No one wants to deal with changing a flat tire, and with tubeless tires, you don’t need to. Tubeless tires are growing in popularity for use with both adults and kids’ bikes.
Once used just by elite riders, tubeless tires are now more widely available. Car tires have already switched to tubeless, so you may be wondering if it’s time to make the switch on your family’s bikes.
What are Tubeless Tires?
Tubeless bike tires are exactly what the name suggests. They are tires that don’t use any inner tubes, so they work like the tire and rim of modern car tires. High-end adult mountain bikes now use tubeless tires frequently, and they are also becoming more popular for adult and children’s road bikes. Tubeless tires shouldn’t be confused with tubular tires (also known as tubulars’ tubs’ or ‘sew-ups’).
At first glance, a tubeless tire will look just like any standard tube tire. However, tubeless tires require no inner tube, so once they are ‘seated’ into position, they will form an airtight seal with the bike tire rim. A valve, like those on an inner tube, fits directly to the tire rim. For the tubeless technology to work, neither rim nor tire can leak air. You can use a sealant to help plug any small leaks by injecting it through the valve. The tire must fit tightly to the rim.
Benefits of Tubeless Tires
Many benefits come with switching to tubeless tires. They are particularly popular for mountain biking and could have benefits on a kid’s MTB.
Tubeless tires provide better traction, ideal for mountain biking. After you’ve installed tubeless tires, kids will typically get a much smoother ride. Tubeless tires can also help kids maintain traction in rough terrain and stop them from bouncing off objects. These benefits make tubeless tires great for kids who are new to the trails.
Reduced weight from tires:
Kids benefit from lightweight bikes, so any weight savings are a bonus. Kids often grow taller before their body mass catches up to that of an adult. It can be dangerous for kids to ride bikes that are too heavy for them. So, whenever you consider customizing your child’s bike, you should consider how it impacts the overall weight. Lighter wheels are great on kids’ mountain bikes because they allow the rider to brake and frequently accelerate without expending as much energy.
No more pinch flats:
Bike riders loath pinch flats, a dreaded two-hole tear in the tire tube. Pinch flats will take down a tire in seconds and can’t usually be resolved with a standard patch kit. You typically need an extra tube if your bike gets a pinch flat. With a tubeless tire, pinch flats are uncommon to the point of being almost non-existent. It would take a significant impact with a low-pressure tire for a tubeless tire to get a pinch flat.
No more patch kit:
Tubeless tires can cope with minor punctures. Pinprick punctures from plants like mesquite thorns or cactus can take down a standard tire. Of course, you usually need to patch these minor punctures with a kit. Or, with a tubeless tire, you can eliminate the need for patch kits altogether.
Can Any Kids Bike Wheel Be Tubeless?
Not all kid’s bike wheels can be tubeless or tubeless compatible. Many children’s bikes won’t need this technology. The vast majority of children’s bikes on the market don’t come tubeless-ready. It’s exceptionally uncommon to put tubeless tires on bikes for 2 to 4-year-olds or even bikes for 5 to 8-year-olds.
Older children who are more confident riders are more likely to benefit from tubeless tires. Some bikes for 9 to 12-year-olds, and most mountain bikes will come tubeless-ready. If you’re getting a kids mountain bike and want to head out into the backcountry, then tubeless tires may be worthwhile.
In order to use a tubeless tire, the tire’s bead needs to lock onto the rim. The bike’s tire, rim, and seated valve stem must seal absolutely airtight.
You will need to use a special sealant to make it all work. In hot and dry conditions, the tire sealant can become dry. You will need to add a small dose of new tire sealant to keep the tubeless system working. Tubeless tires aren’t maintenance-free, and if your kids are only riding in your neighborhood, it may be more hassle than it’s worth.
Tubeless Ready or Tubeless Compatible?
Not all children’s bikes will be compatible with tubeless tires. Before you go buying tubeless tires, you’ll need to check if the family’s bikes are compatible. Tubeless tires use stretch-resistant beads which prevent blow-off under pressure. They also use casings that are sealed in order to avoid any air loss.
Compatible or specifically made tubeless tire bike wheels will have humps that keep the tubeless tire beads locked in position. Bikes can either come standard with tubeless tires, or they could be either “tubeless ready” or “tubeless compatible.” A wheel that is described as “tubeless-compatible” will usually require you to fit tubeless tape to seal the rim.
Cleary’s kid’s bikes use wheels that can be converted to tubeless tires. Our kid’s bikes don’t come standard as “tubeless-ready.” They are “tubeless compatible.” So, if you want to use tubeless tires on a Cleary kids bike, you will need to apply specific tubeless rim tape (such as Gorilla Tape) to both rims. The rip tape will help to make our children’s bikes tubeless-ready.
Tubeless Tire Removal And Installation Tips
Removing and installing a tubeless tire will be different from your typical standard tire change. Make sure you read up on the process before trying to install tubeless tires. It’s a good idea to wear eye and hearing protection when changing or installing a tubeless tire just in case it blows off of a rim during the installation.
Make sure you have the following items ready:
- Tire levers
- A solid floor pump or an air compressor
- Rim tape
- Tire sealant
- Tubeless valves
- Utility knife
- Fully deflate the tubeless tire, keep the valve in an upright position, and assume there is tire sealant within it.
- Squeeze to remove all the pressure on the tire bead.
- Push inwards on both sides of the tire to loosen the tire bead from the rim sidewall.
- Use tire levers and remove the tire from the rim.
- Watch out for any fluid coming from the old removed tire, be sure to dispose of it carefully.
- Before applying a new tire, make sure you wipe the bead seat area clean off the rim. Clean up the bead as well if you plan to reuse the tire.
- Remove any traces of oil or grease from the tire and rim bed using alcohol.
- Check that the tire valve is secure in the wheel rim. If there are arrows painted on the sidewalls, these indicate the correct direction for wheel rotation.
- Align the tubeless tire with the rim.
- Place the label stating the recommended tire pressure next to the valve stem for future reference.
- Install one bead on the rim.
- Install a second bead, ending at the tire valve. You should leave a portion of the bead uninstalled.
- Try to inflate the tire. If you’re using a floor pump, you should hear a click as the tire beads seat in at around 35 psi. To avoid blowouts, don’t go above 40 psi.
- The easier option is to use a compressor or gas station air hose, again don’t go above 40 psi.
- Add the sealant into the tire and then distribute it around the sidewalls.
- Clean the tire and rim bed using alcohol.
- Apply rim tape across the inner base of the rim. You can use the utility knife to remove any excess tape. Ensure adequate pressure is applied.
- Install the tubeless valve by poking a small hole through the rim tape at the valve hole, then pushing the valve through.
- Screw the lock nut down firmly but not too tightly.
- Check the tire is rotating correctly.
- Apply the sealant into the open tire, then roll the wheel around to spread the sealant.
- Try to inflate the tire—up to 35 psi.
Be sure to check if your child’s bike is compatible with tubeless tires before attempting an installation. The majority of kids’ bikes are not tubeless-ready builds. You can convert Cleary bikes to tubeless tires, and models like our Scout 26 Inch 10 Speed Kids MTN Bike would be good candidates for a tubeless conversion.
Tubeless tires come with many benefits, but they can be tricky to install and remove. Expect to do some learning and trial and error when you install these. It’s not suitable for children to change a tubeless tire by themself. However, your child is much less likely to have flat tire issues if you switch to tubeless tires – so they won’t need frequent maintenance.