Tubeless Tires or not for Bikepacking? (Know the Facts!)

Tubeless tires have been growing in popularity among mountain bikers and cyclists for good reason- they offer a lot of advantages over traditional, tube-type tires.

But are they right for bikepacking? In this article, we’ll take a look at; how tubeless tires work, why they are quickly growing in popularity as well as the pros and cons of tubeless tires.

By the end, you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether tube-less tires are the right choice for your next bikepacking trip.

What are Tubeless Tires?

Tubeless tires are, as the name suggests, tires that do not require an inner-tube. Instead, they rely on an air-tight seal between the tire and rim to hold air in.

This design offers a number of advantages over traditional, tube-type tires.

How do tubeless tires work?

Tubeless tires are very similar to traditional, tube-type tires in terms of construction. The main difference is that tubeless tires don’t have an inner tube. Instead, a sealed rim and tire combination keeps it holding air.

This seal is typically made with a special rim strip and valve stem combo, along with a beadlock to help keep the tire in place.

Why are tubeless tires seeing growth in popularity?

When questioning whether or not they are worth it for bikepacking and touring, tubeless tires have many advantages over traditional clincher tires with inner tubes.

Tubeless tires are basically just tires without the inner tube. This means that there is no tube to puncture, which can be a huge advantage on long tours or rides.

Instead of a tube they just have air and a pressurized sealant liquid that will quickly seal any holes appearing in the actual tire itself.

Tubeless tires also tend to be more comfortable, because they can be used at much lower pressures without the risk of getting the tire flat.

And finally, tube less-tires can be lighter weight than traditional clincher tires.

So why aren’t all bikepackers and tourers using tubeless tires? Well, there are some reasons for this. In fact, we are going to cover the pros and cons right now…

The Pro’s of using Tubeless Tires

The biggest advantage of tubeless-tires is that they suffer a much lower flats rate – but they can still puncture if the hole is too large for the sealant liquid to fill or the rim is damaged!

But since there’s no tube to puncture, the only way a tubeless tire can flat is if the tire itself is damaged.

Tubeless tires are, in theory, able to amend themselves when punctured, which frees you from the task of patching your tubings during a trip!

Even then, tubeless tires can often be repaired with a simple sealant kit. This can be a lifesaver on long bikepacking trips where you might not have easy access to a bikeshop.

A second advantage of tubeless-tires is that they can be used at higher pressures than the traditional option.

This helps improve traction and speed, even on fairly rough terrain. It also helps protect your rims from impacts, since the tire can absorb more of the impact before it reaches the rim.

Finally, tubeless tires are often lighter weight than traditional clincher tires. This can be a significant advantage on long bikepacking trips where every ounce counts.

I should mention that if you want to save weight on your bikepacking trips, the best place is perhaps the actual bike frame material or larger items you bring along like your tent or other shelter types.

For the best lightweight tent for you, check out my list of 20+ tent recommendations in my other post.

The Con’s of using Tubeless Tires

Let’s talk about downsides to going tubeless. The biggest downside is that they are very difficult to install than traditional clincher tires. This is as sealing the tire to the rim can be very tricky to do, if its your first time.

If you don’t do a good job of sealing the tire, then air can leak out and you’ll end up with a flat tire.

This is why it’s important to make sure that the tubeless tires are properly installed before you head out on a bikepacking trip, which will require an expert who is going to charge you.

See here how to set up tubeless tires. It’s not that hard!

Another downside is that they can be hard to find compared to their traditional counterpart. This is because they are still relatively new and not all tire manufacturers make them yet.

So if you’re looking for a specific type or size of tubeless tire, you might have trouble finding them.

And even if you do find them, they might break the bank compared to traditional clincher tires. This is because tubeless tires require special rims and valve stems, which add to the cost.

So, should you use tubeless tires when bikepacking?

As always, the answer is that it depends. If you’re looking for the best possible flat protection, then tubeless tires are a good option.

Tubeless tires are not for everyone, but if you are a bit nerdy with bikes – definitely go for it!

 But if you’re on a budget, then traditional clincher tires might be a better choice. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s best for your own bikepacking setup.

What about solid rubber (airless) tires?

Solid tires are another emerging option on the market that allows you to have a completely air-free tire that will never puncture!

These have all the advantages that tubeless tires have, but you can be 100% certain that they won’t puncture!

However, solid tires are tires that do not provide any sort of air cushioning and are quite heavy.

Instead of being hollow, they are made entirely of rubber and the rubber itself is soft but not as soft as air-filled tires are.

Tubeless Bikepacking tire
An example of a solid, air-free, tire that never punctures!

Inflatable tires have a number of advantages over rubber tires. They are much lighter, so they make pedaling easier. They also absorb shock better, making for a smoother ride.

The main disadvantage of inflatable tires is that they can puncture, which solid rubber tires cannot. If you do get a flat, it can be difficult to repair an inflatable tire on the road.

Worst case, you may need to abandon your tour if you ride in a terrain where puncturing is unavoidable or you run out of patching equipment and/or tubing.

And whereas solid rubber tires may weight more, you will save the weight on patching equipment, pumps and backup tubing!  

Conclusion

Tubeless tires have a lot of advantages, but they also have some disadvantages. It’s important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if tubeless tires are right for your next bikepacking trip.

Tubeless tires are a good option for bikepacking if you are looking for the best possible flat protection.

However, they are difficult to install, annoying to repair and can be quite expensive.

Solid rubber tires are another good alternative that is puncture proof but they are much heavier and do not provide as smooth of a ride as inflatable tires do.