I have some Wiliams carbon wheels that, to my knowledge are “clincher” (takes an inner tube). They are the 58mm front, and 85mm combo wheel set. Not expressly tubeless ready, but I have been told that it possible to run tubeless if I install tubeless rim tape and accompanying tubeless components. While I understand “tubular” wheels (like the kind racers use, where the tube and tire have to be glued to the rim) absolutely cannot accept a tubeless setup, it seems that it is physically possible to convert a clincher to a tubeless setup. In comparing the Williams wheels to my Bontrager Race tubeless-ready wheels, I see essentially zero difference in the shape of the lip that retains the tire. I already know that my local bike shop discourages converting road bike wheels that are not expressly tubeless ready/compatible to tubeless, but from an objective standpoint, I really cannot see a difference in wheel construction between clincher and tubeless. So, can anyone explain the difference, or have images depicting the difference? Anybody have experience converting a clincher road bike wheel to tubeless? Can it be done safely, or is it just a hard “no”?
My end goal is to run a 700x23c Conti GP 5000 TLR or Vittoria Corsa Speed G+ 2.0 TLR tubeless tire at pressures lower than what I could do on a standard tire with tube. Thanks!
It’s not a hard no, in the is it possible sense, some rims can (can doesn’t mean should though) be setup with tubeless tires, H Plus Sons Archetypes are one that have been done successfully but the risk is the bead could blow off, most likely at the most inopportune moment. Is that worth the risk to you?
This graphic shows the difference in rim profiles. A clincher doesn’t have the same “shelf” that locks the bead in against the hook. Some might have enough of one to, but it is trial and error
Do you have a specific model number or a year of manufacture for those rims? If they don’t say that the rims are tubeless compatible, I would not set them up tubeless. Especially for road use.
Tubeless rims do a few things differently than regular clincher rims - they generally have a wider “shelf” for the bead to sit on, and the diameter of that lip is much more carefully controller because the fit between that and the tire is critical to both maintaining a seal and not blowing the tire off the rim. Some rims will also have a bump at the edge to help prevent the tire from burping under hard cornering loads. Non-tubeless clincher rims will not necessarily meet these tolerances or standards, and so even with tubeless tape and a tubeless tire you can’t guarantee the integrity of the seal. It might be fine in the stand. It might be fine on the road. It also might not be fine and blow off the tire during a hard corner in a race or a ride, taking out the people around you. There are tubeless hacks that you often see in gravel and mountain biking to convert to tubeless. Do not use them for road tires, the forces and pressures are higher and so is the risk of hurting someone other than yourself.
One final note - tubeless technology has come a long way (particularly on the road) in the last year or so. If you want to go tubeless, get on the new stuff and it’s basically magic. Anything more than a couple years old on the road tubeless side of things really isn’t worth the trouble and frustration it causes IMO.
Under no circumstances should you convert a road wheel to tubeless if it is not a “tubeless ready” wheel.
While it can be done with MTB wheels, the pressure involved with inflating a road tire are obviously significantly higher and it is very dangerous.
Just don’t do it.
Well, all of those responses are pretty helpful, and definitive. Yeah, the risk of injuring myself or others isn’t worth it. And the points about the construction differences (the “shelf”) and tolerances are well taken. A little disappointing, since I like these wheels so much, but it might be worthwhile to examine whether I can install a wider wheel, too, thereby allowing maybe a 700x28c tire, tubeless, and running lower pressures. That would lead to better rolling resistance, and a more plush ride overall. Thanks for the thoughtful responses! Dave
I love my tubeless setup but it was a big enough pain in the ass to get them setup with compatible tires and rims. I couldn’t imagine the frustration of trying to make two random components work together, let alone work safely.