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I am going to build a bikepacking bike and was thinking about what type of tires to use, tubulars, clinchers, or tubeless.

I own a road bike with clinchers and a cross bike with tubulars, but have no experience with tubeless.

In the context of bikepacking and riding long distances in the great outdoors, often far away from any type of help, I'm wondering which tire choice is best suited for reliability and ease of service?

I'm kind of assuming gluing on new tubulars and carrying them, is a bad option, although I love the comfort and grip that come with low inflation pressure.

Clinchers are great but I might want to run low pressure without worrying about pinch flats.

I don't know much about how tubeless tires ride or how easy they are too service.

Is there a preferred setup for bikepacking?

  • Why do you say that tubular tires have low inflation pressures? The only tubs I know of are for road racing, and are inflated to high pressures. – andy256 Sep 16 '16 at 2:51
  • Tubulars actually have a wider range. Meaning generally they can be run at lower pressures for more comfort (think cobblestones) with less chance of pinch flats. Alternately, they can be run at higher pressures for less deformation because there isn't a bead to fail. – Deleted User Sep 16 '16 at 3:16
  • @andy256 the only tubulars I've ever used are challenge limus 33's and I regularly run them at 40psi. I know there are road casings that can take high pressure but I'd probably be inclined to use a clincher if I was going to run high pressure anyhow. How do the high pressure road tubulars ride? – ebrohman Sep 16 '16 at 12:32
  • @ebrohman Smoothest ride ever, especially ones with >300 tpi – andy256 Sep 17 '16 at 5:06
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Tubulars would be a bad idea, because you need to glue new ones on and most shops don't handle tubulars so getting spare parts when necessary is hard.

Most people will run a standard clincher for touring on roads, since there isn't much benefit for running a tubeless system for riding on the road and most wheels for road bikes are not tubeless ready (especially for high spoke strong wheels you'd fit on a touring bike). Everyone knows how to handle tubes and the tubes+tires are available almost everywhere if you choose an appropriate wheel size (you'll be able to find 26" wheels almost everywhere, 700c many places, 650b less so in the US, for example).

If you want to run tubeless, you can (which would be a preferable starting point for off road touring) since you can always throw a tube in a tire or put a tube+new tire on if necessary (if you find a shop, note that it might not be equipped for tubeless). Note that you are carrying some extra kit with tubeless such as an extra valve, sealant, less tubes than you would carry with a tube system, plugs, and what not versus say a patch kit, some boots, some tubes.

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    Agree. Tubeless would probably be better for off road, tubed/clinchers should be fine for road touring. You may need to also carry some spare juice for tubeless, which can be weighty. Tubeless theoretically is the most flexible, since even if it isn't recoverable, you can default back to a clincher setup (with most equipment). – Deleted User Sep 15 '16 at 19:41
  • I want to add that tubeless-ready tires and rims are known to be a hell to work with when one needs to install a tube into them. – Grigory Rechistov Feb 22 '18 at 15:39
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Yep, I would just add it all depends on the kind of trip you are planning to do.

I normally tour on clinchers, and if you buy some good tyres with some decent kevlar (I run Schwalbe Marathon) you can run them on high pressure (to have less traction and do as many Kms as possible if you have a long day ahead, or you can get them to a lower pressure to do some off road. So this year I could mix the French roads and the Camino de Santiago off road in Spain.

On the other hand some of my friends did the Great Divide last year; they were running tubeless from home, so they had low pressure and a better chance to avoid pinch flats, and then if you get a puncture, you start to run with the tubes, as normal. I would probably not carry any tubeless sealant with me, rather another pair of extra tubes.

You need to be as self sufficient as possible on a tour trip.

Best of luck

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I did the Camino de santiago (all camino portugues stages) two years ago by bike and it was a great experience. Brought my cervelo s3 with me, and any issues there was always local bike shops along the way.

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    At the moment this doesn't answer the question about tyre types, but you could well have an interesting answer if you add this information – Chris H Feb 22 '18 at 14:59
  • Please use Edit to add info about tyres, which ones you used, how they worked for you, what could have been better, and any other tyre-related info. – Criggie Feb 23 '18 at 20:14
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