- 2019 Ambassador Program
Most bicycle rims are "clincher" rims for use with clincher tires. These tires have a wire or aramid (Kevlar or Twaron) fiber bead that interlocks with flanges in the rim. A separate airtight inner tube enclosed by the rim supports the tire carcass and maintains the bead lock. If the inner part of the rim where the inner tube fits has spoke holes, they must be covered by a rim tape or strip, usually rubber, cloth, or tough plastic, to protect the inner tube.
A tubeless tire system requires an airtight rim — capable of being sealed at the valve stem, spoke holes (if they go all the way through the rim) and the tire bead seat — and a compatible tire. Universal System Tubeless (UST), originally developed by Mavic,Michelin and Hutchinson for mountain bikes is the most common system of tubeless tires/rims for bicycles. The main benefit of tubeless tires is the ability to use low air pressure for better traction without getting pinch flats because there is no tube to pinch between the rim and an obstacle.
Some cyclists have avoided the price premium for a tubeless system by sealing the spoke holes with a special rim strip and then sealing the valve stem and bead seat with a latex sealer. However, tires not designed for tubeless application do not have as robust a sidewall as those that are.
French tire manufacturer Hutchinson has introduced a tubeless wheel system, Road Tubeless, that shares many similarities to the UST (Universal System Tubeless) that was developed in conjunction with Mavic and Michelin. Road Tubeless rims, like UST rims, have no spoke holes protruding to the air chamber of the rim. The flange of the Road Tubeless rim is similar to the hook bead of a standard clincher rim but is contoured to very close tolerances to interlock with a Road Tubeless tire, creating an airtight seal between tire and rim. This system eliminates the need for a rim strip and inner tube.