Tubes vs Mousses vs Tubliss

inner tube
Inner tube

When you are riding off road on a trail bike, a big discussion point is what should you put in your tyres.
There is no definitive answer and it will depend on many factors including the terrain you usually ride, your budget and of course, whatever your mates use and say is the best thing since sliced bread!
In an attempt to help you, I have gathered as much knowledge as I can about the 3 main options and pulled it all together so you can decide for yourself.

So tubes vs mousses vs Tubliss – here we go!

Tubes have been around for donkey’s yonks (that’s not a technical phrase, by the way) and usually new dirt bikes are supplied with nasty, thin tubes that you will want to replace even if you’re sticking with tubes in the long term, rather than the other options.

Tubes Pros

  • Cheap
  • Can adjust pressure for varying terrains
  • Easy to fit, although there is a knack to this. Best to practice in the warmth and comfort of your garage.
  • Can be changed trail side
  • Lightweight (but the more puncture resistant, the heavier they get. Apparently an Ultra Heavy Duty (UHD) tube is equivalent or possibly heavier than a mousse)

Tubes Cons

  • Prone to punctures (you can mitigate that with tyre sealant but that’s no use for rips or valve tears)
  • Need to carry spare tube (21” will do for front and back but you’ve got a problem if you have more than one puncture on a ride) and tools to change trailside, considerably adding to the weight
  • Risk of accidents with quick deflation especially when on road
  • Tearing out valves at low pressure (we went through a spate of this a few seasons back)
  • Repair patches don’t stick well to UHD tubes

These seem to be the go to solution for racers when a puncture can be the difference between winning and losing a race. There has been some discussion in the UK about whether mousses are road legal and the general consensus seems to be no they are not but the chances of a copper knowing you have mousses fitted is slim. You take your chances!

Mousses Pros

  • No punctures
  • No on trail maintenance so no extra kit to carry
  • Never have to check tyre pressures
  • Best rim protection

Mousses Cons

  • Can be tricky to fit but ok once you’ve got the knack
  • Cost
  • Can not change pressure, although different densities of foam equate to different pressures
  • Can break down especially if you do a lot of road work due to the heat generated
  • Important to keep properly lubed at tyre change time
  • Can be squirmy at high speeds and can rollover at high speed cornering
  • Shrink with time apparently which can cause tyre to slip on rim
  • Need careful matching to tyre size and ply to prolong life
  • Not road legal
dirt bike mousse
Michelin mousse
Tubliss system which is in fact not "tubeless"!

​If you are not familiar with the Tubliss system, it comprises a very high pressure inner tube (around 100 psi) and a lower pressure outer tube (so in fact a double tube system and not “tubeless” as the name suggests at all…hmmmm)

​Tubliss Pros

  • Can get puncture in outer tube without ruining your day. Tyre will stay in place and can be repaired with a plug.
  • Can adjust pressure for differing terrain
  • Even lighter than tubes and as it is unsprung weight this can give a handling advantage
  • No significant wear over time and individual parts can be replaced, rather the whole system.
  • Lasts longer than a mousse.
  • Low cost in the long run.

Tubliss Cons

  • Initial cost, comparable to mousses in short term
  • Needs a special tool to fit and fitting can be tricky. Leaks are possible if instructions not carefully followed
  • No 17” option
  • Need to check outer pressures every ride and inner pressures probably every couple of weeks.
  • High pressure pump needed when fitting
  • Should only be used with a new tyre, not one that has already been used with a rim lock.
  • Still need to carry some tools to plug on trail.​

It is worth mentioning that any of these systems can be mixed on front and rear tyres. It is not unusual to run Tubliss in a rear tyre and a mousse in the front.
So what should you choose? You need to weigh up the options for your own circumstances, terrain and preferences. If you hate changing tubes in the pouring rain at the side of a trail, tubes are probably not for you (although bear in mind that you will probably have to do that anyway if all your mates run tubes…).

What do we do?
Well we run UHD tubes with slime on most bikes and Tubliss on some. In an ideal world we would have Tubliss on all but that’s a big up front cost on our fleet so we are gradually adding Tubliss as we go.

No doubt the tubes vs mousses vs Tubliss will go on for many more years – maybe one day someone will come up with a better alternative that works for all but in the meantime….


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