Muddymoles mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

Dr Sludge or Slime tubes – an alternative to tubeless tyres

Posted by Tony | February 23, 2009 | 23 comments so far

Tubes, tubeless or… the Third Way

Every so often something comes along in mountain biking that divides people up.

I’ve been mountain biking so long that I remember when it was rigid or those new fangled Rock Shox forks things. However I don’t think that mountain bikers have ever been as polarised as those who are running inner tubes versus tubeless tyres. Love or hate doesn’t seem to come close.

Up until recently tubeless has never been on my radar, but with the acquisition of my new Trek Fuel EX8 with ‘tubeless ready’ wheels, I thought that the time had come for a go with tubeless. So after much advice from the other Muddymoles I got a replacement Bontrager valve and some Stan’s sealant.

Next it was round to Dave’s for the use of his compressor. Much to our joint frustration it was fairly obvious that the Bontrager wheels were far from tubeless ready. Even with the compressor going full blast there was no way the tubes were going to sit on the bead and seal.

This frustration with tubeless made me reassess what I wanted of my tyres and I drew up my pro/cons to decide what to do.

Inner tubes

The pro’s of using inner tubes

  1. It works – it’s been around for years and everyone knows how to change tubes.
  2. It’s the cheapest way to go. No expensive UST tyres or rims (have you seen the cost of these things? £45 for a tyre! This has to be marketing mark up).

The con’s of using inner tubes

  1. Punctures!!! This is obviously the big negative and it’s one of the main downers you can have in mountain biking.
  2. It’s heavier than tubeless. (not sure about this one since UST tyres and rims are both heavier than standard rims unless you go for Stans rims, plus there is the 50-75g of sealant).

Tubeless tyres

The pro’s of using tubeless tyres

  1. No punctures. Obvious really but still has to be stated.
  2. Lighter weight. See above – I don’t buy this marketing hype.
  3. Lower pressure / better grip / better feel? Maybe I can feel this on a road bike but on as full susser – no way.
  4. Works well as a full UST rim system / tyres (but not for tubeless ready for me).

The con’s of using tubeless tyres

  1. Expensive. See above.
  2. Leaks / burps. Generally a pain if you need to pump the tyres up before you go for every ride and a major pain if you lose too much air out on the trail.

Obviously either way has it’s pros and cons. What I want is it a straight forward way to keep the air in my tyres, that I can use with my standard wheels and tyres that—as far as possible—doesn’t puncture, plus that’s easy to install and that doesn’t cost a fortune.

Sealant tubes – the Third Way…

Ok before you all get images of commuter shopper bikes with super heavy duty tyres, rim protection strips and downhill weight tubes, have you looked at sealant tubes recently?

A couple of us Muddymoles, plus the Molettes, have been running the third way over the winter using Dr Sludge or Slime tubes. All without a puncture. No hassles and very few costs. I personally think that since there is no marketing hype for sealant tubes very few people look at using them.

Now my Trek has some very nice Slime Lite tubes (200g) which have already passed with flying colours a couple of rides such as the recent Polesden Lacy, Admirals trackway hawthorn puncture feasts. They fulfil many of the things I want.

  • Cost – £14 for 2 tubes from Rutland Cycles eBay site
  • Weight – +50g per wheel over standard tubes/tyres
  • Punctures – none so far over the whole winter.
  • Ride – no noticeable difference to tubes / tubeless to me anyway.

In summary. Don’t want to go tubeless, don’t want punctures? Give the Third Way a go.

Filed under Mutterings, Trends in February 2009


About the author

There are 23 comments on ‘Dr Sludge or Slime tubes – an alternative to tubeless tyres’

We love to get comments from our readers - if you've spent a few moments to comment, thank-you.

If you haven't had a chance yet, jump to our comments form if you have something to say.

  1. Dave says:

    Well I’m already converted as the 29er has been puncture free all winter and the wheel in the 456 with the Dr Sludge in it has the same record (well it did until I had to change the tyre then there were the thorns to remove etc).

    If your only reason for going tubleless is less tube changing on the trails then Dr Sludge/Slime does it fine.

