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.
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Tire inserts are cushioning materials that can be placed inside tubeless tires
Tire inserts are cushioning materials that are placed inside tubeless tires to absorb the impact of the tire from the road surface. The material depends on the manufacturer, but by inserting a sponge-like tube in the same way as the inner tube, it protects the tire and rim from road impacts.
To understand how it actually works, watch the video below.
Tire inserts have been gaining attention in the MTB and cyclocross communities over the past few years, but recently they have spread to road racing, and have recently been used by pro teams in the Paris-Roubaix, a classic race over cobblestones.
Tire inserts can only be used with “tubeless” tires.
The first thing to know is that tire inserts are not a replacement for inner tubes. Therefore, they must be used in a tubeless environment (tires, rims, etc.) and cannot be used in a clincher environment.
Also, a special valve must be used to raise the bead of the tubeless tire with the tire insert inserted and to hold air.
What is the life expectancy/replacement time of tire inserts?
Tire insert life/replacement times vary by manufacturer, but Tubolight, a leading manufacturer of tire inserts, describes the life expectancy as follows
- gravel/cyclocross when 6 new tires are replaced
- cross-country/marathon with 3-4 new tires
- downhill/enduro with 2-3 new tires
Whether this is a long or short life depends on how you ride, but for gravel and cyclo-cross use, the cost is not bad.
Advantages and disadvantages of using tire inserts
The biggest advantage of using tire inserts is that they mitigate attacks to the tire/rim on bumps and other impact-prone roads.
Tubeless tires eliminated “tube-derived punctures” such as rim-striking punctures by excluding the tube, but there was still a risk of punctures in the tire itself.
In highly competitive riding such as MTB and cyclocross, routing and falling off the bike can cause large impacts to the rim and tire, and such strong impacts can damage the sidewalls and wheel rims, even with tubeless tires.
The tire insert is a part that compensates for such “last weak point of tubeless tires”.
The tire insert itself also acts as a cushion, so that even if a tubeless tire sustains a puncture that is too severe to hold air, the tire insert will hold the tire in place of air, allowing you to continue driving.
Although it is not possible to run anywhere with a flat tire, some manufacturers claim that they can run about 50 km at a speed of 20 km/h. In other words, “to a certain extent, you can run with a flat tire.
In other words, “to some extent, it is possible to run with a flat tire.
The disadvantage of tire inserts is that they are costly.
First, using tire inserts requires a tubeless environment, so tubeless tires, tubeless wheels, and tubeless valves are needed. Depending on the grade, it can cost several hundred dollars to get everything you need.
In terms of cost, the tire insert itself is actually an expensive part. Depending on the manufacturer, the actual retail price ranges from $50 to $100. Compared to inner tubes and sealants, which used to cost tens of dollars per wheel, this is a very expensive category.
In addition, tire inserts may look sturdy, but they are actually consumables. Although some manufacturers claim that they can last as long as six new tires, heavy riders will need to replace them every two years or so.