Motorcycle tires once required a rim strip and tube to hold air. Over the years, the industry learned to build a better wheel, and tubeless tires eventually became king. With tubeless tires now dominant in the motorcycling industry, many riders wonder: Which is better, tube or tubeless tires? It depends on your wheels and riding conditions.
Which Is Better, Tube or Tubeless Tires?
The type of wheel you have on your motorcycle determines which is better, tube or tubeless tires. There really is no situation in which one tire is better than the other. It is more a matter of which tire is appropriate for your intended usage.
Early motorcycle wheels used only spoked rims and wheels. That was the best way to produce wheels quickly and cheaply. The spokes also make it possible to true the rim after it takes a few hits while riding. Unfortunately, spokes make it impossible to hold air within the rim. Thus, a rim strip and tube are needed to hold air and maintain pressure.
Can You Use Tubeless Ready Tires With Tubes?
Some riders might find themselves eyeing a particularly good deal on tubeless tires. Or maybe they just really like a particular tire brand and model that is tubeless and wonder, “Can you use tubeless ready tires with tubes?” You can, but only if you mount them to spoked wheels designed for tubed tires. That is because you cannot mount a tubed tire with its self-contained valve stem onto a tubeless wheel. There is no place to put the valve stem on the tube.
There are generally two ways to use a tubeless tire on a spoked wheel. The easiest way is to use it like a tubed tire and mount it with a tube inserted inside. You will not get the same air pressure rating as you would with a tubeless wheel, but the tubeless tire will mount to a rim that is the correct diameter. Then you need to figure out how it will hold air. That is where the tube comes into play.
The other way to use a tubeless tire on a spoked wheel is to seal every spoke hole on the wheel with a spoke in place. That requires welding each one into place and makes it harder to adjust the wheel afterward for truing purposes. The rim also needs to have a bead that will hold the tubeless tire in place. Otherwise, it will not hold air and could wind up slipping and losing air when you ride.
How Long Do Tubeless Tires Last?
Tubeless tires handle heat better than their tube-tire counterparts. That makes tubeless tires ideal for sport bikes that are capable of attaining extremely high speeds. Depending on your riding style, tubeless tires commonly last about 8,000 to 10,000 miles before the tread depth is too low. Tire manufacturers generally give estimates on expected mileage for specific tires. That makes it a lot easier to answer the question, “How long do tubeless tires last?”
The tread compound also affects tire life. The softer the compound, the faster it wears down. It might give you superior traction on hotter roads, though. Some road tires with soft compounds last as little as 6,000 miles. A harder compound generally gives the tire more durability. It can also make it slick in cold riding conditions. When you take care of them properly, a good rule of thumb is to expect about 10,000 miles from good tubeless road tires as well as tubed tires. Dirt tires will deliver fewer miles due to their knobby tread design.
When a Tubed Tire Might Work Better
When it comes to simple riding performance, there are times when you need to decide which is better, tube or tubeless tires? A tubed tire does have a couple of advantages over its tubeless counterpart. The first is that tubed tires cost less but can last just as long as tubeless tires. Many tubed tires are of equal build quality to their tubeless counterparts.
A lot of big road bikes still use spoked wheels that require tires with tubes. They get lots of life and great traction from quality tubed tires. Only high-speed sport bikes generally do away with spoked wheels and tubes in tires.
Tires with tubes support emergency repairs that tubeless tires cannot. You can plug a tubeless tire while on the road and continue the ride, but the hole needs to be small. It will not hold air if the hole is too big or has an odd shape.
A new tube or a patched tube can work readily enough. Many experienced desert riders carry patch kits and spare tubes to handle quick fixes for flats while riding in the middle of nowhere. That makes it easier to sustain damage from jagged rocks and other obstacles that might render a tubeless tire useless. Depending on your riding situation, a tubed tire does have some durability working in its favor.
If you still wonder whether you need tubed or tubeless tires or just want to learn more, we can help.