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The amount of effort required to deform the tyre at the point where it makes contact with the road is what gives tires their rolling resistance. The rolling resistance of the entire assembly is increased if the inner tube is too thick to bend.
Inner tube performance is also affected by the inner tube material's pliability. Two types of rubber are used to construct inner tubes: synthetic butyl rubber and natural latex. Since latex is more malleable and thinner than other materials, it can lower rolling resistance. By switching to latex inner tubes instead of butyl tubes, you can cut your energy consumption by 4.5 to 5.5 Watts, as reported by Jarno Bierman at bicyclerollingresistance.com (link is external). That's not a change you'd notice by touching, but a stopwatch would show it.
Inner tubes made of latex are the greatest, then, right? The opposite is true. They have the major drawback of being more porous than butyl tubes. This means you will need to regularly pump air into them because of how quickly they lose pressure.
The availability in recent years of smaller and lighter butyl inner tubes adds a twist to the situation. Although Bierman used a 100g butyl tube, you may find them as light as 50g. He compared them to an 80g latex tube. Thinner tires offer less rolling resistance and maintain their air pressure better than latex tires, but they're more fragile and can be punctured more quickly.
Challenge, a manufacturer of tires, warns that latex inner tubes are incompatible with carbon fiber wheels. Carbon rims don't dissipate heat as well as aluminum, therefore heavy braking for extended periods, like on steep descents, might cause localized overheating of the braking surface. The latex could be ruined by the higher temperatures.
Some people think that latex inner tubes are more durable than those made from other types of rubber because latex is more elastic. But whether or not that makes a difference on the road is disputed, given that a tube secured by a tyre would not be able to expand as much as one crushed against a broken bottle in an advertisement. You probably don't want daily inflation to suffer in order to have fewer punctures for casual riding.
You should use sealants instead. Products like Slime are made by suspending tiny rubber particles in a liquid that dries when exposed to air. It does a good job of blocking air leaks up to roughly 3 millimeters in diameter. Since it is difficult to force a sealant through a regular Presta valve, companies that produce such fluids sell tubes pre-filled with the substance. To roll your own, you'll need tubes with detachable valve cores.
There is no such thing as a flawless sealant. If the cut is too large, the sealant won't hold and you'll have to replace the tube with a new one. Repairing a tube that has been filled with sealant is problematic because the sealant prevents the patch from attaching to the tube.
Sealants add weight as well, but if you use them to prevent flats when riding your bike on a daily basis, you probably won't mind the extra few grams.
Tubes That Seal Themselves
You may be familiar with the concept of self-sealing bike tubes. The chemical "self-healing" that is sprayed inside these "slime" tubes effectively seals minor punctures as soon as they occur.
While this is a cheap measure to take, it will not ensure that your bike tubes will survive forever. It's something to consider if you're going on a lengthy trip to increase your sense of safety.
Extra Tough Tubes
Think about whether or not you need thorn-proof tubes when searching for the best bike tubes. It may not be worth your time or money to install thorn rolling resistant bike tubes or puncture resistant bike tubes if you primarily ride on paved roads or other smooth surfaces.
It's a good idea to have a bike tube that is a little more sturdy and can resist the damage if you ride in rocky terrain or in locations where "goat-head" thorns are prevalent.
You must ensure that the tires you purchase are the suitable size for your bicycle. The problem is that a bike often has tires of several sizes mounted on it, making it difficult to determine which one to use.
You'll have a harder time finding a good fit for the tube on your bike's wheel and may see an increase in punctures and pinch flats if you don't have the right one.
So how does one determine what size bicycle inner tube is needed? The diameter of the wheel is the first quantity of interest. Wheel size ranges from 29 inches on mountain bikes to 650c on gravel grinders fall within this category. That's the first piece of information you'll need.
Next, you'll need to measure the width to make sure the tire fits properly.
Details like "700c x 42c" or "42c x 622" will be printed or coded onto the tire sidewall. The width, in c, is 42, and the diameter, in c, is either 622 or 700.
There is a wide variety of materials used to make bicycle tubes. Some of them are incredibly light. Thermoplastic elastomer and latex are only a couple of the materials used to make these tubes.
These will reduce the weight of your bike but won't provide anything in the way of safety.
Standard butyl rubber tubes are the other main variety; they're bulkier than synthetic tubes but provide superior protection and are much easier to patch. This makes them an excellent choice if you're not concerned with your bike's weight or speed.
As you'll see in this piece, there are a number of variables that go into determining the final pricing of a tube.
The primary is that employing lightweight materials like thermoplastic elastomers and latex will significantly increase the price because they are so much more difficult to manufacture.
Presently, a high-performance tube can cost as much as $40, which is almost as much as a tire. Unfortunately, quality comes at a price.
Butyl rubber inner tubes are more cost-effective than other options. To begin, the raw material is inexpensive, and the tubes are simple to manufacture.
Butyl rubber tubes are quite inexpensive and may be repaired with a simple patch. They're heavier than standard tubes, but if you're not concerned with speed, that might not be an issue.
When Will Self-Sealing Bike Tubes Be Worth It?
If you find yourself dealing with a number of minor flats on your recreational cycling trips, self-sealing inner tubes may be an easy and effective answer. Puncture holes less than 0.2 mm in diameter are no match for self-sealing inner tubes.
Self-sealing tubes may be able to repair minor punctures without your knowledge. However, patches are necessary for holes larger than 0.2 mm.
Self-sealing tubes aren't ideal for the avid competitive cyclist due to their added weight and difficulty in making repairs on the roadside.
Road race cyclists always have a spare tube, air pump, or fast-inflating carbon dioxide cartridge on them.
Self-sealing inner tubes, notwithstanding their reduced danger of punctures, are too heavy to be practical. When tires with pressures as high as 80 to 160 psi come into contact with sharp objects like shattered glass or thorns, it can cause significant punctures.
The occasional leisure cyclist will not mind the somewhat higher weight or the softer tires. Self-sealing bike tubes are a worthy investment due to their modest additional cost compared to standard inner tubes.
Do bike tubes fit all tires?
Bicycle tires have certain tube sizes, and not all tubes work with all tires. Tires of the appropriate size must be used. If you don't, the tire may not fit properly and you can count on getting lots of punctures.
Are some bike tubes better than others?
Thermoplastic elastomers outperform butyl rubber in terms of performance, but the latter is considerably more practical for maintenance and repairs. It all depends on the individual requirements of the consumer.
How do I know what bike tube to buy?
The best place to begin is to check the code on the tire sidewall. Everything you need to know about locating the right tube will be there.
Self-sealing tubes are not recommended for use in cycling competitions, where fast speeds are prized, due to their added bulk and complexity of repair. Timed events are where getting things fixed right the first time really matters, therefore it's best to hone your skills in quick tire swaps and effective repairs.