While the debate on whether to run tube or tubeless tires has been going on for years, it’s good to educate yourself about the advantages of tubeless tires before making the decision.
Here, we will provide you a balanced view of the pros and cons of tubeless mountain bike tires to make it easier for you to choose. We will show you when it is best to use the tubeless tires.
Now, let’s get rolling.
Tubeless Tire Basics
Unlike the traditional tube tires, tubeless tires don’t have an inner tube on the inside of the wheel.
Because of this design, the system does require a special kind of rim with a lip so the bead of the tire can sit in perfectly.
Many people choose to put some tubeless sealant or seam sealant to avoid air loss or protect the mountain bikes against punctures on trails.
Advantages of Tubeless Mountain Tires
Although the advantages of this system may still be controversial depending different riders’ styles and preference, here are what you should know for yourself.
#1 They are lighter
Even without a scale or any scientific tools, our common sense tells us already that a tubeless system will be lighter than a tube system.
To put it in a more concrete perspective, your average tube tire may weigh around 1.8 kg while the tubeless one may be around 1.7 kg.
While this may seem like a miniscule gain for some, this lightweight advantage does give some riders a lighter feel for their mountain bikes, which, are already quite heavy with all the gears.
But what advantage does a lightweight bike give you anyway? If your wheel is lighter, you will be able to accelerate faster because there is now less inertia. You will also be able to brake the bike faster in different situations.
#2 They are more bump compliant
When you’re riding a mountain bike on trails, you will often ride over bumpy spots like roots or rocks. This is when a bump compliant tire can help you ride more smoothly over rough terrains.
If we do a little squeeze test, you can see that a tube tire is harder to deform under pressure. This means that when the tires slide over hard surfaces like rocks, it doesn’t offer you the most complicancy to absorb some of the lower impacts.
The tubeless tire, on the other hand, is easier to deform because there is no tube inside it. So this means it takes less resistance to make the tire conform more to the surface of the road. With this feature, it helps you absorb some more bumps to prevent high impact on your back, knees, or joints.
In a way, if you think about tube and tubeless system like your mattress, the tube system is like your innerspring (quite hard) and the tubeless is more like memory foam (more conforming).
#3 They protect your wheels from pinch and punctures
In situations like when you’re riding in terrains with a lot of small thorns, the quick fix feature on the tubeless system may give you an advantage and more riding time.
This is because if the thorn stabs through your tire and into the inner tube, you will very much need to deflate the tire and patch the tube with some sealant or patch.
If you’re on the go and don’t have the required tools like an air pump or the sealant, it will be very cumbersome and much less enjoyable.
Without an inner tube, even if the thorn gets through the tire, there will be nothing for you to fix inside.
If you have put some tubeless sealant inside the wheel already, the sealant will help seal the hole for you when the wheels turn around.
This way, it will be much more convenient for riders on harsh terrains because they don’t need to stop their rides because of a flat tire.
Disadvantages of Tubeless Mountain Tires
#1 Not significantly lighter
Many riders argue that even though tubeless system is lighter, the weight difference is not highly significant.
Some riders joke that by not eating anything before riding, they save much more weight by using a tubeless system.
This is a valid point. While the tubeless system does take away the weight of the inner tube, it is not by much.
If you want a lighter wheel, you may consider getting a lighter tire overall, not necessarily a whole tubeless system.
#2 Less inertia
Inertia is calculated in kg/m^2. So even though your tubeless tire is lighter, this makes its inertia lower as well.
With a lower inertia, you may not be able to keep your speeds on bumpy terrains as much as a tube tire, which is again heavier.
#3 More expensive
The average price for tube tires is around $15-$20. The price for tubeless tires is way higher. It is typically around $40-$50.
Additionally, you do need to buy tubeless sealant and tubeless stem valve to go with the system. That’s about $20-$30 extra.
When to Go Tubeless
Now you know the advantages and disadvantages of the tubeless tire. But if you’re still wondering when to run tubeless, let us help you here.
If you live near places like Arizona deserts or the terrains you’re riding have lot of small thorns, then going tubeless will save you a lot of time and hassle on the trails.
If you have a trial and error attitude to experiment with the tubeless system, then you may find the best one with the rim, tire, valve, sealant that works best for your needs.
Also, if you like a lighter feel to your bike and have a slightly larger budget, then going tubeless can satisfy your expectation.
After reading, hopefully you can more easily decide if switching to the tubeless tube will be worth it for your mountain biking experience. Remember, if you hate stopping to fix your bike because of a thorn or snakebite, then running tubeless can make sense.
If you also like speeding up faster on your bike, you can also try this system. Still, if you’re undecided, go for the 2-in-1 setup with both the inner tube and no tube options available. Thanks & have fun on the trails!