The use of tubeless tires, initiated by the mountain bike world, is becoming more and more common for all practices. Due to its efficiency and comfort of use, this system has now proven itself. However, it is still important to have the right tools and methods to take full advantage of it.
When I was managing the after-sales service of a bicycle manufacturer, many customers were worried about using tubeless tires. Simply because it was new to them and they didn’t have a clear idea of how it worked. After a few explanations and several rides, they couldn’t get enough of the efficiency and comfort of such a setup!
In this article, I explain how to inflate a tubeless tire step by step, with which tools, and how frequently.
Let’s get started.
The tools you need
Understand here that there is no more inner tube, we move from a tubetype mounting to a tubeless mounting. Therefore the air is now trapped directly between the tire and the rim.
In the world of tubeless, you will find two options: tubeless compatible rims and “tubeless ready” rims.
Depending on the model, the rims can be waterproof themselves. We say they are tubeless. Otherwise, the so-called tubeless-ready rims require the installation of a waterproof tape called tubeless rim tape. In both cases, a tubeless valve and sealant are essential.
To inflate your tubeless tire, only a pump is necessary. The use of an air compressor is justified during the first mounting or when you add sealant to make the tire “pop”.
The difference between a foot pump and a hand pump is the fun of inflation. It has never been fun to inflate a tire with a “mini-pump”, but it can be done…
Inflating a tubeless bike tire
Inflating a tubeless tire is not rocket science, but I’ll give you some techniques to make it as easy and quick as possible.
First of all, it is wise to make the difference between inflating a flat tire and inflating it to adjust the pressure of your tires.
Initial inflation or flat tire
If your tire is flat, whether it is new, repaired, or after maintenance, the procedure is the same.
Tip: Always place the valve at the top of the wheel (pointing to the ground) to prevent the sealant from coming out and clogging it as it dries.
- In the case of a new tire, the use of a compressor is strongly recommended. It allows you to send a large quantity of air quickly and thus press the tire onto the rim without the air having time to escape. A foot pump can work, but you have to pump fast and hard. Here the use of a hand pump is outdated.
- If your tire is flat, the beads are normally lodged in the rim grooves and the sealant residues more or less ensure the airtight seal. Since air leaks are limited, a foot pump or even a hand pump should be sufficient.
Always check that the tire is properly seated in the rim. Usually, a snapping sound indicates that the tire is seated properly. If not, check the uniformity of the sidewall of your tire. If you find that the tire is not properly seated, pinch it and help it to position. If that doesn’t work, deflate (still with the valve pointing down) and reinflate.
On a new tire, manufacturers recommend 3 to 4 inflations maximum to ensure a good seal.
Adjusting the pressure of a tubeless tire
It is important to know that a tubeless tire loses pressure more quickly than a tube-type tire (inner tube). It is generally necessary to reinflate before each ride.
The only precaution to take when inflating is to always place the valve pointing downwards and thus prevent it from clogging with dry sealant. To adjust the pressure, any inflation device is suitable.
What pressure should I put in a tubeless tire?
Note that a tubeless mounting allows a decrease of 0.5 Bar (7 PSI) to 1 Bar (14 PSI) with equivalent performance to that of a tube-type. This justifies the gain in comfort. Depending on the tire model and the type of use, the recommended pressure varies.
You will usually find this information on the sidewall of the tire.
The pressure indications are there to give you an idea. If you are looking for the optimum pressure, it depends on your feeling, the terrain, and your tires. You need to find the right balance and you are in the best position to figure it out.
I can give you recommendations for tubeless tire pressure depending on the practice:
- For tubeless road bikes, the recommended pressure is generally 5 bars (72 PSI);
- For gravel, the pressure given by the manufacturers is often between 3 and 5 bars (43-72 PSI);
- For tubeless mountain bikes, the recommended pressure varies between 1.5 and 2.5 bars (20-35 PSI).
However, I think it is better to give you the tools to determine the pressure that suits you. I advise you to start from this previous base for your next ride and to adjust according to your feeling, following the indications I give you in the next paragraph.
Knowing the right pressure for a tubeless tire
By increasing the pressure, you gain in performance but you lose in comfort and grip.
Lowering the pressure does the opposite. Note that a tire that is over-inflated loses grip and therefore performance.
In concrete terms, in rainy weather for roads and on muddy or rocky terrain for gravel and mountain bikes, it is preferable to lower the pressure to increase the contact area and thus gain grip. Conversely, if you are on dry roads or rolling terrain, increasing the pressure will limit the feeling of being stuck.
Also, the pressure varies according to the weight. The higher the weight, the more air is needed to avoid crushing the tire and vice versa.
Why doesn’t my tubeless tire inflate?
Generally, a tubeless tire does not inflate because of a lack of sealant or because it has not ” snapped “, a sign that the tire beads are correctly positioned in the rim. It is recommended to refill every 3 months to ensure the sealing of the tubeless mount. Try inflating with a compressor to send a large amount of air quickly without it escaping.
It is also possible that a large puncture hole could not be sealed by the fluid.
Do tubeless tires need a special pump?
There is no special pump for tubeless tires, but it is easier to use a compressor or foot pump than a hand pump to inflate your tire.
Can you inflate tubeless tires without sealant?
In a perfect world, it would be possible to maintain the pressure of a tubeless tire without sealant, but in reality, it is essential. Its role is to counteract the porosity of the tire and to perfect the sealing of the rim.
Why does my tubeless tire deflate?
You should know that a tubeless tire deflates more quickly than a tubetype tire. It is normal to reinflate it before each ride. If it goes flat every time, make sure there is enough sealant left.