Motorcycle tires come in two types – tubed and tubeless tires – but what’s the difference between the two? And why are tubed tires still around for motorcycles and scooters – even though cars stopped using them decades ago? In this blog post, you’ll discover:
- The difference between tubed vs. tubeless tires
- Why tubed tires are still around for motorcycles
- The dangers of tubed tires
Prefer to get this information in podcast form? Listen to the 30 Minute Motorcycling Podcast episode about tubed and tubeless tires:
What’s a “tubed tire?”
A tubed tire has a special tube inside of it (hence the name). This tube itself is a rubber ring that contains a one-way valve stem which you can fill with air. Cars and passenger vehicles stopped using tubed tires in the 1990s – but remember, this is a motorcycle and two-wheeler blog. And it might surprise you, but tubed tires are still common for motorcycles. More specifically, off-road motorcycles and classic cruisers.
Why are tubed tires still around for motorcycles?
In the case of off-road motorcycles, most of them have spoked wheels, which are often designed to work with tubed tires. Not only that, but spokes are strong, meaning that they hold up better in rougher off-road terrain. As for classic cruisers, it’s mostly about looks. Some people prefer the look of a classic-styled cruiser, and tubed tires play a large part in that.
The dangers of tubed tires
As sturdy as tubed tires may be on spoked wheels, they can be dangerous – especially if you have a flat tire. If this happens, your tubed tire will tear itself out rapidly and sometimes violently – it’s not uncommon to experience a literal “blowout.”
In a mechanical brake system, there’s no liquid whatsoever.
Instead, power is delivered through a metal cable that tensions as you squeeze the brake lever - similar to how many motorcycle clutches work.
Although not so much on modern motorcycles, these brakes are highly common on bicycles and e-bikes.
What’s a tubeless tire?
Most motorcycle tires today are “tubeless.” This means that instead of a tube, this tire type has a thin air seal line and a separate valve stem on the wheel rim itself. There’s also a much tighter air seal between the wheel rim and the edge of the tire. If any part of a tubeless tire should rupture, this air seal grips that part and slows down the deflation rate.
Tubed vs. tubeless tires
Therefore, if you have a flat tire, the tubeless tire is much safer than a tubed tire – often, extreme blowouts are avoided altogether. Aside from that, a tubeless tire also weighs less and doesn’t wear out as quickly. Therefore, it certainly pays to ride with tubeless tires if you’re riding on the street.