During its 100 year-long lifespan, the humble bike tube has been made of natural rubber, latex, butyl blends, and in the early years was literally grown from cow intestines. Ick. The Austrian-made Tubolito Tubo, announced last year during the annual trade show circuit, is perhaps the most advanced bike tube ever created and is constructed of materials typically used in mobile phones.

When Tubolito founders Christian Lembacher and Akos Kertesz worked as engineers in the tech industry, part of their job was researching durable and lightweight membranes to implement in mobile phone speakers. As avid riders, they immediately saw the potential bicycle applications and after a lengthy period of R&D, the Tubolito Tubo was born.

Tubolito Tubo is light, strong, and 65% smaller than traditional tubes.

The Tubo is not the first inner tube made of advanced thermoplastic elastomer. Schwalbe and Eclipse both launched hyper-light tubes in recent years, but they were almost too delicate and heat-sensitive to be of any practical use.

By contrast, the Tubo is billed as light and strong. Their proprietary material and unique manufacturing process yield a multi-layered tube they claim is twice as durable as a standard butyl tube. Their process eliminates a full-length seam and is joined with just a small weld around the circumference of the tube. The smaller seam reduces potential failure points. A Tubo is also 65% lighter and smaller than a traditional tube. Citing increased puncture resistance due to its highly elastic properties, they say the flexible thermoplastic resists pinch cuts and can even improve rolling efficiency over a butyl inner.

Tubolito Tubo is light, strong, and 65% smaller than traditional tubes.

When they were announced last fall, Tubos garnered a fair amount of press, but few people since have logged many miles on them. But I have…

I received my 29-inch and 27+ Tubolitos in late November. Although I haven’t ridden with tubes in years, I popped them in and hit the trails. I have since put roughly 633.5 miles on them—give or take.

Tubolito Tubo is light, strong, and 65% smaller than traditional tubes.

Installation
Because of the slick exterior and somewhat plasticized texture of the material, which is quite stiff, installing the Tubos is a piece of cake. They resist twisting and kinking and slide right into place with virtually no risk of pinching under the bead. Unlike latex tubes which can be awkward to wiggle into position, Tubos make for a quick insertion.

Trail feel
To be honest, I didn’t expect to feel a difference over my tubeless setup and to that end—I didn’t. For the sake of context, I might be able to discern the difference between a tubeless and a tubed tire, but just barely. From the standpoint of trail feedback and tangible ride quality, I would say the Tubo feels very much like riding with no tube at all.

Durability
Even as a desert dweller in the central mountains of Arizona where everything pokes and gnashes at tires, I don’t get many flats. I attribute that to my use of sealants, which Tubolitos do not support. That had me fearful of flats, but none were had—yet. I know a cactus needle can penetrate bone, so it will have no problems puncturing hight-tech Austrian thermoplastic.

Although I did flirt with pinch flats more than once, a pin-prick hole is bound to happen despite Tubolito’s durability claims. One disadvantage of Tubo’s material is the need to buy their proprietary patch kit at a cost of $15. Just for grins, I tried to stick a Park Tool pre-glued patch to a Tubo and it seemed to hold just fine over the last 300 miles.

Tubolito Tubo is light, strong, and 65% smaller than traditional tubes.

Air retention
Unlike latex and race-grade butyl tubes, I was pleased with the air retention of the Tubolito thermoplastic. I would say it holds pressure as well as a sealed tubeless tire, or a tire fitted with a standard thickness butyl inner.

Ideal usage
As pleased as I am with the performance of the Tubo, it is still an inner tube. The incompatibility with sealants is the most noteworthy drawback. Given where I live and ride, it’s a deal-breaker, at least for regular use.

If they have one major advantage, it is their compact size and low weight. At 83 grams for a 29er tube, the Tubo sheds 185 grams from my spare tube weight. For long bikepacking trips I can carry two Tubes for less weight than one standard butyl tube. The tiny size is another considerable advantage. The tough membrane also resists abrasion allowing it to survive a rough and tumble life in my hydration pack as it bounces around with tools and supplies.

With an MSRP of $35, and given the patching and sealant limitations, I see the Tubo best used as a backup tube. In that capacity, it is light, small, installs easily, and has enough durability to get me rolling without me feeling like I’m limping home on a race-quality tube.

Available now throughout much of Europe, Tubolito is hopeful they will have their full range of road and mountain bike tubes on sale in North America in the coming months. Their offering includes multiple sizes across two weights of tubes. The light S-Tubo is a spare-only tube with a removable stem to help it back down as small as possible.

It’s hard to say if it is truly the lightest, fastest, smallest, and strongest tube on the market, but I wouldn’t hesitate to say it’s the most advanced tube of the last century. My words, not theirs.

tublolito.com

33 COMMENTS

  1. So you had no flats in 1000km of riding, yet the lack of sealant compatibility is a deal-breaker?
    High expectations much?

    This seems like a cost-comparable, less messy, easier to install alternative to tubeless. Well done Tubolito.

