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Ultralight Tubolito Tubes Tested

They weigh a lot less and cost more, but how do the latest offerings stand up against traditional tubes or tubeless setups?

Light, strong, compact. Not exactly the first three words that spring to mind when you think of bike tubes. 

Long considered the bane of the sport, those old school butyl rubber inner tubes came with a long list of red flags including increased rolling resistance, being easily pinched during installation and having the propensity to puncture at the worst possible place or moment in time. 

In more recent years these dated tubes – that can be traced back to the first use of a pneumatic tyre on a tricycle in more than 120 years ago in 1887 – have become largely redundant thanks to advances in tubeless rims and tyres.

The plastic valve of the Tubolito tube.

But just like wheel and tyre tech, many key bike industry players still strongly believe in the humble bike tube and, over the past five years or so, have invested a huge amount of time, recourse and money into creating the next generation bicycle tube. We could think of them as Tubes2.0 – a completely new product line with the only common denominators and similarities being the fact they are round and have a valve.

Tubolito are one of those bike industry developers who see a bright future for inner tubes – but the main descriptor is where any similarities to legacy tubes ends.

Made in Austria, Tubilito come in a wide range of sizes and are instantly recognisable via their bright orange colouring. Another major point of difference is the integrated, polyurethane valve stem – there’s no removable (and often fiddly) inner valve body, it’s all one piece.

Surprisingly Strong

The tubes themselves are made of a particularly strong plastic compound known as TPU or Thermoplastic Polyurethane. TPU’s properties include surprising levels of elasticity and flexibility, outstanding abrasion resistance, very high tensile strength, are completely waterproof and airtight, and very light in weight. 

And all of the above, as you were no doubt just thinking, makes TPU the ideal material to replace old school rubber, butyl and latex bike tubes. Keen to learn more about the strength of this material, particularly in tube form? Tubolito’s Instagram feed has a series of interesting test lab videos.

Puncturing is far less likely than with conventional tubes, but if it does happen the tubes can be repaired.

Dramatically Lighter

Up to 80 per cent lighter than the same sized traditional tube, holding a Tubolito is quite an experience. The samples we’ve been testing suit 32-50mm gravel tyres, and have 60mm valves (more on those in a sec), and weigh just 36g. Compare that to similar spec’d butyl tubes available and you’d expect weights of 150 to 200g.

To installing the nimble orange tubes, and fitting the Tubilitos is a cinch and no different to fitting old style tubes. The only point of difference here can be the thinness factor, the Tubolitos do like a few pumps of air for a little initial shape to help seat them in place.

We haven’t experienced any punctures during the past few months of riding the tubes, and wouldn’t expect any after reading that the tubes have been tested to withstand nails of up 20mm!

How did they ride? You honestly don’t know they are there, it’s just like riding tubeless. Whether it’s psychological or not – being well aware of the considerable weight savings at the outer ends of the wheels – the overall setup feels lighter, easier and more efficient.   , 

‘So why not ride tubeless?’ You may ask. Because these ultralight TPU tubes are easier to fit, don’t require the use of sealant to be A: initially fitted or B: removed and re-added when its time is up. while we often do ride tubeless and obviously use sealant, despite the slick product videos, lived experience shows this if often a messy and frustrating affair … an example? Cleaning out the inside of the tyres prior to adding the new sealant!. Plus, at well under 40g, even these larger Tubolitos weigh less than the sealant you’d be using.

Plastic Valves?

Yes, as mentioned above, Tubolito use bright orange and matt black polyurethane valve. An orange cap comes fitted as standard, but they don’t have thread on the lower valve stem as per old school metal valves – and no, we haven’t experienced any rattles. These plastic valves also save a considerable amount of weight, and have so far been reliable as.

Verdict

Ultra light, offering the ultimate in performance, super compact when carried as a spare, and reliable, there’s nothing we don’t like about the Tubilito TPU tubes. Yes they initially cost more, but you’ll be saving on replacement butyl tubes or sealant, tubeless valves, downtime and stress.

The Tubolito gravel tyres we tested have an RRP of $39.99 unknown.gif

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