Tubes vs. Tubeless

Tubes vs. Tubeless

A sliced view to highlight the rim protection and sidewall support of a Cush Core tire insert.

You may have heard the debate at your local bike shop about converting to tubeless or sticking with inner tubes, and you might be wondering what the benefits of each are. Some riders claim you must run a tubeless setup for optimal performance, while others are happy using inner tubes. So, how do you know if tubeless is right for you?

Tubeless valves become airtight against the rim with the help of a rubber base grommet and a rubber o-ring under the collar.

What is a Tubeless Setup?

This takes us back to 1999 when Mavic, Michelin and Hutchinson got together to design a tubeless system. Essentially, they designed a rim and tire combo that didn’t need an inner tube, similar to a car tire. The early innovators called their system UST, which stands for Universal System Tubeless. The UST design featured a rim channel that was completely sealed and had a raised inner ridge to hold the tire on the rim. Sealant was then used to further reduce air loss. Today’s tubeless rims have spoke holes that require tubeless tape to make them airtight. Tubeless valves and tire sealant are required to complete the system.

One method of adding sealant is to pour it in before you bead up the tire. We recommend doing this outside to avoid a mess in the shop.


• Minimize the risk of flats: Tire sealant plays a crucial role in patching tire punctures as you ride. With tubes, a thorn will give you flats and an impact with a rock or another hard object can drive your rim into your tube, resulting in a “pinch flat” or “snake bite.” To eliminate this scenario, the answer is going tubeless. This also means more time to ride and less money spent on tubes.

• The flow bonus: Although it’s a matter of personal preference, the majority of riders report a much better experience on the trail with a tubeless setup. Part of the reason is that lower air pressures can be used with tubeless systems. Low tire pressures allow the tread to conform more to the trail and provide increased traction while remaining stable. For a rider, this means better climbing performance, smoother riding through trail chatter and less chance of sliding out while cornering.

• Bike diet: Mountain bike inner tubes are typically around 200 grams (a little over 7 ounces). With some tubeless systems, pulling the tubes…

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