    • Given where I live, in the southwest, a flat is inevitable and could very likely come in the form of two dozen cactus needles riddled throughout the entire tire. That’s a situation only sealant can remedy. So, while I’ve had great luck, there are situations where even Tubolito’s durable material won’t save the day. It’s not about high expectations, but 25 years riding in the Southwest. But, thank you for the feedback. It helped clear up that point I was trying to make.

      • How about a followup where you deliberately try to flat? Have you been lucky, or are they perhaps puncture resistant in an unanticipated way? How well do their patches work? Does the park patch actually hold air, or merely adhere to the plastic?

    • lack of sealant compatibility is an issue because no one runs tubes, these are only ever going to be used as a backup. And you can’t use them as a backup, so they are useless.

      • I think they mean from the standpoint of filling the tubes with sealant, not in an emergency case where dump the excess sealant out and try to clean it out as best as possible, patch the gash and fill with Tubolito.

      • Per Tubolito, you can use these in a tire previously filled with sealant. They say they are not “sealant compatible” as a way of saying “these will not seal correctly if filled with sealant and we don’t intend for them to be used that way.” Now, whether or not they’d fail after being in a sealant laden tire for a long period of time, who knows.

        • Thank you for the clarification. Sounds like the ultimate bikepacking spare to carry two of for swapping in if a tubeless setup gets “hosed” (lol)

  2. Would you say these are durable enough to strap to seat rails with a Backcountry Research strap and leave there without worry of cracking? I keep 2 tubes on my bike with a Race Strap & have to remember to pull them off and replace them every 6-12 months, or at least inflate and check for cracks.

    • Yes. Absolutely. The texture feels like hard plastic. They seem very difficult to abrade or scratch. Time will tell, and I could be wrong, but it seems to me they’re perfectly suited to that type of usage. I have two tubes that have been bouncing around in my pack with tools and other gear and they don’t look any different than they did 8 months ago when brand new.

  3. Making expensive tubes for mountain biking seems like a labor of love as opposed to a sound business decision given everyone runs tubeless, especially for high end MTB bikes whose owners would likely be the target market. I would consider using as a back up, however given its durability and weight. Can they do one for road, that is where there is currently a market for this product.

    • if this is as light as a tubeless set up (and it sounds like it is) I think I’d prefer to just run these. I find tubeless tires to be kind of a pain in the a$$.

    • Are you crazy?!? They would cost something like $80-$90/ea given the cost per square inch of this material.

      • Yes, but the weight savings would be a back saver. Want me some 29+ versions to drop a pound of weight from my tool kit.

  4. I don’t use Tubolitos but pretty much the same tubes from Revoloop. These are from Germany.

    I always ride tubeless but use these a spare tires. Weight savings! I would say they are easier to mount than regular tubes. Quite handy in race conditions, you’re faster. Had to use them a couple of times, great investment.

  5. Normally wouldn’t slam a product I have no interest using but a $35 inner tube, proprietary patch kit, wha? Probably won’t be draining the stans out of my tires anytime soon.

  6. I bought 3 Tubolitos in March. Installed two of them directly. Without even riding the bike one of the tires got flat after some days. Changed it to the third one and that one also went flat after few days. So 2 out of 3 were not able to hold air, the third one does. I’m now trying to get them changed. I really hope this is a rare case, but when you read reviews by other users they seem to have similar problems. But I really hope they can do something about those problems and improve the tubos. They are a cool, light and useful product if they work.

    • Not a rare case….I got 2 flats while mounting. Pretty amazing considering I installed it WITHOUT tools. Then the day after my first ride it was flat again!

      These are perhaps the WORST consumer product I have EVER owned.

      Also, my floor pump is useless with their valve.

      • > Also, my floor pump is useless with their valve.

        Oh yes, I also noticed that with my SKS floor pump. Only a pump with an on-screwable ventile works.

  7. A timely review, I was looking to try these on my bikes in order to drop a bit of weight and to satiate my curiosity. Wish someone made a rolling resistance test of the road version with comparison to latex/butyl/sealant.

  8. If you’re using tubes already, for road or mtb, I think the price is well worth it for the weight savings. In other words, I see value beyond using them as light & compact spares. Folks spend a lot of money to reduce weight on wheels and tires. The weight savings with the Tubolito seems cost-effective.

  9. Yes they are light and is good for being a spare tube.
    But they never mention about rolling resistance.
    We know thick latex that weight even more than race light butyl still have lower resistance because it absorb less energy deform and return to their shape so low weight doesn’t means it’ll be fast.

    Given all their development and research, yet completely ignore any mentioning about rolling resistance…. i could only hope it’ll be decent.

  10. I am thinking about using one a lightweight backup. I am wondering if these have any issues with being filled by CO2?

  11. The ultralight spare tube is a great use for these off road — especially for more remote XC races — but I’m surprised they don’t emphasize road as their main selling point. Assuming rolling resistance is not severely affected, this is a relatively inexpensive way of saving 100+ grams of rotating weight on your race wheels. People spend a whole lot more than $70 for lighter wheels all the time.

What do you think?