    Anyway, this thread is bound to polarise the factions!

  2. Oliver says:

    My mate used to get no end of punctures but since running slime tubes, I’ve never known him to have one! In fact, on our trip to Afan this weekend, I got 2 punctures (standard tubes) and he got none.

    The only down side is you occasionally get a splattering of green gunk when letting air out of the tyres, small price to pay if you ask me though!

  3. Matt says:

    I haven’t tried the Slime option but may consider it for the On-one which currently has normal inner tubes. Having said that I’ve only had one puncture in 200 miles this winter, it was at a particularly inopportune time though!

    UST tyres on Mavic 819 wheels have given me no problems in over 1000 miles, but on the occassions they have failed it’s due to cuts too big for the latex to cope with, which would have been the same with the slime tubes.

    Unless you’re carrying a spare emergency tube to stick in though this is another demerit against tubeless.

    I’m not convinced about the whole lighter weight / lower pressure thing either but my main shout for UST is that when you go for a ride you expect not to get a puncture. With normal tubes, you’re resigned to it and that’s a huge psychological difference.

    The other benefit for me is the 819 rims are very stiff wheels, coupled with a bolt through Pike it means I just ride whatever’s in the way… Inner tubes need a bit more finesse!

  4. Dominic says:

    The wheels on the EX8 need a rim strip, a special one from Bontrager to seal properly. Did you get that too???….


  5. Dave says:

    That’s an interesting one Dom, Tony and I pondered over the rim strip as it did feel like air was coming our all round the rim.

    I’d say though that I don’t believe the count as “Tubeless ready” if that is the case, more like “Tubeless capable”.

    Matt, you know my theory of Pike, I just ride it, no matter what is in the way so I’m not sure that tubes need more “finesse” ;o)

  6. Tony says:

    Hi Dom

    Nope no special rim strip – I did look thoroughly at the Bontrager website and it just indicated that I just had to change the valve and add the sealant. I suspect that you could be right since although the rim had a fairly big/tight fitting rim strip it didn’t look quite right.

    The Bontrager website and info on the bike handbook/on the tyres was not much use. The Bontrager specific rim strips don’t look like Stan’s either – creating the seal. To be honest I don’t want the tubeless hassle now. So I’m not going to spend another £10-15 on some rim strips.

    I forgot another thing for my article – another “con” I think that it’s a complete pain to change of tubeless ready tyres if you want to swap tyres occasionally.

    Finally – anyone want ¾ of a bottle of Stan’s sealant?

  7. Dominic says:

    I looked into doing it and had a chat with Dan/Roger at Head for the Hills and they both said I would need a special rim strip (sounds dodgy…) so I decided against it. I have used the slime inner tubes and found that if you over pump them and then let air out the slime clogs up the valve, completly stopping you from adding more air……

    I just use inners tubes now, glad as well as had 30 min stop on thursday trying to stop a flint cut ona set of tubeless that then became tubed….


    • Bradley says:

      I am forever getting punctures, to the point that I’ve literally spent over £30 on air inner tubes in under a month

      To all that have used this slime, Could you let me know if it is truly reliable or would I just be wasting more money??

      • Matt says:

        Hi Bradley, given what you’ve said I think it would be useful for you to understand why you keep getting punctures?

        Is it just bad luck? We’ve all had that – one of our number had a dodgy rim tape that kept cutting his valves! How we laughed… Is it running tyres at too low a pressure? Or the ‘wrong’ tyres for the trails you are on (like light weight tyres on fast downhill courses)? Some simple changes might save you more trouble down the line.

        For us, we have long since switched entirely to tubeless tyres and many modern mountain bikes are pre-set for this with tubeless ready tyres and wheels. But, if you don’t use the bike too often, tubes do make some sense as the sealant eventually dries up over time. And some people just prefer tubes.

        The Sludge/Slime options do work, check the valves can be replaced and you can then remove them for cleaning and to top up the fluid when/if it dries up.

        As others have noted, if you get an unsealable puncture you’ll need a regular tube available as the sealant stops patches sticking. And at that point, check your tyres have no thorns sticking through before you put the new tube in!

