Almost all bicycles have tubes. Most still have tubes, unlike cars and motorbikes, which generally have tubeless tires. However, compared to the first pneumatic tire invented by John Dunlop in 1888, the modern tubed tire is similar in concept but uses much more advanced materials.
A few reasons why most bike tires have tubes tires are; 1. A tubed tire is easier to maintain; 2. Punctures are easier to fix on a bicycle with a tubed tire. 3. To seat the tire properly, you need a heavy, high-volume pump to pump up a tubeless tire after fixing the puncture.
In 1999 Mavic introduced the first tubeless bike tire. The mountain bike community was the first to adopt this new technology. Slowly gravel and road bike riders started to see the value with tubeless tires. Despite this, most bikes are still sold with tubed tires.
Why Do Bike Tires Have Tubes?
There are many advantages that tubeless tires offer over conventional tubed tires. However, most bicycle tires are tubed. Why is that?
- Tubed tires are cheaper, so bikes fitted with tubed tires cost less and bicycle ownership is accessible to many more people.
- Tubed tires require less maintenance. Tubeless tires are supplied with a pre-installed sealant which automatically repairs small punctures as and when they happen. The tube sealant is maintained in a liquid state by mixing it with ammonia. After a while, the ammonia evaporates, and the sealant congeals. Once a season, you will have to remove the tire, clean it out and add more tire sealant.
- A puncture in a tubed tire is simple and easy to fix. A large puncture in a tubeless tire that is too big for the sealant to close is more challenging to repair than the equivalent repair on a tubeless tire.
- A small repair kit and some spare tubes are all you will need to carry on a bike fitted with a tubed tire. If you have a tubeless tire, you will need to carry more repair gear around; this will include 1. high volume pump (to force air into the tire at high speed, which causes the tire to fit on the rim; 2. Spare tubes – yes, you read that correctly – to get you back on the road if the hole is too big to fix; 3. Extra sealant; 4. Tubeless plugs; 5. A sewing kit and super glue. All this adds weight.
- The only thing inside a tube is air (hopefully). Tubeless tires contain sealant, which is very messy. If the tire has a big hole, the sealant will leak out and get all over you. In extreme cases, the tire “burps” – This is an actual term – and means the tire becomes unseated from the rim, loses its air, and the sealant sprays all over – Murphy’s law means that you will be the target.
- Tubed tires are available around the world and are very easy to fit. Tubeless tire technology is specialized and requires experienced technicians to set up a tire.
What Are The Benefits Of Tubed Tires
Why consider tubeless tire technology if tubed tires are so wonderful?
Tubeless tires do offer several benefits:
- They have fewer punctures. Tubeless tires are filled with a tire sealant, and if a small object like a nail or thorn makes a hole, the tire sealant fixes the hole before you even know you had a puncture. It is very satisfying at the end of a ride to see multiple white spots on your tire and to see that it did its job and saved you from a puncture.
- Tubeless tires are not susceptible to “pinch” punctures. A tire hitting a rock or other edge causes the tire to compress hard against the rim. Tubed tires are more likely to suffer a “pinch” puncture in this situation.
- You can run them at lower pressures because tubeless tires are not susceptible to “pinch” punctures.
- A benefit of running the tires at a lower pressure makes them more supple and better able to absorb shocks, making the ride more comfortable.
- Another benefit of running tubeless tires at a lower pressure is that more tread stays in contact with the road; this results in the tire having better traction. Bikes equipped with tubeless tires can corner faster and climb inclines better. If you are riding on a “loose” or slippery surface such as ice, snow, rain, or gravel, you will be better able to continue.
- Tubeless tires are lighter than tubed tires. Taking the tube out of a tire reduces the weight by 200 grams per tire. The sealant does add some weight, but the final total is lower than the comparative tubed tires.
- A puncture in a tubeless tire (which is too large for the sealant to correct) may be fixed by using a puncture repair plug; this means you don’t have to take the bike’s wheel.
- Tubeless tires fitted to a mountain bike will achieve better momentum than their tubed cousin because the tubeless tires are run at a lower pressure. It deforms better than a tubeless tire; this means the energy is not dissipated, and the momentum is not impacted.
Can A Tubed Tire Wheel Be Converted to Tubeless Technology
If you decide that the benefits of having tubeless tires on your bike exceed the downsides, what are your options?
The good news is that most tubed tire wheels are offered as “tubeless ready” or “Tubeless Compatible.” DIY kits are available and provide all the parts and instructions to undertake conversion.
The following is required. Your tubed wheel may have some of these modifications already installed. The degree to which a wheel is Tubeless Ready or Tubeless Compatible differs from wheel to wheel.
- The rim has a bead lock. This device secures the bead of the tire to the wheel. When the tire is inflated, the tire pressure pushes the tire’s bead against the inside of the wheel rim; this makes the tire stay on the wheel, and the two rotate together.
- The rims bed is pre-sealed. Spoked wheels are attached to the wheel through small holes. These holes are not air-sealed, meaning that air can leak out of them. Sealing the rim bed means these holes are blocked up, and the rim can accept a tubeless tire.
- A tubeless tire. These tires tend to have a slightly thicker sidewall that can better form an airtight seal.
- You will need to purchase a new “Presta” valve with a broader core and allows the tire sealant to be squirted through it.
If you use your bike for a simple commute, Tubed tires are probably the best option for you. They are simple to maintain and are very reliable. T tubeless tires are a great solution if you need an edge with improved speed, grip, or comfort over rough surfaces.
Study each technology’s pros and cons to see which is suited for your needs.