Tube vs Tubeless Tires: What you need to know.

Did you know that your motorcycle has either tube or tubeless tires? Do you know what the difference is besides one has a tube and the other doesn’t? This two different types of tires have different pros and cons and even different applications.

Tubeless tires on a BMW

Tubeless tires are airtight in and of themselves. A tire with a tube in it, uses the tube as a “bladder” filled with pressurized air. This “bladder” is also called the inner tube. So basically the tubeless tire is made of one piece, while the tube tires utilizes two pieces. Another interesting note is that the tube tire was used first before tubeless tires.

Tubed Tires

There’s a few reasons why the tubed tires were developed and used first. The outside of a motorcycle’s tire needs to be tough and durable so that you can put many miles on it before it wears out. On the contrary the inside of the tire needs to be softer and flexible to aid in installation of the tire on the rim. In addition to this the manufacturing processes of the rubber tires will greatly vary the rubber’s material properties. So this is how the first motorcycle tires ended up being tubed tires. The two different rubber pieces had different material properties enabling long tire life on the outside tire and a softer more flexible inside.

Spoked (wired) wheels go hand in hand with tubed tires. This is because the laces on the spoked wheels go through the rim making an air tight rim very difficult to produce. Because of this, a two piece tubed tire works great for spoked wheels. In more recent years, stronger, airtight wheels without spokes have been developed and used allowing for tubeless tires.

Tubeless Tire

Tubeless tires offer significant advantages over their tubed tire rivals. One advantage is that tubeless tires are lighter. This is a big advantage because reducing rotational mass (tires) can payback huge dividends in handling and performance. Other pros include that the tires run cooler, and they offer a wider range of options for tire profile.

However, those aren’t the only advantages, tubeless tires handle punctures much better than tubed tires. A tubed tire can deflate almost instantaneously whereas a tubeless tire as a better chance of capturing the nail (or whatever is puncturing the tire) and sealing the puncture. So basically the bottom line is a tubeless tire is safer because you have a better chance of a slow tire deflation than an instant deflation in a tubed tire.

Tire Repair

Flat tires are important to discuss because the way you repair these two types of tires differs. This is another place where tubeless tires outshine tubed tires. For a tubeless tire, the item that made the puncture can be removed, and the tire can be patched with a plug kit.

Tubed tires are much more difficult to repair. The wheel has to be removed from the motorcycle so that you can access the inner bladder/tube of the tire. Then you have to patch the tube or replace the tube (assuming you’re carrying a spare). Lastly you have to reinstall the tire on the motorcycle and re-inflate the tire. While this is doable for some, it adds extra steps, and an important factor is that you will need some method of supporting/raising your motorcycle so that you can remove the tire.

Why do some bikes still have Tubed Tires?

So with all the benefits of tubeless tires, why do some motorcycles hold onto tubed tires? Well it basically boils down to two things: off-road performance and appearance. Spoked wheels hold up to off-road abuse far better than other wheels, and generally speaking spoked wheels have tubed tires.

Spoked tires offer superior off-road performance

The added structural supported to spoked wheels is essential for holding up to the abuse of rocky terrain, jumps, and anything else you might find off the beaten path. High end adventure bikes utilize spoked wheels, but they get around using tubed tires. They do this by attaching the end of the spokes to the edge of the rim. This gives the structural benefits of a spoked wheel, but it also allows a tubeless tire to be used.

The second place you might find a tubed tire is on a retro styled cruiser. Motorcycles looking to perfect that classic look will have to have spoked tires. The spoked wheels will then require tubed tires.

The Valve Stem

The valve stem is common to both types of tires, but what it attaches to differs between tube and tubeless tires. The valve stem is the orifice that allows you to inflate your tires. On a tubed tire, the valve stem is attached to the tube. This means that when you replace your tire, you’ll also be replacing the valve stem.

A tubeless tire, the valve stem separate from the tire. The stem is actually located on the rim. Its important to change the valve stem with each tire change. This is because tires heat up with friction from the road and braking. This heating and cooling will stress and weaken rubber components and seals. As these components leak, you could end up with a flat tire.

Conclusion

The more you know about your motorcycle the better off you will be. In summary, if you spend most of your miles on the road, you’re better off with a tubeless tire. If you do a lot of off-roading, you will want spoked wheels. Be sure to check if your off-road motorcycle has tubed or tubeless tires. This will play a critical factor in the gear you need to patch the tire and temporarily fix a flat. Lastly, if you’re in the market for new motorcycle tires, check out Revzilla’s tire finder. This tool makes finding your next tires an easy task!