When you’re out on a ride, the last thing you want to deal with is a flat. However, with so many choices, it’s challenging to determine what inner tubes are best to avoid punctures. That is, which is best without sacrificing ride quality.
The best inner tubes to avoid punctures are those that are best suited for your riding style, with the appropriate size of tire and matching rim and internal sealant included to prevent punctures from ruining your ride. I like the TAC9 Thorn Resistant Tubes. They offer the best balance of weight versus durability.
DIY MTB Pro Tip: I’ve got a complete tube sizing guide, read it 👉 MTB Tube Sizing Guide
Just because an inner tube boasts flat-resisting sealants isn’t the right inner tube for your ride. In this article, I will discuss all the internal tube features you need and want to match up with your existing rims and tires for the best, most puncture-free riding experience.
Let’s cut right to the chase – we all have different preferences. Some people like to ride cross country; some like to go downhill, some like to fiddle with their bikes in the garage, and some only take their bikes to a shop. However, in celebration of our differences, I’ve organized the best puncture-resistant inner tubes and setups below, based on preferences. So, just find the choice that suits you best for the best inner tubes to avoid punctures.
If it’s lightweight yet durable to puncture, then these are the inner tubes I would recommend. Remember that when I say lightweight, I’m not comparing it to something like tubeless – because they are lighter nine times out of ten. I’m comparing it to the standard, more familiar brands, like Slime, for example.
The TAC9 inner tube is a quality tube. They make an excellent, heavy-duty thorn-resistant model for those who ride in Goat Head country. Although these tubes are slightly heavier than their standard counterparts, they are somewhat thicker, making them more thorn-resistant than a standard inner tube.
- Butyl rubber
- Extra thick (heavy duty)
- Schrader valve for easy inflation
Want to learn more about the TAC 9? Here’s a shortcut link to Amazon for current prices and reviews 👉 TAC 9 Bicycle Inner Tube
Sunlite is a well-known brand in the road bike circuit, but they also make inner tubes for mountain bikes. The thorn-resistant inner tubes by Sunlite are pretty good. They aren’t the heaviest and perform as expected.
I bought my Sunlite Tubes from Amazon. Here’s a shortcut link to Amazon for current prices and reviews 👉 Sunlite Thorn Resistant Tubes
- Butyl rubber
- Designed with caltrops thorns in mind.
It seems like I’m either: buying, replacing or airing up bike tubes
🚴♀️ Can I put a tube in a tubeless tire? I explain with video 👉 Can I Put a Tube in a Tubeless Bike Tire?
🚴♀️ Presta vs Schrader which tube is better. Find out 👉 Presta vs Schrader Valves (Is One Better)
🚴♀️ I kept getting flats, are some inner tube brands better? Check out what I think 👉 Does the Brand of Inner Tube Matter?
🚴♀️ Are you getting a bunch of flats? Read 👉 Don’t Get Caught with a Flat: Why Rim Tape is a MUST
🚴♀️ Is there a right way? 👉 How to Let Air Out of a Bike Tire
🚴♀️ Presta Valves it’s a mystery 👉 How to Inflate an MTB Tire with a Presta Valve
When it’s an all-out war between you and thorns, rocks, or even glass, nails, and other nasties, then it’s time to break out the heavy-duty tubes. These tubes can take a beating but at a cost. They might be strong, but the added weight will keep your acceleration sluggish. It might even impact handling (especially at speed). However, if you want rugged, try one of these inner tubes.
If you want seriously strong, you can’t go wrong with the Slime Extra Strong (self-sealing) inner tubes. These are a lot heavier than most, but luckily butyl rubber is cheap, so that they won’t cost you an arm and a leg. What I like about these heavy-duty tubes is that they also pack in sealant. The company even boasts a 2-year promise to stop flats up to ⅛” in size. That’s a significant promise, and the price is low, so you can’t go wrong.
- Rubber compound
- Extra strong (thick) rubber
- ‘Fibro-Seal’ sealant is installed inside the tubes already, so you don’t have to worry about adding your own.