  8. Colin says:

    I’m currently employing “The 4th Way” on the Inbred. Top secret and will only let on after more testing.

    Watch this space folks. Blog post coming soon.

    I’m in the anti-tubeless camp too. The slime tubes at the expense of an extra 50g seem unbeatable. But like I say, watch this space…………

  9. mike61 says:

    Used Dr Sludge for about 5 years – brilliant!

    Whenever I remove the tyre to change it the tube is full of sealed up thorn punctures, only real killer for them is sharp flints through the sidewall.

    At my svelte 13.5 stone (& climbing) 50g is irrelevant.

  10. Muddymoles says:

    Trek Fuel EX 8 2008 review

    A detailed review of the Trek Fuel EX 8 mountain bike with pictures. Overall, a great bike with carefully judged components.

  11. wayne says:

    I have used both types of slime tubes, will not buy the lite vesion again because there is very little sealing fluid in them.

    Always carry a spare tube, when a slime tube fails (which has happened to me twice) you will never be able to patch it.

  12. StevenD says:

    Any update on slime tubes ? As I need to get some new tubes soon I was considering slime tubes.

    The main downside I can see is whether the slime blocks the valve if you need to release air from the tyres – surely if the valve is at the bottom then this would not be problem ?

    On other sites the extra weight seems to be an issue, is that such a biggie ? I think it might be easier to lose weight around my middle (or perhaps not, LOL) ?

    Is there anything to consider ? I am running old skool (ie normal tubes) at the moment.


  13. John R says:


    in my experience the Slime tubes undoubtedly work well for small holes around the circumfrence and will often retain pressure with several thorns in the tyre.

    However there are some drawbacks:

    – They are a bit heavier

    – They wont seal pinch flats

    – You can’t repair them when they don’t seal because the slime coming out of the hole stops the patches adhereing. So you must carry spare tubes.

    – The slime can restrict the valve if you let air out, but this is more of a niggle than a major problem.

    After using them for a few years I eventually changed to using tyre tape to prevent the thorns getting in – Slime sell a pretty good one. I still only get a handful of flats a year – nearly always pinch flats, and can fix them with a patch.

  14. Dave says:

    I used Dr Sludge (from CRC) and found them to be very good at dealing with thorns. I’ve never been worried about the weight too much!!

    I’ve also used some Schwalbe tubes and made my own (they have removable cores so you can replace them if they gum up, but so do the Dr Sludge)

    However……I have also now gone back on my “I’ll never run tubeless” and am now half way through converting my third bike to UST.

  15. StevenD says:

    Thanks for the input. Most of my punctures are from thorns though I got one from a piece of flint yesterday evening (that caused a nasty cut on my finger when I found it – no pain but so much blood, urgh) that I am not sure anything would have stopped. I will probably try a slime tube on the rear and see how I get on. fwiw I always carry a spare tube (and thankfully, plasters) in my back pack.

  16. cyclins says:

    When Dr Sludge gets flat from puncture. Just spin the flat tyre wheel so that sealing liquid spreads. Then just fill the tyre with air and its like a new!

  17. Jack R says:

    The Dr Sludge tubes are worth their (moderately heavy) weight in gold.

    After more than 15 puntures this week (see below) I have not had to remove the tyres ONCE! I’ve had to re-inflate the tyre a couple of times since it can take a short while the the sludge to plug the hole in the tube, but when it’s dark and cold that is infinitely better than grubbing about trying to get the tyre off and patch the tube.

    Going to try semi slicks rather than the usual knobbly tyres when the weather warms up.

    * {The hawthorn hedges alongside my commute were cut this winter, leaving shards and thorns EVERYWHERE. Grrr.}

  18. Related: Trek Fuel EX 8 2009 review | Reviews, Bikes | Muddymoles: Mountain biking (MTB) in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

  19. Peer says:

    Hi ,I have a tyre of a ride-on lawn mower which is cracked on the sides.

    Can I use sludge to repair it.

  20. Peer says:

    Hi, Can I use sludge to repair the tyre of a ride-on lawnmower which is cracked on the sides.

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.