Tubolito… 1/3 of a Spare Tube.
With a proper tubeless setup, flat tires are rare. Even so, carrying a bulky spare tube is still mandatory for backcountry insurance. But the game has been changed. Tubolito has created a next level option that’s about 1/3 of the weight and much smaller than a traditional inner tube …
These days, lugging that unnecessary half-pound roll of rubber is kind of irritating. Considering the level of protection provided by a good tubeless setup, rugged tires, and repair plugs, the inner tube is just dead weight bouncing around your frame bag or backpack. But there is the off chance that you’ll lose a seal during a repair or run out of sealant. So it was welcome news to hear that Austrian brand Tubolito shaved almost 65% off the weight and space from a typical butyl inner tube, resulting in a spare tube that’s one-third the bulk. Tubolito recently debuted this next generation mountain bike tube and sent us one to check out. While we haven’t had the chance to test it (fortunately), here’s a first look and some details.
Tubolito vs an Ultralight Tube
A tough inner tube that’s this light and small sounded too good to be true. But based on our weigh-in (against the lightest 29er tube we had on hand, a standard 2.0-2.4″ Specialized tube), the claims were fairly accurate. At an actual 83g, the 29er Tubolito weighs 63% less than the rubber 29er tube (221g) and takes up just over 1/3 of the space. Here’s the kicker. These bright orange future tubes are touted to be twice as resistant to punctures and pinches as typical butyl tubes… all while being more elastic. That’s kind of tricky to test, but we’ll make sure to keep this updated should we learn anything otherwise. I will say that the material itself feels pretty tough. It’s more plasticky and less grippy than rubber. Theoretically, this should allow it to move against the tire casing when in use, which might offer some ride benefits, such as less rolling resistance and aversion to pinch flats. Tubolito also claims these tubes are far tougher and more resistant to wear and abrasion. If that’s the case, they’ll last longer bouncing around a frame pack or backpack as well.
How Tubolito is made
The two engineers behind Tubolito, Christian Lembacher and Akos Kertesz, previously held jobs developing speakers for mobile phones. Working with extremely lightweight and tough high-tech membrane material required for such applications spurred the idea to revolutionize the 100 year old rubber bike inner tube.
Tubolito makes each Tubo with a high-tech thermoplastic elastomer using a patented seamless production technology. As you can see in the photo above/left, there are just two small joins on the each Tubo, the seam where the two ends of the tube are welded, and the circular seam where the tube and removable core valve stem are joined.
So if they are indeed lighter, smaller, tougher, and more durable, what are the disadvantages (aside from price, which we’ll get to later)? For starters, traditional patches won’t work with them; Tubolito will offer their own patch kit for somewhere around $12. In addition, Tubolito isn’t sealant compatible, meaning they can’t be converted to ‘slime’ tubes with a few squirts of Orange Seal or Stan’s.
There are three mountain bike versions of the Tubolito. The standard Tubo as we have here, which comes in a 29er version (85g), 27.5 (82g), and 26″ (78g). Then there is the Tubo-Plus available for 27.5+ and 29+ tires — 2.5 to 3″ width (105g and 110g). And the insanely lightweight S-Tubo, which has a removable valve stem — better for rolling and storage so it doesn’t stick out — and a claimed weight of 45g for the 29er. There is also a Tubo Road that’s even more svelte at 33g.
Made in Europe, and right now only available in Europe (although not in the UK), the standard Tubolito (Tubo) will retail for $34.99, and 27.5+ and 29+ versions (Tubo-Plus) for about $40. Tubolito will likely be available in January of 2018 in the US.
- Revolutionary material makes for an insanely lightweight and small spare tube.
- Tougher and more pinch resistant, according to the company’s claims.
- Tubolito uses minimal packaging (versus typical cardboard boxes).
- Standard patches don’t work with the Tubolito.
- The Tubolito can’t be used with sealant (for protection against thorns, etc).
- No fat tire versions to speak of, yet.
- Model/size Tubo (29er)
- Weight 83g
- Price $34.99
- Place of manufacture Austria
- Contact Tubolito.com
Being a staunch advocate for tubeless, it’s a wonder I’m somewhat giddy about new inner tube technology. But, admittedly, deciding on the number of spare tubes for some bikepacking trips has been a bit of a juggling act. The weight and space required is quite annoying given the fact that they rarely see the light of day. I usually opt for one, or even none on some shorter trips. If Gin and I are traveling together, we usually bring two between us, alongside an extensive repair kit. We often fix them to the frame with electrical tape (a fork leg or the seat stay) which makes it a little less annoying, but that exposes the tubes and subjects them to damage, even when wrapped in a ziplock.
The weight and space benefits of Tubolito as a spare tube are without a doubt game changing, and I don’t doubt that they work. They are costly though; spending $35 on a spare tube seems kind of crazy. However, if they are as rugged and durable as the company claims, they should last a long time. This makes Tubolito highly appealing as a spare tube for bikepacking and trail riding. I plan on carrying this one for a while and I’ll make sure to update this post or write a further review down the road.