How to inflate a tubeless tire

A lot of biking wheels and wheelbarrow wheels are composed of tubeless tires that do not have inner tubes to keep air in.

This means the air is  inside the tire itself,  and it is kept in place by the contact between the rubber and the rim.

One problem with tubeless tires is that even if they are not damaged they can be difficult to inflate once they have gone flat.

This is because the contact between the tire and the rim is no longer sustained, so when you pump air into the car tire it leaves just as quickly, since the tire is not completely sealed.

However, tubeless tires are still possible to inflate.

So today we are going to talk about the answer to the question…”how do you inflate a tubeless tire?”.

Tubeless Tire

Tubeless is now the default option for mid-range to high-end mountain bikes and gravel bikes, and it’s becoming increasingly popular for road bikes too.

A tubeless tyre looks like a standard tube-type clincher tyre but requires no inner tube and, once ‘seated’ (seating is the process of snapping the beads into position), it forms an airtight seal with the rim.

A valve just like the one you’d find on an inner tube is fitted directly to the rim.

For the system to work, neither the rim nor tyre can leak air, so the tyre needs to fit tightly to the rim.

Sealant poured into the tyre or injected through the valve helps plug any tiny leaks. This sealant stays liquid inside the tyre and will heal small punctures suffered while riding.

Tubeless tyres are not to be confused with tubular tyres.

Tubulars, also known as ‘tubs’ or ‘sew-ups’, are a traditional type of tyre that’s glued or taped to a tubular-specific rim.

They are still widely used in road racing and cyclocross but have otherwise largely been replaced by high-performance clinchers.

Steps on how to inflate tubeless tires

Tubeless tires have been around for years for mountain bikes and road bikes.

The biggest benefit of tubeless tires is that they are self-healing and it helps prevent pinch flats, which happens when the tube is pinched between the ground and the rim.

To inflate a tubeless tire, see steps below:

Step 1: Clean The Rim

Move the flat tire around in order to reach the rim of the tire, then clean the rim as thoroughly as possible.

It is easier to move the tire from side to side rather than removing it completely.

Generally, it is not necessary to use soap and water — a dry, clean rag will do.

The purpose here is to make the contact between the rim and the tire as strong as possible once we start to digitally inflate the tire.

Step 2: Place tire securely on the rim

Here, we fit the tire onto the rim as securely as possible.

The tire is flat at this point, and so it will not create a seal, but we need to make sure that the connection is as solid as possible.

Step 3: Valve at 3 or 9 o’clock position

Ensure that the valve is at 3 or 9 o’clock position. If you set it at a 6 o’clock position, you will get fluid build up.

Next is to open and remove the valve

Step 4: Secure the tire

Here, you’ll want to secure the flat tire with ties, bungees, or a strap.

Wrap the strap or cord around the length of the tire to hold it down and then tighten it.

Anything that will do that job will work.

Step 5: Inflate the tire

Using a compressor or tubeless foot pump, proceed to inflate the tire.

The tightening of the tire will enable it to build enough pressure and then form a seal between the tire and the rim.

As the tire is inflated, it shall form its own seal due to the pressure built inside it.

The straps or ties shall have been overturned by the pressure thus requiring you to remove 

Finish off inflating the tire and put the valve back and close.

What kind of pump do I need for a tubeless tire?

I have described this procedure using an air compressor. It is possible to do it, however, using a hand pump (the kind that you might use for a bicycle tire).

While it is possible to do the job with a hand pump, it will go faster, be easier, and probably be done better if you use an air compressor. There are great portable air compressors available for situations like this one.

You can also opt for a tubeless tire booster or foot pumps for tubeless tires.

What PSI should my Tubeless Tires be?

For tubeless mountain bike tires, 26 psi on the front and 28 psi on the rear tire is recommended.

For road bikes, a good tire pressure is around 80 psi on the front and 83 psi on the rear tire.

To be sure, look for a recommended pressure level stamped at the sidewalls of the tire.

