The latest trend for both mountain and road bikes is tubeless tyres. The system has a great number of advantages, but still one major flaw: punctures. With this little ingenious (but not exactly cheap) gadget, you’ll now be able to leave the house without the niggling feeling that you may have to phone home if you get a Big Flat.
The tubeless trend
Every cycling season, a new trend is launched in order to get us to buy more lovely cycling gear. And, we admit, some innovations are truly revolutionary: such as aerodynamic frames and wheels, disc brakes and MIPS helmets.
When it comes to tyres, inner tubes and wheels, there have always been many methodologies. For example, the professional peloton never has to sit on the roadside and mend a puncture, as their wheels—fitted with sewed-up and glued-on tubular tyres—are simply exchanged for new ones. These wheels are not ‘tubeless’, though, for they have latex inner tubes sewn into cotton/rubber outers.
Tubeless is a different animal. And it’s the latest trend for weekend warriors on mountain bikes and, increasingly, on road bikes.
We mere mortals have different cycling experiences from the professionals. At some point, most of us have sat forlorn on the roadside during a wet Gran Fondo with an inner tube in one hand and a CO2 pump in the other.
The tubeless trend began in mountain biking for obvious reasons: when riding off-road on a mountain bike the tyre pressures used are often quite low, as low pressures spread the rubber tread over a wider area, giving more grip.
But if you hit a rock or a tree-root, you can easily suffer a ‘snakebite’ puncture. This is so-called because there are always two holes. But snakebites do not happen with tubeless: the system is created by outer tyres sealed to the rims and inflated through a valve that is stuck—airtight—into the valve hole. No more inner tube.
Most tubeless bicycle tyres are then filled with some type of milky-coloured sealant that sloshes around in the tyre and automatically fills small holes, sealing them instantly—so no worries about thorns and little shards of glass.
The presence of this sealant can add extra weight, and the sloshing can cause some odd wheel rotation, but otherwise you really don’t notice the difference. The whole set-up is lighter than traditional the inner/outer tube system, and no more snakebites. But…
And it’s a big But…
When you’re hundreds of kilometres from home and you suffer a big puncture from a nail, a piece of glass, or similar nastiness, the milky sealant fluid in your tubeless tyre will simply not be able to cope. And pffffff… all becomes deflated, including your spirit. So, what do you do? You may well have an inner tube in your pocket for just this type of emergency.
But: your tubeless tyre has a sealed-in valve, so you will have to screw that off somehow, and your outer tyre is full of sealant, so unsealing the sealed outer tyre and inserting a get-me-home inner tube, while possible, certainly isn’t a fun prospect.
Cars and motorcycles
Dynaplug is a system for plugging punctures in tubeless tyres from the outside, and it has long been used for tubeless car and motorcycle tyres. The makers now have a nifty system for bicycles that should certainly give most tubeless riders peace of mind while out on the road.
Once you have removed whatever caused the Big Flat, you jab the Dynaplug’s needle-like probe into the hole, and then retract it, leaving in a plug.
The plug, with sharp ends, is designed to stay in the tyre after you pull out the shaft. You can buy these plugs separately, and for the new Racer model shown above there are two sizes: the regular Plug and the Megaplug, for really big holes.
At around €45 this beauty is not super-cheap, but is well-designed and fits nicely into a pocket or tool roll. And, for peace of mind, we reckon the small price to pay for all those trendy tubeless folks!