Going back to tubes for gravel

So yesterday on my training ride on my gravel bike I got a puncture that wouldn’t seat, it was a 1cm gash from a sharp piece of glass, tubeless spray all over me and the bike. Ended up needed to be picked up.

And that got me thinking…

I never run low enough pressures for the tyre to give me pinch flats, I do a lot of bike paths to the gravel, and never do anything that requires me to go below 2.1 bar on 47mm.

Is it worth it running tubeless at all? Considering my conditions…

I miss the ease of just putting in a new tube and continuing the ride, and not having to fiddle with tubeless sealant, drying tubeless sealant, plugging tyres etc.

What are your thoughts?

Is tubeless worth it if you’re only doing rowdy gravel with low pressures? I understand the use on MTB running super low pressures etc. but I cant seem to wrap my head around the hype for light gravel and road…

Regarding weight, was planning on using Tubolito CX tubes, which are lighter than the amount of sealant I run in the tires today…

I always carry a tube anyway so that I still have the option of just sticking that in if it’s a cut that’s too big to plug or if something else goes wrong. I wouldn’t bother trying to plug a cut that big, though even with a tube you’d probably also need to cover it with a patch or a bank note or something to stop the tube bulging through it.

I think tubeless are still worth it for the punctures that do seal or can be plugged, saving you all the hassle of taking off the wheel and tire. I do think there’s a bit of a learning curve in terms of figuring out what will seal, what needs plugging, and what needs a tube. I certainly wasted some time when I was first running tubeless trying to get things to seal when I should have gone straight to a plug or tube.


Makes sense, I am just in the boat where for me any fiddling is lost time, and I just want to continue my training ride. Hence being inclined to just run tubes, switch tube on puncture, and move on…

Its hard to know how many punctures that the tires have “saved” me from with tubeless…

Type of plugs I found make a bike difference. I finally bought into the hype and paid the money for dynaplugs. So much easier and better than bacon strips.

So far I’ve had several punchers that won’t seal, but none that will not plug.

As for my road bike, I got 4000km before my first puncher, and the flint around here means it was previously every 300-400km….

So I’m sold on both


Assuming that anything that causes sealant and/or pressure loss on tubeless would also cause a tube to puncture, I’d guesstimate that tubeless “saves” me about 75% of the time. I.e. for every puncture where I actually have to stop and deal with it, there are ~3 where it seals and I keep on riding. Often without knowing about it until I stop and notice that there’s dried sealant on the frame and some pressure loss in the tire. Of the punctures where I do have to stop, I’d say that about another 75% of the time I can fix it without taking the wheel off i.e. I can either plug it or I can get it to seal by putting a finger over the cut.

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Aside from the hassle of setting them up (which I’m guessing you’ve already done), and the mess when you have to put a tube in, I see no reason to change back to tubes - at least until you replace your tyres anyway. I’ve only done ~600 miles of gravel tubeless so far, with 2 plugs* and several self-sealing punctures. I did put tubes in when I switched to skinny road tyres recently, but only because I couldn’t get them to seat and I was in a hurry.

*Dynaplugs are definitely worth the extra, I’ve never tried bacon strips but the Dynaplugs are just so easy I can’t imagine why anyone would bother.

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What pressure are you running @Dubadai Ive more tubeless experience with my road bike which runs 80-90psi but I carry a spare tube for that rare eventuality it doesn’t seal or plug. I wouldn’t go back to tubes my self at that pressure. More recently I’ve set up my gravel bike as tubeless and ditched the tubes (again carrying a back up tube though), the guide I found said 70psi feels psychologically faster but isn’t but around 30psi is. So I’ve set them up to that and couldn’t imagine going back to tubes there either.

I run latex tubes on road, but gravel is definitely tubeless. Dynaplugs for the win. Bacon strips don’t work as well and typically work their way out in 10-30 miles. Dynaplugs are a ‘permanent’ solution for the tire unlike bacon strips. Just beware if you get a tear and need to put in a tube, to remember to cut off the heads of any prior plugs or you will tear a hole in your tube within a few miles. I learned this from a friend.

Once you’ve done a plug, it really can be done in less than a minute. This is a great demonstration video - HOW TO FIX A FLAT IN 1 MINUTE - YouTube

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I run 34PSI front and 39PSI rear for 40mm Cinturato 700c.

The setup is no issue, its the whole ordeal of when something happens, how much work its then… Especially since I dont feel that I get lots of the “advertised” plusses of running tubeless if its mainly to be able to run super low pressures.

Since I do a lot of tarmac riding on my gravel bike, and if its gravel its good gravel roads, I am asking more for guidance regarding the tradeoffs… And if its worth going back to tubes for the tube of riding I do.

