Tube vs Tubeless Tires: What’s Best For Your Bike?

Your tire choice makes a huge difference to how your bike handles and rides. If you have traditional bike tires, you may be considering changing them to tubeless tires.

The tube vs tubeless tires argument is quite common. You will see on various Facebook groups and forums people arguing about the merits of both.

Both systems indeed have pros and cons, but should you make the leap over to tubeless tires?

In this post, we will go into:

  • What are tubed tires?
  • What are tubeless tires?
  • Tube vs tubeless tires
  • Tips for going tubeless

Are you ready to learn about rubber?

Let’s go!

Tube Vs Tubeless Tires Whats Best For Your Bike

What Are Tubed Tires?

An inner tube is the traditional way that a bike uses to keep the air in its tire. The tube sits around the bike wheel, inside the tire, and is inflated via a valve that protrudes through the wheel.

A traditional tire doesn’t hold any air. Its sole purpose is to provide traction with its tread and compound while damping the vibration as you ride.

The tire is reinforced by a tough wire-like structure. This gives it rigidity and robustness for the terrain you ride on.

Advantages Of Tubes

The primary advantage of riding with tubed tires is that you can quickly fix a puncture. Some people carry a puncture repair kit; this is not the best solution when you are out and about, as it can take a long time to fix.

Related article: HOW TO CHANGE A BIKE INNER TUBE IN 11 STEPS [WITH PICTURES]

However, if you carry an extra inner tube in a backpack, you can quickly change it for the punctured one. Then repair it at home when you have the chance.

This is an excellent point to remind you that you need to get the right size tube with the correct valve. If you buy an inner tube with the wrong sized valve, you won’t be able to fit it through your wheel.

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Disadvantages Of Tubes

The disadvantage of riding with inner tubes is that they are very susceptible to punctures. When riding on roads or mountain bike trails, you may roll over sharp objects that can pierce your tube.

On lightweight tires, something as small as a thorn can puncture your tire and your inner tube.

When you ride a mountain bike with inner tubes, you can be vulnerable to “pinch flats.” These occur when you hit an obstacle hard, causing too much pressure to build up in one area of the tire.

The result is two parallel holes in your tube that look like a snake bite. You may get a pinch flat when you land a jump heavily or smash your wheel into a rock or flat edge.

What Are Tubeless Bike Tires?

Tubeless tires do away with the tube altogether; therefore, the tire holds the air. Unfortunately, you can’t just fit a tubeless tire, pump it up and ride away.

Before you fit tubeless tires, you need to make sure your bike wheels are compatible. A tubeless ready wheel has a lip for the tire beading to sit in to create a strong seal. You can use inner tubes with tubeless wheels and tires too, which is helpful in an emergency.

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You pour some liquid sealant into the tire and fit a special valve to your wheel to get a good seal.

The sealant sloshes around inside your tire as you ride. But, you don’t notice it, as the amount you put in is minimal. Whenever something punctures your tire, the sealant fills the hole!

Advantages of Tubeless Tires

1. Durability

Tubeless mountain bike tires are very popular due to the nature of the terrain. They are more durable than tires with inner tubes to help with their resistance to punctures.

2. Weight

A tubeless tire is a bit heavier than one that uses a tube. However, even with the sealant, the tubeless setup is lighter, as the tube has been removed.

3. Fewer Punctures

The most significant advantage of riding with tubeless bike tires is the dramatic reduction in the number of punctures you get. Even when your tire gets pierced by something, you probably won’t know about it while you ride.

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4. Better Feel

Many mountain bikers believe that tubeless mountain bike tires give them a better feel for the surface they are riding on. This is helped by the fact that they can ride with lower tire pressures, as you don’t have to worry about pinch flats.

5. Traction

Riding with lower tire pressures increases the contact patch with the ground. This increased surface area gives you much better traction in corners and when braking.

