Over the past month, we have put up two polls here on Bike198 to find out how you are running your tires and what the hell you would do with an extra 500 bones in your pocket to blow on bike parts. Let’s take a look at how you guys answered as I attempt to dive into the brain of my fellow riders and interpret the results.
Tubes vs. Tubeless…What are you running?
When asked the question on what you guys are running…tubes or tubeless…on your mountain bikes, it was literally a 50/50 split. Tubeless ended up winning out by 1 vote which is statistically irrelevant. This is a statistic that I think is favoring tubeless and UST systems over time. If I would have asked this same question 2 years ago, I think the split would be in favor of tubes by a large margin which shows that more riders are starting to run tubeless systems on their mountain bikes.
Tubeless systems (like Mavic UST and Notubes.com Stans) have many advantages on the trail.
- Fewer flats due to the inability to pinch flat.
- Increased grip due to the ability to run lower pressures and typically thicker sidewall tires.
- Decreased rolling resistance because there is no friction between a tube and the tire.
- Lighter weight when used with smaller tires…again…no tubes.
While there are distinct advantages on the trail, UST and Goo based systems still have disadvantages like having to mess with the goo or having tires that are a lot harder to get on the rim. Personally, I stick with tubes purely because I change out tires too often to mess with the goo on a regular basis on my Stans Flow rims.
Given all of the positives and negatives associated with running tubeless systems, I really think we are seeing more riders on tubeless for 2 main reasons.
- Increased factory bikes getting spec’ed with tubeless.
- Availability of tubeless rims and tires.
Much like the 29er movement, the tubeless tire on mountain bikes could not gain real traction in the market without a lot of options for riders in the aftermarket…and more importantly…coming spec’ed on brand new bikes. If you look at the showroom floor right now, the majority of the bikes are at least coming with rims that are ready to convert to tubeless if they are not already running without them. As riders buy new bikes and get used to the system right off the bat, I think we will continue to see tubeless take over the tubed world we have ridden in for so long.
If You Had $500.00 Dollars To Blow On Mountain Biking
First, I have to say this poll question all started with a pet peeve of mine that goes on in the bike industry amongst riders and manufacturers. I have found…that typically…the first thing that newer riders want to do is throw money at upgrading the rear derailleur to the latest and greatest from X.0 or XTR regardless of what is kitted out on the rest of their bike. The rear derailleur is a “bling” item that is readily visible to the rest of the riding world at the trailhead, but spending a massive amount of money ($200.00+) on that upgrade rarely…if ever…makes a performance difference on your bike when you add everything up and hit the trail.
Bike manufacturers know this little secret in the industry and that is why you see XT rear derailleurs on Deore kitted out bikes all of the time. They know that a flashy rear derailleur will close the deal even when the wheels on the rig couldn’t even be above $100.00. In the retail/bike bling market…most riders look at the RD.
Given that, I was expecting this poll to swing a different way…but I was wrong. When asked what you guys would do with an extra 500 in cash to blow on mountain bike components, the majority of you went straight for my favorite upgrade! WHEELS!
Your Most Important MTB Upgrade
By far, the best upgrade you can make to your mountain bike has to be a good set of hubs/rims built up by a quality builder. Your wheels directly determine how your bike will act on the trail as they are the link between dirt and the rest of your components including your body. With a better set of mountain biking wheels, you will be able to hold lines better, save more energy (rotational weight is the most important to save and results in the biggest impact in your riding) and put the power to trail faster with faster engagement.
After that…I look towards suspension and brakes as my next upgrades given the rest of the bike is functioning properly.