The Slime brand has proven itself in the bike tube niche. If you want something “HD” this is the tube. Here’s a shortcut link to Amazon for current prices and reviews 👉 Slime Extra Strong Self-Sealing Tubes
Blackburn makes a thick wall inner tube that they boast is 20% thicker than standard inner tubes. That makes it heavy-duty in my book.
- Butyl Rubber
- Presta valve stem
- Two tire levers are included
Get the full details about the Blackburn MTB Tube with this shortcut link 👉 Blackburn Bike Tube
If you’ve already got inner tubes (and they aren’t flat), you might want to go for some tire additive sealant. You may have seen this stuff already too.
The tire sealant is easy to use. Typical instructions included letting the air out of the tire/inner tube and injecting the solution using the applicator and tube/tire valve. Move the tire, refill it, and ensure it sits nicely on the rim.
That’s it. It’s simple, and this stuff can save you on the trail if it’s a minor puncture. I once rode 2 miles on gravel on a tire with a thumb tack stuck in it and didn’t know until I got to the pavement and heard the clicking.
You’ve got two options for sealants; those for tubeless and those for tubes. As we’re talking about inner tubes today, we’ll leave the tubeless for another day.
There are several brands of inner tube sealant to choose from. My favorite? Find out below.
FlatOut is the real deal. This stuff is meant for crazy, heavy-duty applications, like motorbike or trailer tires. We’re discussing things that take a much more brutal beating than your mountain bike. The stuff works great and comes with a handy core remover tool to get the gunk in the past your valve.
- Industrial strength
- Core removal tool included
Get the full details about FlatOut Tire Sealant with this shortcut link to Amazon 👉 FlatOut Bike Tire Sealant
Everyone recognizes the bright green slime brand. This brand knows its stuff when it comes to sealing bike tires. Again, you’ll need to remove the valve core to inject this stuff, but it’s not too hard. I did find that I liked the core tool that came with FlatOut better, which is why Slime gets the runner-up position. I also felt I needed more Slime than FlatOut, so it became heavier. Although we’re talking about just a few grams difference, it’s not the end of the world.
- Cheap, easy solution
- Core removal tool included
Get the full details about Slime Sealant with this shortcut link to Amazon 👉 Slime Bike Tire Sealant
You and many others love the idea of tire sealants. However, there’s a catch: you must remove the valve core to get the stuff inside your inner tube.
Removing a valve core may not seem like a big deal, and most of the time, it isn’t, but there’s a caveat to this scenario. The caveat is that if you have no experience removing and reinstalling tiny valve cores, you can make more of a headache out of it than you might expect.
Cheap inner tubes have one thing in common: cheap valve cores. I’ve broken a valve core trying to remove it. I’ve also cross-threaded one, which cost me the tube and much of my wasted time.
If you have decent inner tubes, get a proper core remover tool. If you plan on going to the effort of adding sealant, you might as well get the right tools for the job. Check out 👉 Stan’s Valve Core Remover 👈 link to Amazon
If you’ve got kids into mountain biking, you’ll likely want to go heavy-duty (they won’t notice the weight difference, being kids and all). Suppose your kids are still riding 24″ wheeled bikes. In that case, I’d recommend these inner tubes to save yourself from the aggravation of repeated flat tube changes.
Bell is a familiar brand you’ll find in many stores. They have a self-sealing inner tube for kids’ 24″ bikes that I think is pretty good. I mean, it’s no high-end inner tube, but for a kid’s bike, it’s good enough.
They include sealant inside, just like the Slime brand, except I found these don’t get replaced as much. I don’t have data to back it up, just my experience. Dollars to donuts, the Bell brand is worth taking a ride on.
Get the full details about Bell Self-Sealing Bike Tubes with this shortcut link to Amazon 👉 Bell Self-Sealing Bike Tubes
Runner Up – Blackburn 24” Heavy Duty Inner Tube
Again I’ll recommend Blackburn as a runner. For a heavy-duty 24″ inner tube, they deliver as promised. I’ve changed a few of these, but I don’t see them blow as often as regular tubes, so this one gets my green light approval.
