While tubeless tires have become the predominant choice for mountain bikers and even gravel riders, road cyclists have been slower to go tubeless. One reason is that tubeless tires have been messy and hard to install, especially on low-volume road tires. These tires have also been heavier, were offered in only limited models/brands, and the set up was an additional expense for wheels, tires and sealant.
The main benefits of tubeless tires include avoidance of flats and the ability to run low pressure to improve comfort and traction — all of which are important on bumpy off-road surfaces. However, given that most roads are smooth, and flats due to impact (if not, in general) have not been a huge concern for road cyclists, the benefits have yet to outweigh the drawbacks, and so the reliable tubed-tires have persisted.
HOW TUBELESS HAS EVOLVED
Since the off-road disciplines embraced tubeless, the technology has advanced and many common issues have been fixed. The beads of the tires lock to special grooves on the rim more easily now so getting the tire to seal and ‘seat’ (lock together) is easier. There are now pumps that allow you to store compressed air to help provide a boost to pop the tire on.
Road tires are also getting wider with many road cyclists using 28c or larger tires (I have used 32c road tires over the last few seasons). This added volume makes room for sealant and an overall easier time getting the tires mounted. These larger volume tires are generally run at lower pressures to enhance control and comfort, and tubeless helps avoid flats due to pinches since there are no tubes to pinch!
As more people switch to tubeless, most brands are making tires that are ready to be set up that way so you can keep your favorite tread and have it tubeless, too. With the popularity of the gravel discipline, more people are pushing the limits of what their road bikes can do, so having wider tires and tubeless tires let’s you adjust your pressure down and be less concerned that you will flat due to impact or debris you pick up on the road less traveled.