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.
The pro’s of using inner tubes
- It works – it’s been around for years and everyone knows how to change tubes.
- 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
- Punctures!!! This is obviously the big negative and it’s one of the main downers you can have in mountain biking.
- 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).
The pro’s of using tubeless tyres
- No punctures. Obvious really but still has to be stated.
- Lighter weight. See above – I don’t buy this marketing hype.
- Lower pressure / better grip / better feel? Maybe I can feel this on a road bike but on as full susser – no way.
- Works well as a full UST rim system / tyres (but not for tubeless ready for me).
The con’s of using tubeless tyres
- Expensive. See above.
- 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.