Need to replace your bike’s tires or get a new ride? You might be asking do bike tires come with tubes? Whether your tires are tubular or tubeless will impact how you care for your bike and the speeds you can reach.
Although most bike tires contain tubes, it’s not a given. Some bike tires do not have tubes. By looking at the markings, descriptions, and valves on the tires, you can determine whether they have tubes.
Keep reading to discover the differences between bike tires with tubes and those without. Plus, find out everything you need to know about tire sizes and materials.
Do Bike Tires Come with Tubes?
If you look around a good bike store or online retailer for a new pair of tires, you’ll find dozens of options with and without inner tubes.
What’s the difference, really? And which one should you choose?
Bike tires with tubes were invented during the late 1800s. Until around the year 2000, all bike tires came with tubes inside. Only nearly 22 years ago, French-based bike parts manufacturer Mavic came out with a tubeless tire and, shortly after, the Universal System Tubeless (UST) standard was born.
A lot has changed for a couple of hundred years, and bike tire manufacturers continue to develop innovations that allow you to push the limits of your bike—and your own—to the brink.
Nowadays, bicycle tires can be divided into one of the following categories: clinchers, tubulars, and tubeless tires. Each of these categories has its advantages and disadvantages, and is best suited for a particular type of bicycle.
Clincher tires, the oldest and most common type of bicycle tire, require tubes but are rarely sold with them. The name comes from the fact that the tires clinch to the rimes with sturdy beads. (So much so that they can be notoriously tricky to remove without a pair of tire levers.)
Best for: These tires are cheap to buy and the tubes are easy to patch up or replace. This is what makes them great for city bicycles for daily commute and recreational rides in the countryside, as well as for children’s bikes.
Tubular tires, also known as “sew-ups” in the United States and “tubs” in Great Britain, is a special kind of tire that’s stitched together with the tube, then glued to a special kind of rim known as a “tubular rim.” Expectedly, all tubular tires come with inner tubes as the inner tube is pretty much half of the package.
Best for: These tires and rims are expensive, and they’re not carried by all bike shops. But they weigh less than clinchers and, because they’re glued to the rim, they’re almost immune to pinch flats, which is why they’re the go-to choice for professional cyclists and those who take touring seriously.
Tubeless tires don’t come with tubes and don’t need any. Mountain bikers swear by this type of tire because it fits firmly against the rim, doesn’t need to be inflated to a high pressure, and holds air for a much longer amount of time than its clincher and tubeless counterparts.
Contrary to what some riders think, tubeless tires are not that different from clinchers. They simply have a reinforced outer strip that forms an airtight seal with the edge of the rim.
Mountain bikers, in particular, can benefit from tubeless tires. That’s because there’s less chance of getting a flat or puncture on rocky surfaces. But for those who mostly bike on pavement, tires with tubes can be more advantageous.
How Can I Tell If My Tires Have Tubes?
If you’re not sure what kind of tire your bike has, there are several ways to find out.
The first thing you should do is look at what is written on the sidewalls. Many manufacturers clearly indicate the type of tires at hand, and it’s not uncommon to read the words “clincher,” “tubular,” or “tubeless.”
That said, not all manufacturers will spell out the entire word. They might use abbreviations like “TL” for tubeless, for example. Go ahead and inspect the writing on the wall, looking for words or acronyms that might indicate what kind of tires you’re riding with.
The second way to determine if you have tubeless bike tires is to look at the valves. Gaps between valves and tires are a good indication there are tubes in there. Valves that are secured to the rim with a valve collar are a tell-tale sign for tubeless tires.
However, sometimes you have to let the air out of the tires to see if they contain tubes. Once you do this, you should see whether the valve’s stem is connected to the rim. If it’s not and there’s a more visible gap, your tires have tubes.
Tubulars are the easiest to recognize; they’re practically glued to the rim. These tires have tubes, but the tire and the tube are one (and to say that removing them from the rim is tricky would be a major understatement).
What’s Size Got to Do with It?
When you have bike tires with tubes, you have to match up the inner tube and the size of the tire. Many times, only the tubes need replacing. The diameter of the tire tells you what tube size you want. Diameter and width are what you should pay attention to.
For instance, on a road bike your tires might be 27 inches in diameter and 1/4 inches in width. To replace your tubing, you need a tube size that matches these measurements.
If you have tubular tires, you probably need to walk the bike to a repair shop. (Unless you know what you’re doing.)
What Are the Advantages of Tubes?
Butyl tubes are inexpensive. When they get punctured—which they’re really good at—they’re also easy to remove from the rim and either patch up with a patch kit or dispose of properly and replace.
Latex tubes are pricier and lighter than butyl tubes, and typically reserved to professional cyclists and recreational tourers. They help you gain speed, but at the expense of utility as they puncture easier and lose tire pressure quicker.
What Are the Disadvantages of Tubes?
For starters, tubes puncture all of the time, especially if you don’t top them up frequently enough. In these cases, the tube gets pinched between the beads on both sides of the tire and the edges along the rim, resulting in a nasty pinch flat.
Clincher tires with inner tubes don’t hold air as long as tubeless tires do. So they need to be topped up once a week or, better yet, before every bike ride.
Which Type of Tire Should I Get?
It’s true that you’re more likely to find bike tires with tubes. However, you might want to steer toward tubeless varieties if you’re a mountain biker. Purchasing a mountain bike may help you stay away from bike tires with tubes.
That said, you need to double-check the tires before you make your purchase. You also want to consider your personal preferences. Even if you do some mountain biking, consider where you do the bulk of your cycling activities.
If you’re mostly riding on smooth and even pavement, it’s probably better to get bike tires with tubes. Thorns, pins, nails, wires, glass, and sharp objects are all too common on the road. And a punctured tube is generally easier to patch up or replace than it is to troubleshoot and fix a tubeless tire.
Riders who want a speed boost and variety will also benefit from bike tires with tubulars. Since there’s less resistance, you’ll conquer hills with increased efficiency. And you’ll have more choices when you go to buy bikes since tires with tubes are popular.
Do bike tires come with inner tubes? Many of them do, but it’s not always the case. You’ll find bike tires and bikes out there that are tubeless. While tires with tubes are more prevalent, tubeless versions do have some advantages for rough riders.
Cyclists who frequently ride in the mountains, on dirt and uneven roads, and gravel surfaces can benefit from tubeless tires. They’re less prone to puncture wounds and flats when they move over rocky surfaces. They also weigh less and provide more resistance.
But for in-town cyclists, purchasing clinchers (for most) or tubulars (for some) is often the way to go. They’re easier to repair and don’t cost as much to maintain as their tubeless counterparts.