Tubed or Tubeless Tire

Tubed or Tubeless Tires

A question we get often in the shop is “should I get tubed or tubeless tires?” Unfortunately there isn’t a clear winner hear as both have their benefits and really it depends on the application. Read on to find out if tubed or tubeless tires may be right for you.

What is a tubeless tire?

Your car or truck has tubeless tires. It is a proven system where air pressure inside the tire expands and locks the “bead” of the tire into the rim. In order for it to work, both the tire and wheel need to have an interlocking channel built in. Eric Mason, General Manager Lititz Bikeworks says, “not all bikes come tubeless ready, so it helps to first find out if your bike has the right components.” Most mountain and gravel bikes these days are ready to be set up tubeless, while road and and almost all recreational bikes do not. Mason explains, “what makes bike tubeless different than your car is that we inject a sealant into the tire before we lock the bead. The sealant stays liquid in your tire and when small punctures occur, they rush to the puncture and stop the flow of air” “This brilliant innovation changed the way we ride mountain, gravel, and cyclocross bikes”, Mason adds.

The benefits of tubeless tires

Why go tubeless at all then? The main advantage, and it’s a big one, is the substantially reduced risk of puncturing. There is no inner tube to puncture, whether from sharp objects penetrating the tire or, more rarely, pinch flats when the inner tube is squashed between the rim and tire. Mark Branle, owner of Lititz Bikeworks has been using tubeless in all his bikes for over a decade. He adds, “mostly, with no inner tube and therefore no risk of pinch punctures, a tubeless tire can be run at a lower pressure. This provides increased comfort as there is more cushioning from the tire itself.” In his experience, a tubeless tire is best run 10-20 psi lower than an equivalent clincher tire.

Are there any drawbacks of tubeless tires?

Most wheel manufacturers now offer tubeless compatible wheel sets, with some providing dual compatibility with regular clincher tires, providing an ideal upgrade path. If you’ve bought a new bike recently, it might very well have tubeless-ready rims. “If not, the additional expense and hassle of upgrading may be off-putting to some consumers”, says Branle. Also, installing a tubeless tire isn’t quite as straightforward as slipping an inner tube in when you get a flat. It takes a little bit of patience and some practice. “For customers looking to switch to tubeless, we usually show them best practices for putting tires on and off and how to maintain sealant right here in the shop” adds Mason. “We want to supply our customers with a knowledge base to do basic maintenance on their own without having to rely on the shop for everything”


The best way to determine whether tubed or tubeless tire is right for you is to talk to someone who has made the switch and get their feedback. If nobody in your orbit of cycling friends has, then come in and talk to the guys in the shop. “My guys at the shop will ask the right questions and give you all the information you need to make the right choice” says Branle.

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