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How to Tell if Your Mountain Bike Tires Are Tubeless

how to tell if your mountain bike tires are tubeless

Mountain bike tires are great for going on off-road trails. Since they are wider, it’s easier for the rider to remain in control when they hit rough terrain. No pothole or rock is too much for these tires. However, getting to know your mountain bike tires is a completely different story compared to road bike tires. 

One thing many people aren’t sure of when they get their first mountain bike is whether or not their bike tires are tubeless. To check if it is tubeless, deflate the tire and pry the bead of the tire away from the rim with your fingers. If there’s sealant residue and no sign of a tube, the tire is tubeless.

In most cases, the rim will be tubeless-ready, but the bike tire itself isn’t. However, there is an easier way to tell if your mountain bike tires are tubeless, you just have to be familiar with the valves first.

Simple Way To Tell If Your Mountain Bike Tires Are Tubeless

Many people are under the impression that they have to remove their mountain bike tire in order to find out if it’s tubeless or not. There are two makes of valves, and almost every mountain bike tire will have one of them: Shrader and Presta. Mountain bike tires with tubes can have either Shrader or Presta valves, but tubeless tires only use Presta.

If you have a Presta valve, release all of the air from your tire. If the tire has a tube in it, then the stem from the valve will be attached to the tube. It is possible for you to push it in and out, but you won’t be able to twist the stem because it’s attached to the tube. 

On the other hand, if your mountain bike tire is tubeless then the stem will be held in place by a valve lock nut. While you’ll still be able to push it in and out, you’ll also be able to twist it to the left and right. With a tubeless tire, you can twist the stem freely since it isn’t attached to a tube.

A good rule of thumb for checking is to keep the cap on and press the valve down, if it moves it’s tubed but if it doesn’t it’s tubeless. 

Tubeless Tire Features

Some bike experts are able to tell if their mountain bike tires are tubeless just by looking at them. Tubeless tires will always have one of the following two features:

  1. The less common of the two is when the tire itself is the tube. It will essentially look as though the tire is a heavy-duty tube with treads on it.
  2. The more common version of the tubeless tire is when the tire’s bead engages with the rim and seals the inside. In turn, this makes the rim and tire the pressure vessel. 

Since tubeless tires use a sealant, you may be able to tell by checking for sealant residue around the rim. Sealant allows them to use a lightweight tire casing that’s still strong enough to provide superior protection. Bead lock is another thing to look for as well since bead shape and diameter provide fit and retention.

Are All Mountain Bike Tires Tubeless?

No, actually most bikers have noticed that the majority of older tires still have an inner tube in them. That being said, most mountain bike tires can be converted into tubeless tires. A lot of riders prefer tubeless tires because they last a lot longer. The sealant helps to protect them from small holes. 

Removing the inner tube from the equation results in fewer flat tires overall. That reason alone is enough to inspire riders to make the switch to tubeless. Since these tires require the rider to use less pressure, they can go around corners much easier without wiping out. 

Most mountain bikers prefer to use tubeless tires. This is because they allow more surface area of the tire to come in contact with the ground. Tubeless tires give the rider a major boost in traction, allowing them to get out of tight situations smoothly. They allow them to glide through the hills and safely zip past every corner.

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How Do I Convert My Mountain Bike to Tubeless?

You can convert your existing mountain bike tires into tubeless ones. Before you begin, you will need to purchase a tubeless conversion kit. A good quality kit will include valves, strips, and sealant. Always measure your rims before choosing a kit to make sure you get the correct width of strips. The standard size is 24 mm, but they aren’t all the same.

We recommend using this mountain bike tubeless tire conversion kit. It provides everything needed for an easy and successful tubeless tire conversion.

Once you’re ready, lay the strip along the center of the rim. It should slightly start to come up on both sides of the rim. If there is any existing rim tape on your rims don’t remove it. Most tubeless conversion kits will recommend using two layers of tape anyways.

When you have the tape in place, cut a small opening over the valve hole so you can push the valve through. The valve opening size will vary depending on what valve your previous tire had. If it’s too big, the new valve may pull through. When this happens it’s a good idea to purchase a valve that’s attached to the strip.

Now it’s time to install the tire. While you could use your old tire, most people prefer to upgrade to a lighter casing. One trick that should help with the initial seal is to create a soap and water mixture, then cover the rim and tire bead with it. This will create a temporary seal until the sealant is properly distributed. 

As you install one side of the tire, squirt sealant into the tire towards the bottom. Then start to push the other bead into the rim. You will need to have a compressor ready because you will need to inflate the tire quickly in order for it to seal. A quick blast of air from the compressor works to push the tire beads against the rim to seal it up.

Now the important part is to make sure you distribute the sealant throughout the entire tire so it covers every area of the seams. Don’t be afraid to shake or spin that tire to get that sealant where it needs to be. Once you get the tire thoroughly coated in the sealant, inflate it to your desired psi for riding.

Final Thoughts

There are many ways to tell if a mountain bike tire is tubeless, but checking out the valve is the quickest and easiest way. If your tires are tubeless then they’re more likely to last longer during off-road adventures.

Even though most mountain bike tires still come with an innertube, converting them to tubeless is a relatively simple procedure. The sealant used on tubeless tires is the main reason why most riders prefer going tubeless.

That extra bit of protection not only makes the tire last longer but also makes for a smoother ride. Riders can get more traction, allowing them to have fun on almost any trail.

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