When you think of road hazards as a cyclist, you probably picture cars, potholes, and bumps. However, there are other dangers lurking right on the road surface, and they too can wreak havoc on your tires.
Thorns, rusty nails, and shards of broken glass are all too often found on paved roads. A single one of these is enough to damage a tire to the point where it may or may not be repairable with a tire patch or sealant.
This is where tire liners come in.
Bike tire liners are expensive and add weight to your bike. However, many cyclists believe that they’re nevertheless worth it for the puncture protection that they give their tires.
In this guide, we will talk about the different types of bike tire liners—and the pros and cons of each—so you can decide if they are right for you and, if so, which one you should buy.
Are Bike Tire Liners Worth It?
Yes, bike tire liners are definitely worth it.
They aren’t cheap and they increase the weight of your tires, but they give you much better protection against punctures than when you’re riding without them.
It is all too easy to get a flat tire while you are riding on the road or the mountain trail. Having bike tire liners will not make your bike tires invincible, but they will give your tires a much needed shield fence against thin and sharp foreign objects.
If you live in an area where goatheads are a real problem, bicycle tire liners are among the few effective ways to keep flats to a minimum and reduce the number of tubes changed or visits to the bike shop.
For many cyclists, bike tire liners can be the difference between a pleasant ride home and a mile-long walk with the bike by your side till you get home (or, if you’re out in nature, to the first signs of civilization).
How Do Bike Tire Liners Work?
True to its name, a bicycle tire liner is a strip of sturdy, durable material that’s placed between the inside of the tire and the inner tube.
The tire liner doesn’t make your tire puncture-proof. Rather, it acts as a shield between the foreign objects that inevitably penetrate the rubber of your tire and the inner tube.
To put it simply, a tire liner’s purpose is to get punctured by all kinds of foreign objects on paved roads or mountain trails—and obstruct them from getting to the tube.
That said, bike tire liners don’t have all that good protection against sidewall punctures, nor do they make you immune to pinch flats if you forget to check on the tires and ride with low tire pressure.
The Pros of Bike Tire Liners
The primary advantage of using bike tire liners, as we already touched on, is the protection against punctures from foreign objects that they offer.
There are different kinds of tire liners and they all work a little bit differently. However, you can generally find tire liners that will protect against your tires being punctured by rocks, pins, needles, nails, glass shreds, goatheads, as well as all other kinds of thorns and debris.
Tire liners should not be seen as an optional accessory, they are a vital part of keeping your tires healthy.
The Cons of Bike Tire Liners
There are disadvantages of bike tire liners though.
The main disadvantages are the price and weight. They are sold as tape rolls that retail between $15 and $25 each. Although they cushion and protect the tube from foreign objects, they also slow you down because of the added weight and rolling resistance of your tires.
Tire liners are also difficult to install—you need to unmount the tire, deflate and remove the tube, wipe down the interior, then line it and mount the tube and tire back—and it’s not always easy to get them right the first time.
The Types of Bike Tire Liners
There are different kinds of bike tire liners and they are not all created equal.
Each one has its benefits and drawbacks, so you should familiarize yourself with each one before you purchase anything. Consider them all and decide which one is right for you and your biking adventures.
The spokes meet the rim with rough, sharp edges that can easily puncture your inner tube if you leave them uncovered. This is where rim liners—thin strips of plastic that you line the inside of the rim with—come into play.
Rim liners protect the inner tube from damage by the spoke nipples, especially considering the small movements that the spokes make as they absorb the weight of the bike and the rider along with the shocks of the holes, bumps, and the tire running over foreign objects on the road.
Rim liners don’t have to be particularly strong or puncture resistant, and that’s why they sell on the cheap.
You can usually get by with the rim liner that came with your wheel, or you can grab a cheap replacement rim liner at your local bike shop.
Just make sure that you keep it aligned correctly, have no kinks in the liner, and do not let the liner overlap with itself when the ends meet. This can create friction that will damage the tube.
Anti-puncture liners sit between the inside of the tire and the inner tube. Their purpose is to protect the tube from foreign objects that puncture through the tire, such as pebbles, thorns, old pins, and small shards of broken glass.
This type of bike tire liners protect mainly from thin and small objects, but can offer very little protection against a large nail or a big shard of glass piercing through the tire. You can buy them at the bicycle section in the home improvement store, at well-stocked bike shops, as well as online retailers.
Low End Liners
These are the most commonly used kinds of tire liners. They are typically made of polyurethane plastic, and they usually come in a roll that is large enough to protect two different tires.
Getting these kind of tire liners inside of your tire can be a bit tricky, however. They do not have a peel and stick figure, so it is hard to align them properly.
This can cause problems with kinks, wrinkles, overlapping butts, or falling off the center of the crown. These problems can all lead to pinching and damage to the tire.
Of course, one of the reasons why these low end tire liners are so popular is because they are inexpensive and they add minimal weight to the tire. This makes it easier to peddle faster on your bike.
Kevlar Tire Liners
Low end tire liners are popular because they protect against a lot of small debris, and they have minimal impact on how you ride.
However, they only provide minimal protection. If you want thicker protection or if you are riding through a place with lots of broken glass and thorns, you need something stronger.
If this is the case, you should consider investing in Kevlar tire liners. These are heavier and more expensive, but they are much more resistant to being punctured than most tire liners are. This is the material that bullet proof vests are made out of, so you know it will be able to protect your bicycle tires.
Related: Are Kevlar Bike Tires Worth It?
These tire liners are easier to insert than the low end tire liners, because they do have the peel and stick feature. They also add more weight to your tire, but this is a modest compromise for the protection that they give you.
Even though these tire liners are basically bullet proof, however, does not mean that they completely protect your tire. After all, bullet proof vests only provide so much protection against bullets.
Kevlar tire liners will protect your tires against most things, but it is still possible for tiny nails, shards of glass, and thorns to squeeze their way through the tight weave of the liner and puncture your tire.
Do bike tire lines work? Yes, they do. They are an important accessory to get for your bike. They will add more weight to your bike, and they are expensive, but the protection that they give your tires is worth it.