Tubed vs Tubeless: When is a tube better?

Tubeless and tube sets. This is one of the biggest cycling debates, discussed during group rides around the world. Despite its infamous reputation, the subject is still fairly new, with tubeless technology only making its way into road cycling in the last twenty years.

During this time, the technology has grown in popularity and is now widely used by professional cyclists and amateurs alike, gaining a cult following in some circles as fans vow to never return to the dark days of inner tubes.

Read more: The complete guide to road bike tires

While we don’t want to burst the tubeless tire bubble (we’re big fans too), there are still times when the humble tube is the best option. At this point, we think the traditional tubed setup trumps the tubeless alternative.

Ease of use for beginners

Initially, the process of installing a clincher tire is simpler compared to the added complexity associated with setting up a tubeless tire. This simplicity also translates into repairing a puncture, which is much more cumbersome with a tubeless setup – unless you’re using tubeless tire plugs, but they do add another layer of complexity for a beginner to deal with.

For beginners, it’s best to keep things as simple as possible, and for tires, that means using a tube set.

Read more: Everything you need to know about tubeless tire maintenance

Traditionalists who avoid tubeless

Cycling technology has advanced a lot over the last ten years, but not everyone is a fan of the latest developments. There is still a strong group of traditionalists in the cycling world who dislike modern trends and prefer to stick to older and more traditional forms of technology – for example, people who prefer rim brakes to disc brakes (we won’t stir up that debate this time).

Read more: A huge problem with modern tires and wheels

In line with this anti-modern stance, traditionalists reject any idea of ​​going tubeless, sticking faithfully to the tubes that have never let them down – and we think that’s great! Just because there is a trend doesn’t mean you should follow it. Ultimately, the best technology is the one you like and feel most comfortable with. So you traditionalists, stay true to your tubing!

Efficiency for commuters

Next in line, commuters. When you drive to and from work every day or even several days a week, you don’t want any hassle. You just want to hop on your bike with minimal effort and get to work or home hassle-free.

There is only one answer: an inner tube. Sure, a tubeless setup will provide extra puncture protection on potholed access roads, but you’ll have to constantly check tire pressure and replace sealant semi-regularly, which can be quite annoying.

We always recommend using clincher tires with plenty of puncture protection, such as Pirelli Cinturato, combined with a thick butyl inner tube. It won’t provide the same performance benefits as a tubeless setup, but that doesn’t really matter on your commute.

Read more: What is the best bike for commuting to work?

For holidays or parties

If you are planning a vacation or an event involving air travel, opt for inner tubes – it will make your life much easier. Although you can travel with tubeless tires fitted, leaks will be a real nightmare.

Tubeless tires also require more spare parts, such as a high-pressure floor pump or CO2 tanks in case the tire comes off the rim. If you can’t refit your tire, you’ll end up with tubes anyway, so why not keep it simple and replace your tires with tubes for your holiday? When you return, you can always go back to a tubeless setup.

Read more: Butyl, latex or TPU: which tubes are best for cycling?

Ultra-endurance cyclists

If you are an ultra-endurance cyclist who competes in multi-day competitions, you may want to avoid tubeless setups. This is because tubeless kits leak small amounts of air, which may result in the need to top up the tire pressure daily. Ultra-endurance events are already difficult enough without adding these extra little things to think about. In comparison, butyl and TPU inner tubes retain air much longer.

Given the distances they cover, ultra-endurance cyclists may also encounter the odd mechanical problem. When it comes to tires, as we mentioned earlier, it is much easier and less messy to replace a punctured tube than a tubeless tire.

What set of tires are you using? Let us know in the comments.

For more tech news, tips and features, visit the Technology section of the GCN website, linked here.

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