Tubeless tires have a reputation for losing air more quickly than those that stay with tubes. If you’re considering a switch then you need to know if that’s true, and what can be done about it. You’re in the right place.
Do tubeless bike tires lose air?
Tubeless tires lose air pressure over time. However, it’s also possible to have a leak in a tubeless tire, which can make riding difficult (or dangerous). Sometimes, the problem can be fixed by simply riding the bike to spread the sealant. In other cases there may be a problem with the bike’s rims, rim tape, or valve.
Losing air is no fun, no one wants to be hitting a pump constantly. Let’s take some time to learn, and I’ll give you the answers to the following:
Do Tubeless Tires Leak Air?
All tires lose some air through diffusion, the butyl rubber used in their creation is porous. Tubeless tires have more failure points than tubed tires and are prone to slow leak problems that are usually caused by improper installation.
Diffusion means losing air pressure over time, an unfortunate reality. Thicker tires should theoretically slow down losing pressure.
Tubeless tires don’t have inner tubes to hold the air in, instead, the air is in direct contact with the interior of the tire which makes it easier to diffuse. Sealant helps prevent you from losing all the air in your tires, but it has to be spread properly to prevent quicker diffusion.
There are several ways you can keep air leakage from tubeless tires to a minimum. Click on the link for more information.
How Long Tubeless Tires Hold Air
Most people find that their tubes will hold air longer over time since the sealant should continue to spread inside the tire. When they’re attached properly you can expect to lose a few PSI every couple of days, so make pre-ride checks a priority.
It’s hard to pin down an exact length before your tires lose too much pressure. It depends on the tire, the rim, the installation job, and even the weather.
Pre-ride tire pressure checks are the key. You should be performing them anyways but with tubeless tires it’s a definite priority.
Do Tubeless Tires Lose Air Faster (vs. Tubes)?
The general consensus among bikers is that tubeless tires often lose air faster than those with tubes, but people argue for both sides. You’re going to lose air either way, but tubeless tires are more complex to set up and any errors will cause more leakage than you’d find with a tubed tire.
5 Essentials for Tubeless Tires to Hold Air
Tubeless tires require a lot more effort to put together than just running a tube around the rim. The following are all factors that need to be taken into account when you’re worried about extra air pressure loss.
The Right Rims
If you’re new to tubeless tires, you should make sure to use tubeless-ready rims. They’re not all created equal but it’s easier to install them than having to work with a non-compatible rim.
Any issues with your rim will lead to air loss and they’re the foundation of your tubeless tire. Make sure you spend some time figuring out which one is the best fit for you and your cycle.
Rim tape is another part of the tire where you need to be extra careful. Improperly applied you’ll lose air constantly, and it doesn’t take much to cause problems.
The tape should be flat and smooth across the interior of the rim and barely go up the sides. It should be straight and wrap all the way around the rim. The recommendation is that it barely go up the sides.
It’s a crucial step, and if your tire is losing air despite having good rims and putting sealant in then your taping job might need replacement.
Make sure to wash the rim before applying the tape as well. This vital step gets omitted on occasion and can lead to a less-than-perfect seal on your rim tape.
Not enough sealant is a common problem for those who are running tubeless tires, particularly people who are conscious of the weight of their bikes.
You need both enough sealant and enough motion to spread the sealant around the inside of the tire. Most people achieve the latter by inflating their tires and going for a ride after installing them, the circular motion will spread things around and coat the inside.
You should regularly check and top off your sealant. You can see one method demonstrated right here:
Your valve is another potential failure point and it’s easy to check.
All you need to do is use your valve tool to check how tight the valve is in the stem. You want it about hand tight, don’t wrench it down very hard. It also shouldn’t be too loose. If it’s leaking air no matter what, the valve’s innards need to be replaced.
They’re cheap to replace and you just screw them back in when you’re done.
You should also check the stem for damage while you’re working with the valve core.
How to Leak Check Your Tubeless Tire
If the air loss you’re going through isn’t easy to spot, then you may need to leak check your tire.
It’s an easy process:
- Squirt down the tire and valve with soapy water. A bit of Dawn and tap water in a squirt bottle is fine.
- Try to inflate the tire and watch it carefully.
- Anywhere that the suds start to bubble is an air leak and you’ll be able to address the problem easily with it diagnosed.
The suds trick works for almost every leak. The exception is longer cuts that only lose air when pressure is placed on the tire, but you can usually identify them visually if that’s the case.
How to Properly Inflate a Tubeless Tire
A lot of people have some issues inflating tubeless tires when they first get them on, especially with a floor pump.
Fortunately, it’s easy to learn how to inflate them and keep the bead properly. You can learn how to do it here:
Do Tubeless Tires Still Get Flats?
It’s rare, but a tubeless bike tire can still get flats when enough damage is taken. After all, they’re much the same as the tire on your car. It usually takes massive damage to the tread, or a tear in the sidewall to cause them to go flat.
Tubeless tires don’t entirely prevent flats, but they can take more punishment than tubed bike tires. The sealant inside the wheel can seal off most small punctures like those from thorns or small pieces of glass.
They’re not invincible, however. Larger, sharp obstacles can penetrate the tread in a way the sealant can’t fix and the sidewall is still vulnerable to ripping.
Ever wonder if you can use a tube in a tubeless tire? Check out our article “Can Tubeless Bike Tires Be Used with a Tube? (Explained!)” to find out.
Why Your Tubeless Tires Won’t Inflate (Common Problems)
Sometimes a tubeless tire really doesn’t want to inflate. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to figure out the problem and handle it accordingly.
The most common problem is a lack of sufficient air pressure. The tire doesn’t sit properly until the bead meets the rim, so you need a lot of pressure quickly. If you can manage that, then you should be able to fill the tire the rest of the way.
The most common solution is an air compressor. If you choose to use one meant for cars, like the coin-operated models at gas stations, then you’ll want to be very careful.
Charging pumps also work well. They allow you to pump up air and release it in one burst, as long as there was sufficient air to get the bead together you’ll be good to go. Floor pumps are sometimes used, but you usually need to remove the valve core to allow more air to pass through.