Listen to the podcast

Did you know that motorcycle or two-wheeler tires can be tubed or tubeless? But what’s the difference between the two types? And how come tubed tires are still available for motorcycles – even though cars stopped using them ages ago?

Tune in to discover:

  • The design of tubed and tubeless tires
  • Why tubed tires are still around – at least for motorcycles


Hello, and welcome to another episode of 30-minute motorcycling – a podcast for new, aspiring, and returning riders, where you’ll discover something new about how your motorcycle, moped, or scooter works – in less than 30 minutes.   In episode 17 of this podcast, we looked at tires and wheels for motorcycles. In this episode, we’re going to dive a bit deeper into the tire topic by taking a look at tubed and tubeless tires.   Mainly – what are the differences between tubed and tubeless tires? And despite the many advantages of tubeless tires, is there an advantage of tubed tires?   First, though, let’s talk about what tubed tires actually are.   Tubed tires   As the name suggests, tubed tires contain a special tube, which at a basic level is a thin ring made from rubber with a one-way valve stem inside of the tube itself.    This valve can then be inflated with air to the tire pressure specified in the owner’s manual.   Compared with tubeless tires, it’s easier to replace a tubed tire – mainly because there’s little to no special equipment needed.    The biggest flaw of a tubed tire however is that if you have a flat tire, the tire will tear itself up quite rapidly. Often, the deflation is very fast – in some extreme cases, you might even experience a complete blowout.    Something which can cause you to lose complete control of your bike.    Also, tubed tires build up heat quickly at high speeds – which in turn increases wear and tear on the tire.    Because of these reasons, tubed tires aren’t commonly used anymore – at least not on cars. But, this is a motorcycle and two-wheeler podcast, and it may surprise you, but tubed tires are still around to a lesser extent – mostly on off-road motorcycles and retro-styled cruisers.    But why?   Because with the exception of heavy adventure bikes, off-road motorcycles and retro cruisers typically have spoked wheels, which hold up better in rougher terrain than cast wheels. And in the case of retro cruisers, it’s mostly a style thing for riders who want that classic cruiser look.    But despite this, most tires for regular road bikes use a tubeless tire design. But what makes it different from tubed tires?   Tubeless tires   The main difference is that the tubeless tire does away with the inner tube in favor of a thin air seal line. The valve stem is also separate and located on the wheel rim itself.    There’s also a much tighter air seal is between the wheel rim, and the edge of the tire which sits on the wheel hub’s rim – also known as the “tire bead.”   This air seal is designed to grip any part of the tire that ruptures – therefore, if you have a flat tire, the delation is much slower. And not only that, but violent tire blowouts are avoided completely.   This makes a tubeless tire much safer than a tubed tire.    Furthermore, a tubeless tire also weighs less and doesn’t wear out as quickly as a tubed tire at higher speeds.    So to recap, tubed tires are only an advantage if you’re riding offroad or you want that “vintage look” for your old-school motorcycle with spoked wheels.   But it must be said that if you’re riding on the street, the benefits of tubeless tires are much more preferable – from their safety to being more heat-tolerant.   If you’d like to read more about tubed and tubeless motorcycle tires, I’ve included links in the show notes to articles from RevZilla and that talk more about these types of tires.   Until next time, keep your helmet on and your eyes on the road. Bye!