TPU tubes are gaining attention as the third force in bicycle tires. We summarize its features, advantages and disadvantages of using it on road bikes and MTBs, and major manufacturers.
Table of contents
What is the difference between tubeless and tubeless ready tires?
In the past few years, more and more products, especially wheels, have become compatible with tubeless and tubeless ready tires. Shimano’s new DURA-ACE and ULTEGRA wheels are also tubeless-compatible models, and the trend is toward tubeless and tubeless ready tires.
It is important to note that “tubeless” and “tubeless ready” are completely different standards. Both are tire standards that can be installed without a tire tube, but the major difference is “whether or not a special sealant is required inside the tire.
Let’s compare the differences between tubeless and tubeless ready tires in the table below.
|Wheels||tubeless-only||tubeless-only or tubeless-ready-only|
|Tire Tube||Not Required||Not Required|
It is important to note that both tires and wheels basically require dedicated products for tubeless and tubeless ready, respectively. However, in theory, tubeless wheels can also be used with tubeless ready wheels.
There are also users who dare to use sealant on tubeless tires that do not require sealant in order to make them airtight.
What are the advantages of tubeless and tubeless ready tires?
Low-pressure operation improves ride comfort.
Conventional tires with internal tire tubes, such as clinchers and tubulars, require higher air pressure because the tire is lifted by the tube. This is because low air pressure causes frictional resistance when the tire and tube rub against each other, or the tube punctures when it strikes the rim.
However, since tubeless and tubeless ready tires have no tube inside, there is no cost to worry about tube-derived punctures, and as long as the tire is inflated to “the pressure necessary for the tire to hold its shape,” it can be ridden without problems.
At lower pressures, the tire cushions more and absorbs vibrations received from the road surface with the tire, thus increasing ride comfort. Especially on rough roads, with high pressure tires, you will feel the vibration on your body, but tubeless and tubeless ready tires will cause less vibration.
This is also the reason why tubeless and tubeless ready tires are widely used on gravel roads and MTBs.
A common occurrence with clincher tires is a rim-striking puncture, which occurs when the tire tube gets caught between the rim and the tire and rips. In the case of tubeless and tubeless ready tires, rim-striking punctures do not occur because there is no tube, and the only time a puncture occurs is when a hole is made in the tire itself.
In the case of clinchers, air escapes all at once through a large air escape route because a gap is created between the rim and tire if the pressure is not high enough, but in the case of tubeless and tubeless ready tires, the air escape route is only through a hole in the tire because the rim and tire are airtight. This results in a “slow puncture,” in which air escapes gradually.
What are the disadvantages of tubeless and tubeless ready tires?
Maintenance costs are high
The biggest disadvantage of tubeless and tubeless ready tires in their current state is probably cost.
Tubeless tires are more expensive than clinchers, and tubeless wheels are often more expensive than clinchers.
Also, wheels and tires are strictly matched, and some manufacturers may specify that this tire should be used with this wheel.
Therefore, it may not be possible to reduce the cost of clincher wheels by using inexpensive tires, as is the case with clinchers.
Maintenance is a hassle
One thing about both tubeless and tubeless ready tires is that they require high pressure to raise the bead. While a pro store can handle this with a special inflator, an individual must use a pump with a booster or a CO2 cylinder to inflate from zero.
Tubeless ready tires also require the hassle of filling sealant. Sealant needs to be refilled once a year.
This is a hassle compared to clinchers, where you just put in the tube, fit the tire, inflate it, and you’re done.
Repairing a flat tire on the road is difficult.
Compared to clinchers, where you just change the tube and you’re done, changing a tubeless or tubeless ready tire is much more difficult.
You need to carry a replacement tire (not a tube) and sealant, and if you use sealant, you need to have rubber gloves with you, otherwise you will be covered in sealant while changing a tire if you get a puncture on the road.
Let’s choose carefully considering the advantages, disadvantages, and operation.
Switching from clincher or tubular tires to tubeless or tubeless ready tires will not only significantly increase ride comfort, but also significantly change the operation around the tire itself.
The disadvantages are mainly in terms of operation, but also in terms of cost, such as the need to ask a store if you cannot raise the tire bead yourself, which is greater than with clinchers or tubulars.
If you use tubeless or tubular ready tires, you will also need a set of wheels, so be sure to take this into consideration before making your choice.