6. Momentum

Another advantage of riding with lower tire pressures is that it is easier to maintain your momentum. The extra squish allows your tires to conform to the obstacles you ride over rather than causing you to bounce off them.

7. Smooth Riding

You also get a smoother ride with lower tire pressures, as small bumps and vibrations are absorbed.

If you tried this with inner tubes, you would get more punctures, as the lower pressure makes them less resistant to sharp objects and pinch flats.

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Disadvantages Of Tubeless Tires 

The main argument people have against fitting tubeless tires is that they can be awkward to fit. Tubeless tires have much stiffer sidewalls, making them more challenging to wrestle onto the rims.

Fitting tubeless tires can be quite a messy process. You need to pour the sealant into the tire. Sometimes you can do this through the valve with the tire mounted. But, most sealants need to be poured into the tire before popping it onto the rim.

When you fit the tire, you need to make sure it fits properly to form the necessary seal. If you get this part wrong, you have to start from scratch, which is frustrating and potentially messy.

The sealant will plug most holes you get while riding; however, it won’t seal every hole. For example, if you have a significant slice in your tire or a rip in your sidewall, the sealant will not be able to plug it.

Therefore, we recommend that you carry a spare inner tube with you while you ride. If you are mountain biking and your tubeless mountain bike tire rips, you can still get home with your spare inner tube.

If you don’t have tubeless wheels and tires, you will need to buy some. Unfortunately, they are more costly than the standard versions you already have.

But, if you are buying a brand new bike, you will notice that most bike manufacturers supply their bikes with tubeless-ready tires.

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4 Tips For Going Tubeless

If you are thinking about going for tubeless tires, you can make the process much easier with the following tips:

1. Use A Quality Track Pump Or An Air Compressor

When you fit a tubeless tire, you need to create a lot of pressure. By quickly pumping the tire to a high pressure, you will be able to make a good seal between the tire and the wheel.

You can sometimes do this with a good track pump and a lot of elbow grease. But, if you have access to an air compressor, you will find that it is a much easier task.

It is possible to use CO2 canisters to quickly inflate your tire. However, if you don’t manage to get a good seal, you will need to try again, which can get expensive.

2. Be Careful With Your Tire Levers

If you are too heavy-handed with your tire levers, you can damage the bead or rim tape. Any damage can compromise the seal, causing air to escape.

So, when you use your tire levers, be gentle and take your time. It is better to take care rather than creating a bigger job or expensive damage.

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3. Remove The Valve Core

If you remove the valve core, you can sometimes pour the sealant into it (depending on the brand). It also allows you to initially inflate the tire more rapidly to properly seat it on the rim.

Once your tire is inflated, you can put the valve core back in and inflate the tire to your required pressure.

4. Use A Tube To Seat The Tire

Sometimes the tire bead doesn’t sit well straight away. This can be due to your wheel, or the tire, even if they are brand new. But to force the tire into the correct shape, you can insert an inner tube.

Leaving the tube fully inflated in the tire may help the beading to form around the wheel.

Most of the time, fitting tubeless tires goes well and doesn’t take long. Occasionally you may get a problem, but these tips will resolve most issues you may encounter.

However, if you really struggle, take your wheels to a bike shop. Their mechanic will be able to help you.

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Are You Going To Fit Tubeless Bike Tires?

Now you know the differences, advantages, and disadvantages, you may have decided which way you want to go.

In reality, tubeless tires are the best choice for most people. There is a chance that they may be awkward when it comes to fitting them, but a puncture is more inconvenient.

Now that you’re a whizz at bike tires, why not try your hand at brakes? No harm done in becoming a more well-informed cyclist! Check this article out:

How To Fix Squeaky Bike Brakes: Causes And Solutions

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One of BikeTips' regular content creators, Tom lives in the French Alps. When he isn't writing, he can be found charging downhill on a mountain bike or snowboard. Tom's other passion is fitness, which goes a long way to help him make the most of the Alpine lifestyle.

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