The basic rule of thumb is to ALWAYS ride less than what is written.

The goal should be that when you’re on the bike, you want the tire to create a “square” base meaning the entire surface of the rubber is touching the ground.

Since most of your weight is near the rear wheel, you’ll want to ride with about 4 lbs. more tire pressure in that tire compared to the front.

For those still a bit nervous about how soft to start, we suggest a 27.5 inch tire with a tube to run 32 psi in the back and 28 psi in the front.

For a tubeless tire, you can begin with 26 & 22 psi respectively.

Finally, for those with a Plus-sized bike, you can even go lower with 22 & 18 psi respectively. 

Simply put, the softer you can run ‘em, the better you’ll be.

Things to do if tubeless tire is not inflating

Why won’t my tubeless tires inflate? Here are some things you should do if your tubeless tire is not inflating:

  • Before inflating, check whether the tubeless is compatible.
  • Check whether the tire beads are seated the whole way around.
  • Check if the nut in the valve is properly tightened.
  • Check if you can hear sealants when you shake your tire.

If by any chance your tubeless tire is not inflating and it meets the conditions above, then this means that there is an opening existing. And this might be the cause of it not inflating.

Tubeless Tires: Pros & Cons

Pros:

Can run at lower pressures

The number one advantage of tubeless tyres compared to standard clinchers with inner tubes is they can be run at lower pressures without the risk of pinch flats.

A pinch flat occurs when your tire hits an obstacle (such as a rock or the edge of a pothole) and deforms to such an extent that it squashes the inner tube against the rim.

This leads to a characteristic ‘snake bite’ style double puncture.

Less prone to flatting

With no inner tube to trap, and sealant in the tyre to heal small punctures, a tubeless setup is much less prone to flatting overall, and so allows you to reap the benefits of lower tyre pressures.

These include greater comfort, and potentially more grip and speed too, although the relationship between tyre pressure and performance is complex so it’s hard to generalise

Lower rolling resistance

Tubeless tyres may also have lower rolling resistance and therefore be faster than an equivalent tubed setup.

But again, it’s hard to generalise because there are many variables and it depends exactly what you consider to be an apples-to-apples comparison.

There is a general consensus that tubeless tyres roll faster than tubulars, though, and this is driving a gradual adoption of tubeless by pro road racers.

Cons

Maintenance costs

Tubeless setup and maintenance is inherently more onerous than using inner tubes, tubeless tyres cost more than non-tubeless tyres, and you’ll need to keep buying sealant.

Tricky to mount

Some tubeless tires mount easily and will seat on the rim using a normal pump.

However, this often isn’t the case and some tires are tricky to mount and/or need a dedicated tubeless inflator or air compressor to seat.

Sealants can be messy

Sealant can be messy and needs to be renewed periodically – typically every few months – because it gradually dries out.

Frequent pumping

Tubeless tyres also need to be pumped up more frequently than tubed tyres – it’s advisable to check your pressures before every ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do tubeless tires last?

The lifespan of a tubeless bike tire will depend on several factors including the way it is used and how often it is used and the tubeless sealant.

Tubeless tires with latex-based tire sealant can last 8000 miles, while tubeless tires with fiber-based sealants can last a lot longer.

Do you need an air compressor for tubeless tires?

An air compressor will allow you to fill the tire quickly, which will be helpful in encouraging a seal to form between the flat tubeless tire and the rim.

However, you can still use a tubeless tire booster or foot pumps for tubeless tires

Conclusion

To inflate tubeless tires, you can use a hand pump or foot pump for tubeless tires, an air compressor or a tubeless tire booster.

Before inflating, you need to make sure the tire is clean and secured with ties or cords to make it easier.

Tubeless tires can give you the best out of your bike.

Tubeless tire technology has been around for some time for mountain bikes, and most gravel bikes will be ready to be set up tubeless too, but it’s a comparatively new option for road cyclists. 

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