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Tube vs Tubeless Tires – We Asked the Experts

Tube vs Tubeless Tires – We Asked the Experts
Written by Cobie Brown

Tube tires are the most common in the world. Most cyclists prefer them for their low cost and high performance on flat surfaces. However, when riding on slopes or irregular surfaces, tube tires aren’t the best choice.

In these cases, you need a higher contact surface for better grip and control. Installing tubeless tires to your bike may be the definitive solution to this problem. Tubeless tires are also durable and highly resistant to punctures.

If you want to learn more about these tires, you’re in the right place. Today, we’ll explain you the main difference between tube vs tubeless tires. That way, you’ll better know which option to use in certain circumstances.

Tube Vs Tubeless Tires: The Main Differences

tubeless tires vs tube tires

How does a tubeless tire work?

As their name suggests, these tires don’t need an inner tube In this case, the rim, the valve and the tire are attached and sealed. A liquid sealant is poured into the wheel to fix small punctures on the go.

There are usually two alternatives to install tubeless tires:

  • Using a tubeless conversion kit
  • Using a prefabricated tubeless wheel

If you opt for a conversion kit, first make sure that the rim is completely sealed. Also, you’ll need to install a tubeless valve to seal the hole of the rim. The tire must also be compatible with tubeless setups. To verify this, the tire must be marked with the letters “UTS”, which means “Universal Tubeless System”.

In the case you need to replace the tire of a tubeless wheel, you don’t have to add liquid sealants. However, most cyclists prefer to do it to improve resistance to punctures.

Tubeless tires advantages

Less flat tires

When you’re riding a bike, there’s a high chance of hitting a sharp object on the road. Maybe a rock, a screw or a nail. This is the main cause of pinch flats on tube tires. However, the same doesn’t happen when you use a tubeless setup.

The liquid sealant inside the tire helps fixing those small punctures while the wheel is still rotating. So, you won’t notice a considerable loss of pressure during the ride.

More grip

If you use a tube tire, you’ll need to keep the air pressure high to prevent pinch flats. However, too much air pressure also means less grip. On the other hand, tubeless tires don’t need high air pressure to properly work.

This fact allows the tire to deform a little bit so a bigger pattern area makes contact with the ground. This results in greater stability and grip. At the same time, changing direction at high speeds will be much safer.

More control on slopes

Going up a slope can be dangerous, especially if your tires don’t provide the necessary traction. That’s why using tube tires on irregular terrain isn’t always a good idea. In these cases, tubeless tires are much better. They give you more control on uneven terrain, because there’s a greater contact area between the tire and the ground.

Less weight

The absence of the inner tube makes tubeless tires lighter than their tube counterparts. Less weight means less effort while pedaling.

Tubeless tires Disadvantages

Longer installation time

Installing a tubeless tire is a time-consuming task. Especially if you opt for a tubeless conversion kit.

Require periodic maintenance

Over time, the liquid sealant tends to dry inside the wheel. If you wait too long, small solid boogers start to form inside the wheel. These boogers also make the ride quite uncomfortable. In order for this not to happen, it’s recommended to replace the liquid sealant every three months.

Higher price

Usually, prefabricated tubeless tires and conversion kits are much more expensive than tube tires. However, they worth every penny.

Not safe with big punctures

In the case of a big puncture, the liquid sealant will probably escape through the hole. When this happens, carrying a spare tube tire will be your only chance to continue your ride safely.

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How does a tube tire work?

Tubular tires have an inner tube glued to the tire casing. This configuration provides greater resistance to high impacts. Also, tube tires are perfect to ride on flat surfaces and reach high speeds. Therefore, they’re especially recommended for competitions.

However, their performance on slopes and irregular terrain isn’t the best. They’re also prone to punctures and repairing them isn’t easy.

Tube tires advantages

They’re cheaper

Tube tires are much cheaper than tubeless tires. Also, repairing them won’t cost you more than $5 if you intend to do it by yourself.

Easy to install

In addition, tube tires are very easy to install. The installation process will only take a few minutes if you use the right tools. Also, you don’t need to inflate the tires quickly to seal them as it happens with tubeless tires.

They’re very common

You can always find tube tires on any bike store, no matter where you’re. So, tube tires are the best choice when you travel the world with your bike.

Easy to repair

Tube tires are also easy to repair. All you need to do is sticking a patch on the inner tube to get back to the road. It doesn’t matter the size of the puncture. A good quality patch can always resist. However, tubeless tires may be impossible to repair if the puncture is too big.

They don’t need sealants

Tube tires don’t require added sealants to work properly. So, you won’t have to spend money on a new bottle every three months.

Tube tires disadvantages

They’re prone to pinch flats

As said before, tube tires are prone to punctures. So, any sharp object in the way can ruin your trip. In these cases, using tires with puncture protection may reduce the occurrence of pinch flats.

You have too keep the air pressure high

Tube tires need high air pressure to work properly. Running on low pressure increases the occurrence of punctures and rim deformation.

Less grip

As tube tires need to be run on high pressure, the contact surface between the tire and the ground is less. This considerable loss of friction means less control on slopes and irregular terrain.

Heavier and slower

Each tube adds 200 extra grams to the wheels. So, you’ll need to try harder while pedaling to move faster.

Require frequent maintenance

As tube tires are more prone to pinch flats, you’ll need to patch them very frequently. If you use to ride on uneven terrain, the maintenance frequency will be higher. So, tube tires aren’t the best for mountain biking or bikepacking.

Tubeless vs Tube Tires: What is the best?

As you can see, tube and tubeless tires have their own pros and cons. Each option is more appropriate than the other in certain circumstances. For example, tube tires are ideal for flat surfaces. Also, they help you reach high speeds without too much effort.

On the other hand, tubeless tires are better for slopes and uneven surfaces. In addition, they’re more resistant to punctures. So, according to the type of terrain you transit, it’s up to you to choose the correct type of tire.

FAQs

1. Can you put a tube in a tubeless tire?

Ans. Yes. It’s possible to install an inner tube on a tubeless tire. However, you may need to modify the rim to make it possible.

2. What is the average service life of tubeless tires?

Ans. It all depends on the general conditions of the tire. Usually, it’s convenient to replace the tire when the puncture is too large.

3. What is the main reason of tubeless flat tires?

Ans. Maybe the sealant inside the tire is completely dry or the puncture is too big.

4. What is the recommended air pressure for tubeless tires?

Ans. In these cases, it’s convenient to keep the pressure between 25-30 PSI. Use the minimal pressure if you intend to go up a slope.

5. What happens when a tubeless tire gets a puncture?

Ans. If the puncture is small, the liquid sealant inside the tire fixes the problem. However, if the puncture is big, the sealant escapes through the hole and the tire completely deflates.

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About the author

Cobie Brown

Born and grew up in Colorado, I chose to work in the field of what I liked most, biking. I’ve been working as a full time mechanic in the cycling industry for over 13 years. I started BMXing when I was just a 6-year-old kid and got hooked from the very first day. Then I started riding and not a single day went by since then that I didn’t touch my bike.

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