- 20% thicker than standard tubes
- Schrader valve
- Two tire levers included
Get the full details about the Blackburn MTB Tube with this shortcut link 👉 Blackburn Bike Tube
Common Causes of Inner Tube Punctures
There’s nothing worse than having a fantastic ride, being way out somewhere or other, and getting a flat tire. You’re in for a long and challenging walk if you don’t have a patch, spare, or pump. Carry your bike, or risk rim and tire damage. Oh, the choices aren’t great, are they? Let’s look at a few reasons that commonly cause flats and what to do about it.
If you live in the South or Central US, you know all about thorns. Goathead thorns, not to put too fine a point on it.
It looks like a harmless weed, doesn’t it? Look closer at the fruit, though.
These are just immature fruit. The spikes can be over an inch long when the thorny fruit is fully grown. Furthermore, they dry hard as a rock, a great defense mechanism, but they are nasty to your tires and inner tubes.
So, how do you avoid these nasty thorn punctures? With thorn-puncture prevention, of course.
Whether you hit a rock, curb, or root makes little difference; if you hit at just the right angle and with the right amount of power, you’ll get a flat. Often the flat is known as a pinch flat. Here’s how it works.
When you impact something tough with your tire, the tire compresses under the strain. During that second of compression, the inner tube can get caught between the tire bead and the rim. When the tire springs back to the position in the following part of a second after impact, it pinches the bit of the inner tube that got itself caught between the tire bead and the rim. The result is a tear in the inner tube, and you must deal with the consequences.
Puncture-resistant inner tubes can help prevent flats. To avoid a pinch flat, ensure your tires/tubes are under the correct air pressure, and try not to smash the tires into hard corners.
Probably the most prevalent source of flat tires are human-made. When I look back at the hundreds or maybe thousands of tires and tubes I’ve changed, I think that broken glass and nails take the prize for top causes of flat tires. In fact, I’d venture to say so much as glass is probably the number one cause.
Want to Learn Even More About Tires, Valves and Inflation?
- What the heck is a presta valve? Find out in this link to an article: What is a Presta Valve and the Differences with Schraders
- What tire pressure should you be using? Check out this in-depth article with a blind test and survey results. What Tire Pressure for My Mountain Bike
- Mini-pumps are super popular with MTBers. Find out which one I recommend and why – Link to Article Best Mini-Pump for MTB riders
- Keeping your bike in good condition will help you ride faster, safer and longer. Get a FREE PDF mountain bike maintenace schedule in this article. Mountain Bike Maintenance Schedule
During your inner tube adventures, you probably noticed several types of puncture resistance, notably heavy-duty versus sealant inside. It’s good to consider which works best for your ride, so let’s take a minute to identify a few key points about each.
When you read that an inner tube is ‘heavy-duty,’ it typically means that the thickness of the inner tube is more significant than a standard inner tube. These tubes are dubbed heavy-duty for this reason.
Heavy-duty inner tubes add extra protection against flats. Still, at the same time, they tend to add considerable weight to your wheel and tire setup.
One of the most popular ways to add puncture resistance to a bike is by adding sealant to the inner tubes.
Typical sealant installation includes removing the core of the air valve, so it’s essential to have the appropriate tools for this purpose. Although some brands of inner tube sealant come with a valve core tool, I prefer using a quality tool instead.
Consider a few of these points if you are having trouble deciding which inner tube best suits your needs.
- Heavy-duty inner tubes are usually made of thicker material and are also heavier.
- Buying inner tubes with pre-installed sealant is much easier than installing sealant. Installing sealant requires the valve core removal and reinstallation process.
- Tire liners are an excellent alternative to heavier inner tubes or adding sealant. However, tire liners do not always stay in place inside the tire.
- Always get the size that fits your tire. Don’t underdo it or overdo it. If your tire says a size on the sidewall, you would be best to heed the warning and get the same size.
- Consider all of the above. Here’s an idea, get the right tires and get the right sized inner tubes in a heavy duty thickness. Furthermore, get inner tubes that either have sealant pre-installed, or pick up some sealant to install yourself. Use the appropriate tire pressure, and keep a patch kit or spare inner tube with you on your travels.
