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I switched to tubeless tires about a year ago and I love them. A couple months ago I had a problem with the back tire and had to pull it off the rim for the first time.

There were literally hundreds of thorns on the inside. My tires both have hundreds, possibly thousands, of holes from riding down paths carpeted in goathead vines, so it wasn't much of a surprise.

What I'm trying to figure out is why everyone says a tubless tire can be run with a tube in it to "get you home" if something goes wrong that you can't fix on the road. There's nowhere I can put my hand inside my tires without getting poked and scratched.

A tube in that tire would get numerous punctures the instant it was inflated. So why do I have a tube in my saddle bag? It's useless without a new tire or some way to handle the thorns in the old one.

So is there some way to deal with these thorns and use a tube or should all the pages on the internet where people suggest putting tubes in tubeless tires have a disclaimer at the bottom that reads "but only if the tire is so new that it doesn't have a single thorn in it?"


I appreciate your responses, they've confirmed my suspicion.

The tube will be staying home from now on. More room for bacon and CO2!

:-)

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  • If you weren’t running tubeless and you had dozens of goatheads in your tire, you’d be in the exact same situation. Over the past decade I’ve gotten four flats on my 5 different bikes setup with tubeless tires — two sidewall cuts and two pinch flats. Tubes easily got me home in all cases.
    – Paul H
    Sep 3, 2023 at 1:15
  • @PaulH not sure, with tubes you can't afford an accumulation of thorns, and you'd need to take time (on the roadside or at home) to remove all thorns to make sure that the inner tube doesn't get punctured.
    – Rеnаud
    Sep 3, 2023 at 5:15
  • I accidentally went thru a small section (maybe 100') of goathead vines once on an old ten speed with 27" gatorskins and standard tubes. One tire was flat almost instantly and the other went flat within a couple minutes. When I pulled both tubes out I discovered 7 punctures, but I patched them, got the thorns out of the tires and proceeded as normal. With hundreds of thorns in a tubeless tire that's just not possible.
    – user66598
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:38
  • @Renaud that's exactly my point. Tubeless or not, this situation sucks.
    – Paul H
    Sep 3, 2023 at 19:19
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    I'm pretty sure that the advice on being able to use tubes in tubeless tires did not factor in the thorns from your very specific use case. Similarly, tubes in a tubeless tire won't help you get home if there's a bear chasing you either, even if the initial bear attack is the cause for your tubeless tire to go flat.
    – Flater
    Sep 4, 2023 at 4:02

3 Answers 3

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The kind of puncture you describe seems to be limited to one kind of plant, that is not present everywhere (although small glass shards, and other plants might exhibit similar behaviours), and seems to be one of the best use cases for tubeless. If you ride mostly in this kind of environment having the spare tube is indeed not relevant, but to still have a b-plan to get you home, a tire insert might be a solution (haven't tried personally, so can't recommend the best characteristics for that use case).

In my area, I have very little of his kind of punctures, but rather punctures caused by large objects (hawthorn - plant causing the most punctures in my area, nails, large glass bits,...), the origin is easy to spot, and can cause holes that are too large to be sealed (and through which the sealant can escape before having sealed the hole). If you run out of bacon strips or sealant, the inner tube is the next solution.

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  • When you say tyre insert, do you mean an anti puncture liner? Some would pack small enough to carry, but the really tough sort are quite bulky
    – Chris H
    Sep 3, 2023 at 12:26
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    Tubeless tire inserts are very different from liners for tubed tires. Liners are just hard plastic strips that go between the tire and tube. Inserts are like a half-size foam tire that goes inside the tubeless. It lets you run flat and also reduces the air volume (which is apparently good but I don't understand how). Check out Vittoria Air-Liners and Tannis Armor.
    – user66598
    Sep 3, 2023 at 13:43
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Yes, people say that it is possible to put in a tube to get you home, but that is in principle. In normal conditions where there is none or just a few sharp objects that needs to be cleared to be able to put a tube in. In many areas one does not collect thorns that would remain in the tyre that much.

If your tyres are really full of thorns sticking inside then you are out of luck. There is no magic trick, they will indeed puncture your inner tube if you try to insert it and inflate it. So far I had to do this once and yes, I did overlook one piece of metal wire hidden in a sealant (but I should have realized what it was, it was a typical tree of sealant) and my tube did get punctured. Fortunately, it only became empty overnight, it got me home.

Instead, if there is a puncture that does not seal, try to use bacon strips (worms) to plug the holes. If that does not help, you will have a long walk or you will have to get some outside help.

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What you could do is carry a complete replacement tyre and tube.

Folding tyres are great, and it doesn't have to be new or fancy, but seating it as tubeless might be a problem in the wild with a hand pump, so carry a tube as well. A CO2 nozzle and several canisters are a good idea to have as well.

At that point your ride is over and your whole goal is to get out and home before dark. So if you see thorn bushes while riding out, carry the bike through that area then ride on.

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