Tuesday, October 05, 2021

Review: Tubolito Tubes - Part 1

Tubolito tubes in background- patch kit up front.
 NOTE: Please read the Standard Disclaimer Page for reference in terms of review product and my relationship with the product. Thank you! 

Okay, so recently I made mention here that I received a surprise in the American Classic tire box I was expecting for a review for RidingGravel.com. Inside with those tires were two Tubolito tubes and a patch kit for the tubes. So, since I hadn't been asked to review that stuff for RidingGravel.com, I'm going to do that here on this blog. Now you know....

Again, this is not a paid review and I was sent this stuff at no charge. I am doing the review without the knowledge of Tuboloito or its distributors and marketing folks. 

Now with that said, here's my impressions of this product. It is something many riders use as a fail-safe against tubeless failures, but Tubolito suggests that you can use these as 'daily-driver' tubes for your wheels. Many of you said in comments to me that you haven't used this product in that way, so I decided to use these on one of my bikes and we'll see how they perform and hold up. In this post I will impart how it is to use one of these in place of your tubeless set up, which is the most likely scenario from the sounds of it. 

Of course, I did this in a controlled setting, not out along a roadside, but I'll try to impart my take on what it may be like to change out to a Tubolito in an emergency situation despite that. Okay- here we go!

These things are incredibly light.

I'll assume a situation where the tire is intact, but for whatever reason, your sealant failed to seal a puncture. Okay? Obviously you know that at this point you need to bail on the tubeless and peel off one bead from the rim and pull the valve stem for your tubeless set up. Note: This may require that you carry a small pliers of some sort because typically the Presta nut is darn near impossible to take off by hand at this point. Be forewarned that just using fingers may not cut it for that job! Some Presta nuts have flats built in which allow for a small wrench to fit them, but at any rate, know what you need ahead of the emergency and have it packed. If you do not plan in advance for this, you may be stopped in your tracks already, which means nothing beyond this point will matter. 

Now that you have that valve removed, you may want to use a rag or a wipe, (What! You don't pack a rag or wipes?! You heathen!) to wipe up any excess goop (sealant) in the tire. But keep in mind that Tubolito tubes are sealant resistant, according to their information, so if you cannot remove that stuff, then you should be okay. I wiped up as much as I could from the rim wells, but I wasn't super picky, just like you might not be out in the field. 

Note: For my purposes in testing I used a non-tubeless tire to set up the Tubolito tubes with, so I did not have excess goop on the tires. In this case, I grabbed some old Bruce Gordon Rock & Road tires I had. They are 700 X 42mm and the Tubolito tubes I was sent are rated for that size range. In fact, this tube is good for up to 700 X 47mm tires. Curiously it also is suggested for 650B X 30mm tires. Anyway, I'll get to that in a minute. 

The Tubolito is plasticky and feels rather like a prophylactic - if you know what I mean.
With a slight amount of air to give it shape here. Note- You can see the light through this a bit.

So, in the hand these feel and look nothing like a typical bicycle inner tube. They feel slippery, plasticky, and rather like a condom! Airing it up to give it some shape, the tube doesn't fill out in a circular shape, but sections want to stay straight and small folds develop where it bends instead of curving. 

Tubolito recommends no more than a few psi outside of a tire because once a Tubolito stretches it does not return to its previous form and doing this to an unrestricted Tubolito may damage it beyond usefulness. So, don't blow this thing up beyond just giving it some shape. Now, stuffing this into the tire is fairly straight forward with one caveat. Remember how Tubolito says this size can work for 650B? Yeah, this thing comes out a tad smaller in diameter due to that, so be prepared to wrestle with that a bit as well. 

Once you've assured yourself that the Tubolito is in the rim well, you can slip the bead of the tire back into place and begin to air up the tire. That part is no different than any other tire, as far as what air pressures to use. Use your normal pressures here. (See the caveat in the next paragraph though) Note that on the Tubolito site they give you a graph showing the rolling resistance comparisons between a normal tube, a 'super-light' butyl tube, latex tubes, and tubeless versus the Tubolito. The charts show the Tubolito to not be quite as good as tubeless and latex tubes, but much better than butyl rubber tubes. So, you are not losing too much here by having to use a Tubolito.  

No Presta valve nuts here!

 Because the Tubolito has a valve stem seemingly made from the same material as the rest of the tube, and because you cannot use a Presta valve nut, pushing a pump head on is a bit more difficult. It would probably behoove one to use care when pushing a pump head on because these things cost North of 30 bucks by a fair amount and one would be pretty sore if they were to ruin one of these by bending the Presta valve up or by ripping the stem off the tube somehow. Not that there is any evidence that this may happen given by Tubolito, but I would be cautious nonetheless. 