Additional Tips for Avoiding Punctures
Tube and Tire Addons
You can use the beefiest inner tube you can buy and still get a flat. However, with an accessory here and there, you can add layers of protection to your setup. Let’s take a look at what options are available.
To avoid punctures, install good quality and durable rim tape. Rim tape covers the spoke nipple ends on the rim. If you look, you’ll see that the spoke nipple ends are exposed on the rim’s outer edge where the tube and tire go and are cut for a slotted screwdriver to turn the spoke nipples.
That tiny cut is enough to puncture an inner tube under pressure; hence, we cover the spoke nipple in rim tape to avoid inner tube puncture.
I’ve gathered a selection of Rim Tape from Amazon link 👉 HERE
Tire liners are like rim tape, except they go on the inside of the tire – to act as a buffer between the tire and the inflated inner tube. Think of them as an extra skin separating the tube from the tire and providing added protection simultaneously.
I like these tire liners because they sit pretty well inside the tire. I’ve used other types and found that they tended to wander around inside the tire, and I had one involved in a pinch flat. So, I trust RhinoDillos to stay put and keep the tube protected.
Check prices and reviews of the bike liners Amazon link 👉 RhinoDillos Tireliners
If you use butyl rubber inner tubes (the common black ones), you can easily carry a small patch kit in your pack. If you’re unfortunate enough to get a flat, as long as it’s a small puncture, you should be able to patch it.
Patching a tire takes about twenty minutes, depending on your skill. It’s pretty straightforward, but only if you have the right tools. That means you need the patch kit and three tire levers.
If I have any advice for you to avoid tire and tube punctures, it falls into four simple steps described below.
- Storage – This is more of a tube-life hack than anything else, but inner tubes last longer when stored in a sealed container like a ziplock bag. Keep it out of sunlight; your spare inner tubes can last years.
- Sealant – I follow the AAS rule – Always Add Sealant. It’s a good rule to stand by when dealing with inner tubes. After all, a tiny bit of weight is added regarding sealant, and you can prevent nasty punctures from happening. It’s a good deal if you ask me.
- Adequate Pressure – Maintaining sufficient tire pressure is the only way to avoid a pinch flat. Not to say it isn’t possible with proper pressure, but it’s far less likely. You should keep your tires adequately inflated and carry a pump with you in case of situations where you might need to adjust pressure along the way. For example, I might lower tire pressure for sand but will want maximum pressure for pavement, so stopping for a quick adjustment can occur.
- Appropriate Tires – Having the proper tread pattern for your intended use is a smart move. The wrong tread pattern can feed sharp objects into a position where they end up causing a puncture. However, good tread patterns help provide a good grip while pushing debris out of the way. Although you won’t notice this if you ride over broken glass or nails sticking up from a board, on microcosmic levels, every bit helps.
You’d be surprised at how many inner tubes I’ve had to change because the bike’s owner used a screwdriver instead of a proper tire lever and pinched flat their inner tube before even finishing tire installation. Due to this issue, I strongly recommend you use at least three tire levers.
The idea with tire levers is that you start a spot, lock in the lever to the spokes, and start a second spot. Hook that in, then take your third lever and work it along the tire bead, moving the first two levers as needed. Tire levers are invaluable for changing inner tubes.
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
If you ask me right now which to get, I’d recommend picking up a heavy-duty inner tube with pre-installed sealant. If durability is the primary motivator, that’s what I would recommend, along with adding some good quality tire liners.
Most essential is ensuring that your tires and inner tubes suit your riding style and conditions. For example, if you ride your mountain bike mostly on paved roads or hard trails, you might want to consider a tire with an optimized tread for the road or packed trail. These tires are usually smoother, with a lower tread depth.
Suppose you encounter mud, gravel, or other loose or sloppy conditions. In that case, you likely need a tire with a much more aggressive tread design and depth. These sorts of ‘off-road’ tires are best suited for mountain biking trails. Hence, a heavy-duty inner tube isn’t a lousy consideration, especially if the trails take you far from home.