I’m there, trailside, down on my haunches, trying to peel sweaty gloves off my hands. There’s a thin stream of latex spraying at me, telling me I maybe shouldn’t have pulled that thorn out of my tire. I cover the hole with my thumb and wait. sweating, swearing softly. My friends are pulling CO2 cartridges out. We all just want back in the flow.
A minute later we’re rolling, the puncture sealed, a quick hit of air, my tire firm again.
Mountain bikers embraced tubelessness years ago, and whatever slightly higher upfront labor it costs in setup is far surpassed by its convenience out in the world. I have ridden a full season without having a ride meaningfully interrupted by a flat. I have ridden lower tire pressures, as I needed to, without any great fear of flatting. It just seems better.
But I still run tubes on my road bikes. Why?
Road tubeless came after the trail variant, but its adoption has seemed slower and more begrudging. In part, maybe that’s because the tires are narrower, and it’s harder to manipulate them on narrow rims. Maybe it’s that running lower pressures isn’t a thing on the road, or maybe roadies are just set in their ways.
Mountain bikers seem so much more eager for new technology. There was a time when road groups drove innovation, but that paradigm has flipped over the last decade, with mountain components leading the way. Tubeless is only one example. See also disc brakes, clutch derailleurs, ultra-wide cassettes.
This week’s Group Ride asks, do you go tubeless? If not, why not? And if you’ve tried it and don’t like it, what was it that convinced you tubes were a better way to roll?