Bike tires are great until you get a flat. When that happens, you need to know what you’re doing so you might be wondering “do all bikes have inner tubes?”.
The majority of bike tires do have inner tubes, but not all. There are some good reasons why your bikes should have inner tubes and there are some drawbacks too (we’ll get into this later).
I use both tubed and tubeless systems on my bikes, so we’ll be looking at the pros and cons of each and how to tell whether your tires have tubes or not, plus more.
Table of Contents
A high proportion of bicycle tires have tubes but not all of them.
Back in the 1800s, John Dunlop invented the bike tire as we know it with the tube inside. He came up with the design as a way to reduce the headaches his son was experiencing when riding a bike.
Over time, people realized that this new tire system was a way to increase speed on the road. This was how it became popular and widely adopted.
That was until 2000, when Mavic brought a tubeless tire to the bicycle market. They patented it Universal System Tubeless (UST).
Mountain bikers began to use tubeless tires more quickly than any other type of rider. This was most likely because they reduced the risks of developing flats. Also, they give you a more comfortable ride. This is ideal if you’re on the trails and bumpy tracks.
Despite the advantages of tubeless, most bike tires still run tubed.
There are two different types of tube tires, “clinchers” and “tubular”. The majority of bike tires have the “clincher” tire in them but how can you tell which one your bike has?
So, with tubular tires, you will be able to see a cross-section that has the appearance of a circle. This is on the edges of the tires as they are sewn together.
To keep the tire in place, it is glued to the rim.
When you’re looking at a clincher tire, it has a horseshoe appearance. By that, I mean the tire beads hook into the rim and that keeps it in place on the rim. When you look at it, you’ll see that the tube is surrounded by the rim and the tire.
There is a simple way to tell whether your tires are tubeless or not. Many of the tubeless tires have “tubeless” written on them. This isn’t always the case, so it’s not a definitive method of finding out.
Some tire manufacturers will mark their tires with “TL” and if you see that on your tire, then you’ve got tubeless tires.
Again, it’s not definitive so you probably want one that is.
One good way to find out is by having a look at the type of valve you use when pumping air into your tires.
If you have tubes in your tires, you are likely to see a gap between the tire and the valve.
Whereas, if you can’t see a gap and the valve looks like it’s attached to the rim, then the tire is most likely tubeless.
If you still aren’t 100% sure, you can try letting some air out. Tires with tubes will show the stem of the valve to be attached to the tube and not the rim. You should also find that distance between the bottom of the valve and the rim will be quite pronounced.
You might think that given how good the tubeless tire system is meant to be, the bike world would have gone tubeless, right?
It hasn’t, though. Why?
Tubeless tires are slightly lighter. This can be a factor when you’re on a road bike and every gram matters but it’s not significant.
Tubes are cheaper to maintain, so if you get a puncture when you’re riding, it is easier to fix. Yes, in theory, most punctures you get when using tubeless shouldn’t stop your ride (I can confirm that this is true) but when you get a serious puncture, it can be quite a challenge to repair by the roadside.
It depends on the rider’s preference. Up until recently, I was the only one in my “cycling network” who rode with a tubeless set-up.
It’s fair to say that inner tubes are popular on road bikes...currently anyway!
If you get your first flat tire after getting a bike, it could mean that you need to get yourself a new inner tube.
So, what does it stand for and how do you make sure you get the right size?
Well, 700 is the diameter in millimeters.
35 is the width in millimeters.
You don’t need to worry about the ‘c’. That goes back years to an old French system.
What we have established is that you need tubes that are 700 millimeters in diameter. That is key.
There are tubes out there that are 700 x 35-40c. If that’s all you can get, it will be fine in your tire.
Sometimes you will see tubes in inches. I wouldn’t recommend buying these as they don’t always measure the same, so it can be slightly off.
For more information on choosing the right size inner tube, take a look at this video from REI:
Finally, before you buy a new tube, you need to ensure that you get the right valve type. Schrader and Presta are the two main ones. There are differences with these valves so it’s important to get it right.
Want to know more? Read our article here!
Tubed tires are ideal for the commuter as they come with less maintenance. If you do get a puncture, you can swap out the tube quickly.
Want to know how? Watch this video:
Speaking from experience, having a tubeless setup takes more time to maintain too. Tubeless lose more air pressure, so you will have to be mindful of air pressure more often.
Particularly if you’re on a road bike, you will get a speed boost. Though this is marginal, it’s still a boost. This is down to the increase in tire pressure, so you have less rolling resistance. Tubeless tires run with a lower pressure so they have greater rolling resistance.
Inner tubes aren’t as comfortable as tubeless. This was the main reason why I opted for a tubeless system.
If your ride in bumpy conditions, you will feel it more with inner tubes. This isn’t as important on a road bike and is more of a factor for mountain bikers.
Inner tubes are heavier. There’s not a lot in it but the fact that there are two sets of rubber in the tires makes this set-up the heavier choice. This is something that many people might be happy to offset.
Still undecided on which set-up is best for your bike? Check out this video from Global Cycling Network:
Not all bikes have inner tubes but the vast majority still do.
Will tubeless tires ever become dominant in the market? I’m not sure but it certainly won’t be for many years if it does happen.
Tubes are popular, simple, uncomplicated, and inexpensive. There are many reasons why inner tubes remain king in the bike tire world.