Going Tubeless: The Future

Here in my final installment on tubeless mountain bike technology and specifically tubeless tire technology for 29 inch wheels, I want to address some areas of concern and where I think the tubeless tire and wheel products of the future can help to make big wheel mountain biking even better.

While Giant made the new XTC-1 29″er rims tubeless compatible with a Stan’s rim strip, the tires mounted stock are not rated for tubeless use.

Why Not Go Tubeless From The Start? : The modern mountain bike rider is pretty information savvy. Tubeless benefits and performance are pretty well known and accepted by more and more mountain bikers everyday. To my mind it makes absolutely no sense to not have your product be ready to go tubeless out of the gate these days. Why not enhance the value and appeal of your wheels and tires by offering this as an option? Yes, tubes should be supported, and I still use tubes in many applications today, but if you are a serious mountain biker, you probably will be more tempted to buy a product that supports tubeless use than one that doesn’t.

I certainly can also see why manufacturers won’t be too thrilled with doing this. The technology to develop your own system, or get UST certification is expensive and time consuming. That said, a non-tubeless rim or tire is quickly being viewed as being “off the back” by mountain bikers. I agree that tubeless tires and rims that are reliable, easy to use and live with, and reasonably priced are the future of 29″er tires and rims.

Information Please: While this series of articles is hopefully shining a little light on this subject, it is by no means an exhaustive study of all products on the market and which are compatible with each other. Getting everybody on the same page might be asking too much, but would it be unthinkable for a rim manufacturer, lets say, to recommend tires for use as tubeless on their product? (Stan’s does this already). Or how about a tire manufacturer giving us some idea of how their product works tubeless on other tubeless designed rims? The conversation is pretty one sided on this score and the user group is the only one making any real noise here. I think that is a shame. The UST standard should be either opened to all manufacturers, or another system equivalent to it, so as it is with BB30 bottom brackets, users can all be assured that “this” tire can go on “that” rim without being a living, riding guinea pig. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget about sealants in this conversation either.

More Choices: With an “open standard” we could all expect more choices. That would be a good thing, since the way things are now, a tire manufacturer, let’s say, doesn’t have a clue what tubeless system the end user will try to match their product up with. Yes, as I suggested, they could test on all available systems, but as we march forward, and more rim manufacturers start offering tubeless compatible rims, this situation will need to be settled. With everyone on the same page as far as a standard, the tire and rim manufacturers would be encouraged to make product that supported tubeless use. The way things are currently, the manufacturers are not going to know which way to go in this regard, unless a UST standard becomes the accepted way to do things. (As it is for the most part with 26 inch wheels and tires)

The Bottom Line: In the end, how ever things shake out, we as mountain bikers ask only a few things: That the tires be reliable, the rim/tire interface be safe, and that the tires, sealants, and rims be compatible with each other and easy to use. If this starts to become a reality, the days of tubeless tires and rims for 29″ers will finally become like that of the 26 inch world.


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No Responses to “Going Tubeless: The Future”

  1. TOM Bender Says:


    Thoroughly enjoyed your tubeless articles. Your info presented is top notch and really will help anyone, tubed or not, get on board. Well done and look forward to more of any and everything big wheeled.

  2. MG Says:

    Wow, Very well written and straight-shooting article, my brother. Thanks for the frank, honest talk on a subject we both care about deeply. Tubeless, self-sealing mountain bike tires are one of the greatest advances in mountain bike technology we’ve experienced, on the level of clipless pedals or suspension, in my opinion. The only people who don’t know are the ones who haven’t ridden tubeless, or haven’t invested the time to get it right. And honestly, I’m in no big rush to convert those folks, because I know I’m always on a faster bike than they are on every ride… It’s almost unfair. But I digress.

    My opinion on why manufacturers haven’t been more open on the compatibility of their products between rims and tires is because the variability between the bead diameter of even the same model of rim or the same model of tire can vary quite a bit. They don’t want the liability of saying “it’s compatible,” only to have a blowoff-related injury and associated lawsuit hang over their head (and the reputation of their product). Reliability/consistency has gotten quite a bit better lately, based on my experience, but especially in the beginning, we had some significantly slack beads on some tire/rim combos, while others were amazingly tight. Some combinations are still pretty inconsistent… but that’s manufacturing.

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