek FX3 for about 6 weeks and I have suffered 3 flats in the last 4 weeks (front and back tires). All my cycling is on road (almost exclusively in the cycle lane). The shop I bought from have recommended that I go tubeless with sealant which I am a bit nervous about.

With all the flats I have managed to get home by simply inflating the tires with CO2, and I would have the tube replaced after that (not repaired).

I have 3 related questions:

  1. Will the tubeless tire setup generally be more reliable?
  2. Will I know when I get a flat with the new setup? I worry with this setup that I might not realize that something has punctured my tire and end up with catastrophic tire damage from not removing the cause of the puncture.
  3. I notice that the CO2 is very cold and was wondering if this might make the sealant less effective?

Thanks in advance.

UPDATE

I opted to try tubeless and the new tires would not fit on the rims no matter what the bike shop tried. It turns out that there was a "tolerance issue" with the wheels on my bike. This might explain why I had so many punctures (or maybe not?!) I ended up getting free replacement wheels which are supposedly a lot better than what I have (They cost more than my entire bike!!) Not sure what benefit this is to me other than the ride does feel a lot more comfortable.

  • CO2 is very expensive, I only use it in races and when people are waiting on a group ride. Otherwise its minipump time. CO2 gets very cold as it expands and absorbs heat from the vicinity, so you get condensation which freezes. This is cold enough to freeze exposed skin to the tank/nozzle. – Criggie Aug 28 '17 at 20:12
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    Learn to change a tube yourself - its a lot more cost effective. Personally I have a couple in rotation, and patch them. A 20c patch is a lot cheaper than a tube. Plus you may need to change tubes when out, with noone around to help. Even on tubeless, you should carry a spare tube in case of catastrophic puncture/cut damage. – Criggie Aug 28 '17 at 20:14
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    I'm given to understand the advantage of tubeless tires with respect to punctures is to allow a lower tire pressure and avoid pinch flats (tube gets pinched between the rim and the tire). If you are suffering from foreign objects poking holes in the tire and tube, perhaps just tougher more puncture resistant tires is the right choice. – Argenti Apparatus Aug 28 '17 at 20:50
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    Although if you are getting many small punctures and slow deflation, the tubeless tire sealant will 'auto repair' those. – Argenti Apparatus Aug 28 '17 at 20:52
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    With 3 flats in 4 weeks I'd try to double check whether there's a cause like some damage on the tire or spokes not properly covered, too high pressure, etc. or really just bad luck – johannes Aug 28 '17 at 22:25
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I wouldn't go for tubeless as a first attempt to solve the problem. Tubeless might be a good solution for skinny racing bike tyres, which are rather prone to puncturing. But you really shouldn't be having much of a problem with punctures on a hybrid bike with 32C tyres.

  • Tubeless usually requires new tyres. If you're going to buy new tyres, there are plenty of options such as kevlar-lined tyres that are very puncture-resistant. (Schwalbe make various kinds such as Marathon that are well spoken of by cyclists in much rougher environments than the road; other brands are available.)

  • You might want to consider tyre liners as a first line of defence.

  • Honestly, that many punctures in such a short time suggests that you're doing something wrong.

    • Are you making sure that whatever caused your puncture has been removed from the tyre before you fit a new or repaired inner tube?

    • What do the punctures look like? If it's on the inside of the tube, it's a problem with a spoke. If it's two separate holes on the sidewall (a "snake bite" or "pinch" puncture), it's because you hit a kerb or pothole too hard with under-inflated tyres and pinched the tube between the rim and the road. If it's a single hole on the outside, you ran over something sharp. If it's at the valve, either the valve hole in the rim has sharp edges or you didn't install the tube properly (the valve should be at right-angles to the rim, for example).

    • An unfortunate feature of cycle lanes is that road debris naturally migrates to the side of the road, where the cycle lane is. Cycle at least a couple of feet from the kerb to avoid the worst of it.

    • Avoid potholes as far as possible; ditto drain covers, manholes, etc. Make sure you always know what's behind you so you know when you can cycle around them. If you can't avoid a pothole, lift your bottom slightly off the saddle and cushion the impact by letting your knees flex. Avoid puddles wherever possible – you don't know what hazards are under the water.

    • Speed bumps are just potholes in reverse so be careful there, too. A common arrangement in the UK is to have the cycle lane bypass the speed bump, with a raised kerb between the cycle lane and speed bump, to force vehicles over the bump. The kerb means that street sweepers can't get to the cycle lane so, again, it fills with puncture-causing debris.

    • Make sure you're running your tyres at the correct pressure. Too soft and you'll get pinch flats; too high and minor damage can turn into a flat.

Also, you should definitely consider repairing your inner tubes. It's easy, saves a lot of money and the repaired tube is just as strong as the original. Also, it helps you diagnose the problem, as discussed above.

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Absolutely! I've been using tubeless with sealant for years on my mountain bikes and can count the flats I had since with one single hand.

Will the tubeless tire setup generally be more reliable?

Sure! No flats unless your tire has a hole big enough so that the sealant can not fix.

Will I know when I get a flat with the new setup? I worry with this setup that I might not realize that something has puncture my tire and end up with catastrophic tire damage from not removing the cause of the puncture.

Most likely not, you'll notice most flats when you replace your tire because it's worn out. You'll just see your tire loosing pressure from ride to ride, this will indicate you need to add some more sealant. In some occasions you may hear air and see sealant leaking giving you the option to remove the cause of the flat, if visible. Seriously, you'll just forget about flat tires. If what puncture your tire can damage it, probably sealant will just fail but, in my experience, that happens very little.

I notice that the CO2 is very cold and was wondering if this might make the sealant less effective?

Not at all. Sometimes I use CO2 to inflate my tires quickly and place the tire correctly on the rim without it leaking.

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    CO2 will actually dry out the sealant requiring you to refresh the sealant much earlier. You can use the CO2 to see the tire, you just need to then let the air out and replace it with regular air. – Rider_X Aug 29 '17 at 12:53
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    Tubeless is not more reliable in the sense that you can leave your bike in storage for a few months and expect to be able to pump it back up and go. You'd need to inject new sealant, spread it, and reinflate with an air compressor. For most people who aren't MTBing every weekend, tubeless is actually more work. – RoboKaren Aug 29 '17 at 17:15
  • @RoboKaren it depends on the tires/rim combination, I guess. One of my bikes has been like this for years. I barely use it and just need to inflate tires with a manual pump when using it. – Narcís Calvet Sep 1 '17 at 16:43

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