By Jim Langley

Before getting to the tubeless talk, there’s some unfinished business with the Park torque tools covered last week (click to read last week's TT). John Krawczyk at Park wrote with two clarifications.

Said John: “Jim, I’m afraid some readers might falsely get the impression that all of the tools you wrote about are made here in Saint Paul. We do make the torque limiters here in Saint Paul. This is the ATD-1, as well as its sister tools the PTD-4, PTD-5 and PTD-6. The torque wrenches (TW-5.2 and TW-6.2 ), as well as our sockets and bits in the SBS-3, are not made here in Minnesota.”

Also, John explained more about the difference between torque limiters and torque wrenches: “In the tool world a torque limiter like the ATD-1 is a tool that breaks free at set torque value, not allowing any additional force to be applied, while a torque wrench (like the TW-5.2 or TW-6.2) deflects at a set torque value but the mechanic can continue to apply force to the fastener well beyond their intended torque value if they are not paying attention to the feedback from the tool.

"The advantage of a torque wrench is that it can cover a much wider range of torque values, while a torque limiter is confined to either a single, pre-set torque value (like the PTD-4, PTD-5 and PTD-6) or a very narrow range like the ATD-1.”

Thanks, John!

Tubeless Tires Talk

Here’s a question and answer with a roadie from St. Louis named Robert. It concerns tubeless tires versus tubed ones, one of the more complicated choices cyclists have today.

Since you might be trying to decide for yourself, our conversation could be helpful. Also, we have written a lot about tubeless tires since they first appeared on the scene. You can read numerous articles by using the term "tubeless" (no quotation marks necessary) in the Search field at the upper right of any page on the site.

Robert wrote:

What factors should we consider regarding the choices of changing from clincher to tubeless tires?

A little puzzled by the question, I replied:

Hi Robert,

I think you are asking about changing from tires with tubes to tires without tubes. Is that right? The reason I ask is because when you say clincher tires, tubeless tires are clincher tires, too, so you wouldn't actually be changing.

And, another common question that you might be asking is "changing from clincher tires to tubular tires." That really would be a change because clinchers and tubulars are completely different tire types.

Just want to make sure I answer the right question. Please let me know.

Robert confirmed:

You're absolutely right. I meant from tires with tubes to tubeless. Clearly I need to work on the precision of my bicycling vocabulary.

And, I offered this tubeless advice:

The whole tubed tires to tubeless tires choice is a bit complicated because there are different types of tubeless setups.

But to simplify, most people run tubeless tires with sealant to seal the system and prevent air leaks. Since there's no tube, you need something to seal the air so it can't escape, and the sealant helps with that.

Sealant also provides protection from small punctures because it rushes to the hole with the escaping air and clogs the hole with little fibers, stopping the leak and preventing the flat. Usually you don't even know you ran over something.

On bigger holes, like larger than 1/4 inch, sealant won't always work and you'll have to remove the tubeless tire and install a tube to fix the flat.

So, I would say the biggest difference between tubeless and tubed tires is the sealant. You need to mess with it when you install new tires and anytime you have to remove a tire to fix a flat. With tubeless tires you also need a dedicated tubeless valve, which is removed when you puncture, because the spare tube you install has a built-in valve that needs to take the place of the tubeless valve.

Tip: If you’re riding tubeless and need to fix a flat with a spare tube, it’s pretty easy to lose the tubeless valve if you don’t tuck it away in a safe place. And if you lose it, you’ll need to get a replacement before you can go back to riding tubeless.

Sealant Can Be Messy

I said that you need to "mess" with sealant because it's messy both when you install new tires and also when you fix a flat. During tire installation, you need to get it inside the tire and clean it up if it leaks out when popping on and/or inflating and seating the tires.

When you flat on the road and the sealant doesn’t fix the flat for you, it can squirt out of the hole, with the spinning wheel hurling it and making a mess of your bike until you can stop. Then, before you can install the tube, you need to do something with the small pool of sealant you find in your tire before you can put your tube in.

I should add here that there are genuine tubeless wheels from Shimano with genuine tubeless tires from Hutchinson that do not require sealant; however, you would have to buy both the wheelset and the new tires in order to get this setup.

Back to the sealant, if you know you don't want to mess with basically what is liquid latex, then you probably wouldn't want to go to tubeless tires. In defense of sealant, with practice you can get good at installing tires with it, and some riders are lucky and almost never flat. You could also pay a shop to install your tubeless tires so you don’t have to deal with it.

But The Ride May Be Softer

The reason people go to tubeless tires is usually to get a softer ride. Because there's no tube inside, you can run lower pressures. If you run lower pressures on a tubed tire, you can hit something hard and end up pinching your tube between the tire and rim and getting a pinch flat. That won't happen on a tubeless tire even if you run the tire at a lot lower pressure.

If you are running about 100psi in a tubed tire, you can usually go down to 85 or 90 in a tubeless tire – even lower if you are a lighter rider, like 150 pounds.

For performance, other than the softer ride, you may not feel too much difference. Because there's no tube in the tubeless, the tubeless tire makers say that the tires roll with less resistance and corner better due to being more compliant with less layers of rubber between the road and you.

For Me, It's Really Hard to Feel the Difference

After thousands of miles on genuine tubeless (the Shimano/Hutchinson Road Tubeless system) and sealant-only tubeless setups – using Stan’s tubeless rim strips, valves and sealant – I would say that it's really hard to feel the difference. If you ride an expensive tubed tire and compare it to an expensive tubeless tire, you would want to do a blind test and see if you can feel and pick the faster, better-rolling tire. I'm not sure you could. It's really close.

But you can and will feel the pressure being lower. Whether or not it's worth it to deal with the sealant probably depends on how handy you are working on your bike and how you feel about the ease of working on your tires.

Another consideration is how often you get flat tires in the first place. Tires with tubes and no sealant are easier to deal with than tubeless with sealant.

Tip: If you want a softer ride from a tubed tire, try installing latex tubes (versus the standard butyl tubes). Just know that latex tubes lose air rapidly so you’ll have to top them off before every ride.

That's a quick overview of some key points, Robert. Hope it’s helpful.

Readers, please add your tubeless tips for Robert.


Jim Langley is RBR's Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He's the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his "cycling aficionado" website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim's streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim's full bio.

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