Now, you've gotten yourself back on the go. From this point the this post will focus on how I am using these tubes as 'daily driver' tubes in my set up using the Rock&Road tires. My set up was fairly normal, given that I used a tubeless rim and some used tires. The problems getting the tires to seat properly probaly were not related to the Tubolito, just situational to this particular pairing. Once I managed that it has been nothing to really write about.

I am using the aluminum Irwin wheels on my Raleigh Tamland Two for this test.

 The tires were set at 38-ish psi and rode as I would have expected. I did not feel that there was any real difference between this and a tubeless tire that would be comparable to the Rock&Roads. In fact, I had Vee Tire Rocketman tires on here before set up tubeless and this felt basically the same as that set up. 

Okay, so why would anyone want to use expensive tubes? One reason might be weight savings. The rear Tubolito was the standard CX/Gravel tube and weighed 61 grams. That's a lot lighter than the tube I had been using with this tire, (which I just so happened to still have in the tires when I grabbed them from the hook), and the weight savings was 70 grams on average between the two tires. That's roughly 2.5 ounces. Considering the fact that you would also have had at least 4 ounces of sealant in a tubeless tire, and that these 42mm Rock&Roads weigh around 500 grams, and adding in the additional weight of a tubeless valve stem, this set up is arguably a lot lighter than a similar tubeless set up. You could use the S-CX version of this tube, as I did with the front, and save even more. That tube weighed 36 grams. 

But let's say that you aren't about the weight, but the ride feel is what you are after. Okay, I would be very hard pressed to discern any real differences between tubeless and Tubolitoed here. (Is that even a word? I guess it is now!) Yes, the rolling resistance numbers are not as good as tubeless, (or latex tubed), but they are not terrible either. You say, "But what about puncture protection?" 

Fair question.

Tubolito claims that the standard version of the Tubolito is twice as strong as a standard butyl rubber tube and that the lighter, S-CX version, is the same strength as a standard rubber tube. They say it takes twice the force to puncture, and in the case of a S-CX Tubolito tube, the same as it would a standard rubber tube. If you puncture a lot, then maybe this isn't for you. I don't have that issue here, so for my uses, it makes sense to try this. (Of course, now I've doomed myself to running across a nail in the next few days!)

Now here is another downside: Tubolito does not recommend that you pass the Tubolito from one tire to the next, as these stretch out once and that's it. In fact, Tubolito recommends you replace the Tubolito if you change tires. If you are a consistent tire swapper, then these are probably a bad deal. If, however, you live on a set of tires until they die? Then this may be a good bet. 

So, going forward I am going to use this set up as if I were running tubeless. I'm not trying to aviod any rubbish-filled gutters, needle-sharp thorns in the dirt, or sharp-edged strikes from broken pavement. I'll ride the gravel as if I were on any other set up. (Carrying a butyl tube as a back-up!) We will see how it goes throughout the Fall. 

Stay tuned......


Jon BALER said...

I carry a Tubolito as a spare on my 29+ plus mountain bike. I have a small frame bag, so the tubulito allows me to carry a bit more of other critical items (tools, food, etc). Since I will rarely need a spare with tubeless, it's hard to justify a regular tube taking up 1/3 of my pack. I've used it a couple times to finish my ride, and then it goes back in my back after the tubeless tire is repaired at home. I can justify the high cost, since it saves me space on every ride, and will last me a long time when only used a temporary spare.

FarleyBob said...

@Jon Baler: Does the tube compress back to it's original size after being used? It sounded like GT said it would be a single use, but maybe being used with the same wheel/tire setup it can be used repeatedly?

Guitar Ted said...

@Farley Bob , @Jon BALER - Yeah, that is what Tubolito says, but I would be curious to know what your experience is there as well, Jon.

Thanks for the comments guys!

Jon BALER said...

I have used the 29+ tube in a 29x2.6 tire, and it goes back to it's original size when deflated. I think the concern is more if you are using it in drastically different size tires, not necessarily that you can't re-use it. There may also be more permanent stretch if used in a true 29x3" tire.

Nooge said...

The main attraction of Tubolito for people, myself included, is as a really small and light spare tube. It leaves more room to carry other stuff. I have hesitated to buy them because I have read reports of people having issues with the valve stem being defective, which is really bad to be surprised by when you need that spare. Maybe it was user error or a bad batch. But for the price, I wasn’t willing to gamble on it.