The debate of tubeless vs. tube is not new among experts and non-experts. Some cyclists prefer tube tires while others defend tubeless tires, citing efficiency and high performance.
You may not realize it, but tires play a significant role in our daily lives. A flat tire in the middle of a trip can interfere with your plan, leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere for hours.
Tire companies continuously improve technology to make their products durable, more robust, and convenient.
Initially, the tires were manufactured with tubes, but technological efforts have contributed to the invention of tubeless tires. Tubeless tires have been touted as the tires of the millennials that should replace traditional tubed tires.
What is the difference between tubeless and tubular tires? This article highlights this issue and outlines each tire’s pros and cons.
See also: Top 9 Pros And Cons Of Tubeless Tires.
Traditional Tube Tires
Tube tires have two components- a hard outer tire and a soft inner tube. The inner tube is flexible and is inflated with air, while the outer tire is hard rubber intended to protect the inner tube from punctures. The inflated tube presses against the tires, enabling them to carry the rider’s and the bike’s weight. The tubes also hold the air that keeps the bike moving and prevent potential rim damage.
Advantages of Tube Tires
- Cheaper- Tube tires cost less than their tubeless counterpart, allowing those with limited means to afford them. The spare patches and tubes are cheap, with a patch kit costing less than $5.
- They are common– You can purchase tube bicycles and tube patches anywhere in the world. They are found even in the remotest part of the world. If you experience a puncture in these places, you can walk to the nearest market and buy a patch or a replacement tube.
- Easy and faster to set up – You can install a tube or tire within minutes. You will not handle the messy sealant or need a perfect seal.
- They have a small and light repair kit– Your repair kit could only have a flat spare tube, patch kit, and tire levers, which is easy to carry. It differs from the tubeless kit that involves a sewing kit, sealant, plugs, and super glue.
- Ideal for road cycling– high-pressured tube tires reduce the chances of pinch flats and puncture. You may not need tubeless if most of your riding is smooth road riding. Tube riding would be ideal in this instance, helping protect your rims.
Problems With Tube Tires
Tube tires are also full of issues that contributed to the invention of tubeless tires. Let’s highlight some of the disadvantages of tube tires.
1- Expect More Flats
One of the reasons for the invention of tubeless tires is the frequency with which cyclists experienced flats with tube tires.
A sharp glass or a tinny staple is enough to puncture the tube. If you take adventure routes in the desert environment, thorns will likely cause problems for you.
2- Poor Traction
Since tubes require high pressure, you may not achieve good traction because the tires make less contact with the ground. Traction benefits you most when climbing hills or cornering.
High pressured tube tires can cause a fall or spin out if you perform a tight corner with a loose surface at high speed.
3- Slow Ridding
Tube tires cannot run at low pressure, meaning you cannot turn as fast.
Furthermore, with the high-pressured tire, you cannot climb fast since it is challenging to pedal harder without the rear tire whirling out.
Cyclists who love new and modern gears will find tubes outdated. The industry has warmed up for tubeless, and tubes seem to be a thing of the past.
5- Heavy Wheel
Since tube tires have inner tubes, with limited engineering employed in designing rims, they are heavier than tubeless ones.
They may require more pedaling power to move, and you may feel exhausted if you are cycling long-distance. The increased weight could also contribute to lost momentum, especially when climbing.
Friction is another problem with tube tires because the tubes come into contact with the tire as you cycle, causing faster wear and tear of the tube.
The wear increases the chances of the tube puncturing.
Tubeless tires have no inner tube because the air is sealed by the tires, rim, and valve. The tires have beads made different from the tube tires, which help grip the rim tightly and seal any potential air leak. The rims have locks that hold the tubeless tire beads, thus preventing the rim from separating from the tire.
The rim bed that holds the valve is airtight and does not require tape. Tubeless tires come with a special liquid sealant poured into the tube during installation. The sealant coats and seals any micro-holes between the tire and the rim, thus preventing potential air leaks.
The sealant can also automatically fill minor holes caused by thorns, nails, and debris you may meet on the trail. This characteristic reduces the chances of experiencing a flat tire when punctured.
Modern tires and bike wheels are made tubeless compatible, meaning the rims come with a bead lock. Additionally, the rim bed may come sealed for installation.
Tubeless tires have thick sidewalls to improve their ability to keep airtight. Most tubeless tires have a Presta valve with a removable core, allowing you to add sealant when needed.
Interestingly manufacturers have built tubeless conversion kits to facilitate the conversion of existing tires and wheels to tubeless.
Pros Of Tubeless Tires
Tubeless tires are an exciting invention embraced by many riders. Below are some of their advantages:
1- Fewer flats
Fewer flats are probably the number one reason why you should go tubeless. Since they are fitted with sealant, they automatically repair minor punctures that could make tires with tubes flat.
If you encounter a thorn or nail puncture, the sealant liquid inside the tire will fill it before the air escapes. You can enjoy riding without noticing you have a puncture. You will only see white fluid on the tire, signifying where the puncture could have been.
You will likely experience a flat from a snake bit with tube tires. Snake bites often happen when you hit a hard object, rock, or a pothole and the rim bites the tube; however, with tubeless tires, you do not have a tube to pinch. You can ride long distances without a flat tire when running tubeless.
2- Better Traction
Since you are not concerned about pinch flats with tubeless tires, you can ride tubeless tires with lower air pressure. This allows the tires to contact the ground, thus improving traction fully.
Improved traction is helpful when riding on slippery or loose surfaces like ice, sand, gravel, snow, or in the rain.
Furthermore, riding with tubeless tires allows you to take sharp corners harder without wearing out your tires. Climbing steeper hills is easier with less pressured tires.
3- Better Performance
Riding tubeless tires with lower PSI makes the ride smoother, softer, and more comfortable. The tires can absorb vibrations and shocks from the ground rather than bounce them off to the rest of the bike.
You may not feel the bumps if you hit a pothole, roots, or rocks.
4- They Are Lighter
Some tubeless systems have an ideal setup that can cut approximately 400 grams from the tires.
Weight reduction makes it easier to ride longer without getting exhausted.
Cons of Tubeless Tires
Tubeless tires also have their drawbacks, and here are some of the concerns:
Tubeless tires are more expensive than their tube counterparts. If it is impossible to convert your current gear into tubeless, you will need to purchase a new one.
You will buy the wheels and the tires, which are expensive.
2- It Takes Time To Install
Mounting a tubeless tire is challenging if you have no experience doing it. It takes time to ensure that the tire bead locks properly on the rim to prevent air leaks.
Adding the liquid sealant can also be challenging for newbies who may have to do trial and error.
3- Large Repair Kit
Although tubeless tires are less prone to punctures, you still need a repair kit if you encounter an unexpected problem. The kit is often heavier than the one for tube tires.
Tubeless tires are not common, especially in developing countries. You may struggle to find rim tape, tubeless sealant, tires, or patches at the local markets.
5- Messy Sealant Liquid
The sealant liquid is a type of glue that can spill onto the gear, clothes, and hands. It can spread outside the tire if it is gushed out, creating an unpleasant mess.
Tubeless Vs. Tube Tires: Which One Is Better?
The industry is heading tubeless, with most people demanding them. Tubeless tires are the future due to their convenience and high performance. The risk of flats and pinches is significantly reduced because there is no tube.
Although there are expensive, the advantages of tubeless tires cover the expense. However, some cyclists, especially those riding on smooth surfaces, prefer tube tires for efficiency.