I could probably do my riding on 33mm gravel tyres, but that would be too little grip in the long run…

I bring tubes with me tho idk if they would help. I would put cardboard on the tire cut and a tube like normal.
I have been running tubeless road 28s for the last 9 months and I love it. I run about 50-60 psi and have a lot of increased comfort. I wouldn’t go that low with tubes tires personally.

The bottom line is that if you got that cut deep enough not to seal on your tubes set up, you would still be in the same predicament. You’d need some cardboard or something to put over the gash bc an inner tube would bubble through the spot


I wouldn’t describe that as overly high pressures compared to a mtb. You sound like you were unlucky with that gash. As few other folk say carry a spare tube for that rare piece of bad luck and enjoy the benefits of tubeless better rolling etc and not having to worry about those more common small p’tures (even on a perfect road they still occur and I suspect that on good gravel it’ll still occur more than on good paved roads) :+1:

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You might be right :wink:

Ill just accept that I might have been very unlucky, and it was super super annoying that it was deep enough to require the whole tube procedure and that it ended with me needing to be picked up :stuck_out_tongue:

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Stans dart or dynaplug, and ALWAYS carry a spare tube/pump.

Will save you a lot more headache than running tubes and swapping them out every time you pierce a tire. If you’re still getting flats and just want to ride more, then get burlier tires.

I only recommend not going tubeless to people who only ride very sparingly. Like a few times a month in the summer. Then I think it can become more of a hassle with making sure it’s not all dried up before you ride, and the added cost of sealant, and usually those people are novices who don’t have a compressor at home or the ability to easily seat a bead.

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I’m on the fence regarding tubeless/tubes. Ride daily (commute) and recreationally during the weekend, about 7000 miles/year. I’d say 85% paved roads in decent condition, the rest is usually light gravel. No very low pressures and essentially no risk of snakebite punctures.

Usually, tubeless works just fine and if they spring a leak it allows me to at least get home without having to top up air or lose time. Usually. The question is, is this advantage worth the extra hassle of dealing with sealant, inflating tires twice/week because most of them still leak air through sidewalls to some extent or hunting down a slow leak, to realize after 2 days of testing that it’s the rim tape that needs changing.

I didn’t have fresh tape so just popped in a tube and ordered some rim tape.

No more pinhole leaks in sidewalls, tire keeps pressure beautifully, no sweat getting beads to seat properly, no unscrewing valve cores and messing around with Stan’s.

Obviously, if it pops at 6:30 AM in the pouring rain and I’ll have to take out the wheel, shift the tire to get in a new tube and inflate it all, it might make me reconsider but to me it’s not a clear cut black/white thing.

Are you comparing road bike tubeless to gravel tubeless? Road tubeless can be a mess but I’ve found gravel bike tyres with their larger volume are no mess at all. First time it may take a few rotations of the wheel to get it seated (IIRC my rear was still going down over night and I had to pump it up and ride it after that I’ve never had a problem). Topping up does require removal of the valve core but that’s no biggie and with the tyre already seated just insert another 60ml of sealant with a syringe (coincidently I use Stans too). I’ve had 4 p’tures that I know about on the gravel bike and there has probably been other that I don’t and it was certainly a lot less trouble than a new tube. I wouldn’t dream of going back to tubes. I do carry one (a spare tube) for dire emergencies but touch wood I’ll never have to use it.

I used to get about 5-6 flats per year with tubes (thorns, bits of wire, or small pieces of glass) and maybe once every two years I would have a big sidewall cut that would require some road side fixing.

With tubeless I don’t get any of those small flats and I have successfully plugged some decent sized sidewall cuts with bacon strips. Every roughly two years I get a huge cut that requires booting and a tube. Tubeless is great because it saves all those small flats. Putting in a tube is a mess, but I was going to be MacGyvering a boot made out of whatever I have in my pockets and can find on the roadside anyway,

Needless to say, I would never go back to running tubes on a regular basis

Tubeless has saved me from many flats. Just the other day I noticed my rear wasn’t holding air overnight and after a quick inspection I found and removed a thorn. Pulled the thorn, topped up the sealant and was good to go.

I probably road a good week or two with that thorn and never noticed a thing. Definitely would never go back to tubes.

Personally I don’t come across any of these hassles. Seating and adding sealant takes a couple more minutes the first time but that’s it. Adding sealant takes literally 30 seconds per wheel through the valve.

I inflate once a week at most. Same as I did running tubes. Most tubeless tires don’t lose air any faster than tubes. Maybe even less air loss.

Take care taping the first time with the right width and it’s rarely an issue after.

The advantages far outweigh the disadvantages for me. The main benefit of tubes, to me, is you can have a new wheel/tire combo up and running in a couple minutes which can be the difference between getting out for a ride or not. Owning a compressor, or air canister, isn’t as much of a necessity with tubes either. I’d be more likely to run tubes if I only had a track pump.

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