What is Tubeless, and Why Do People Use It?
Your first bicycle probably had inner tubes. Most of us start off life bouncing around happily on tires filled with black rubber balloons. Mom or Dad have to inflate them every spring and patch or replace them any time we ride over a nail or thorn, but for the most part, they get the job done for trips around the neighborhood.
Start riding some more, though, on trails or longer road rides, and the limitations of inner tubes become obvious. Sooner or later, anyone who spends time a bicycle, has some revelations:
- Getting punctures and fixing flats is no fun.
- There are a lot of sharp, pointy things out there.
- A little lower air pressure in tires offers more traction, comfort, and control.
- That same lower pressure can let the tire compress when you hit something, smashing the inner tube between the ground and your rim, and causing a puncture.
- Getting punctures and fixing flats is no fun.
Whether you race or not, once you start thinking about tires and air pressure, you’re officially what marketing types refer to as an “enthusiast.” That means you’re pretty into this whole bike riding thing, and it’s time to search for something better than an inner tube.
The Rest and the Best
Attempts to get rid of inner tubes have been around for a long time. The classic cycling “tubular” (sometimes referred to as a “sew-up” or “tub”) combines the tire and tube into a single piece that must be slowly and carefully glued onto a rim. While simple and light, tubulars are still prone to punctures, and yes, gluing your tires to your rims is about as fun as it sounds, requiring the kind of attention normally paid to packing parachutes.
Plenty of cars and motorcycles don’t use inner tubes. Instead, they use big, heavy tires that seal right onto the rim, and that’s OK, because they also have big, heavy engines that make them go. Some of the first tubeless mountain bike tires used thicker, heavier tires that were referred to as “UST” and only worked on special “UST” rims. The added weight of these tires, and their inability to seal punctures, led many riders to keep looking for a better solution.
That’s where we come in.
Using a liquid sealant and special tape to make rims and tires airtight, our founder, Stan Koziatek, developed a system capable of sealing most tires to most rims without inner tubes. The big deal about the tubeless system Stan developed was that it worked with a wide variety of tires and rims, and that it sealed punctures automatically. Almost instantly. While you ride.
Seriously. If you’ve never seen it before, it’s pretty cool.
Here's Stan himself doing some "stick a big nail in it" marketing back in the day. To test sealant, he'd buy these gigantic awls and create diabolical-looking devices like the classic "Path of Death" shown here.
The best tire manufacturers supported and refined our method into something that today is called “Tubeless Ready.” It’s become the standard for mountain bikes and is starting to show up more and more on road bikes.
Tubeless-ready--lightweight tires combined with Stan’s liquid sealant and our special tape--seals most punctures up to a quarter inch in size, weighs less than a tube, and allows lower pressure for more traction, more comfort, and more control.
But it Gets Even Better
Taking everything we learned about tubeless tires, Stan developed an entirely new rim design. Our patented Bead Socket Technology rims created a better interface between tire and rim sidewall for easy tubeless inflation. Stan found most rims constrict a tire’s shape. By lowering the sidewall of the rim and creating an inner shape that helps position a tire more securely, our lighter and stronger BST mountain rims, and our higher-pressure reinforced BST-R road rims allow tires to expand to their full volume.
The result is even better traction and control, and one other major advantage. Without an inner tube and offering higher tire volume and lower pressure, our BST rims and tubeless system creates a more supple and responsive tire. The result is less rolling resistance. In other words: our wheels go faster.
Our tubeless system and BST and BST-R wheelsets are the choice of top racers around the world not just because they’re more more reliable and offer more traction, but because they offer a genuine advantage over lesser designs. Stronger, lighter, self-sealing, more comfortable, better handling, and even faster, Stan’s tubeless designs have become the standard by which all other wheels are judged.
When it comes to tubeless performance, Stan’s proves we’ve all come a long way from the days of inner tubes, and every day we’re working on new ideas to ride even further, and faster than ever.