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  1. #1
    Senior Member Pistard's Avatar
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    Tubes and quality...

    Is there a diffence in tubes, between more expensive and cheaper? I never really though about it, just grabbed whatever was on the rack etc. Do you guys stick with brands? I am mounting some gator skins on my hybrid, any tubes better then others? thanks

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    Senior Member rydabent's Avatar
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    If you are to believe conventional wisdom, there are only 3-4-5 mfg of bike tubes in the world. So name brand tubes must buy from those mfg. That said I dont know which one makes the tubes with the Bontrager name on it, but they seem to lose air not where nears as fast as other brands. The are sold by LBS that handle Trek bikes.

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Schwalbe and Michlin have their own plants. Their tubes are more expensive and when I can find them - am more than eilling to pay the difference. But most cyclists think a tube is a tube so few shops carry the more expensive tubes.

    Need I mention that I've NEVER seen decent tubes installed as OEM stuff? Which also partly explains the success of companies manufacturing low-end tubes and the widespread availability of their products.
    Last edited by Burton; 01-20-13 at 03:24 PM.

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    When I started cycling years ago, somebody told me, "Tubes all suck, but Continentals suck less than others." I buy them when I can find them, and they do seem to suck less.

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    Only tube I ever had issues with were continental light tubes.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Schwalbe and Michlin have their own plants.
    I like Schwalbe tubes. I THINK that they lose a little less air between rides. I've never taken the effort to do any kind of a controlled test, however.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    I patch tubes and some have 10,000 miles and 5+ patches, so I figure the cost of the tube is pretty immaterial. I use Michelin lightweight butyl tubes because I like the smooth unthreaded stems.

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    Latex tubes have reduced rolling resistance, are lighter, and more resistant to snakebite (i.e. pinch) flats. Downside is that they leak down faster and are expensive.

    Panaracer make a tube (in their own factory) called the R Air that's a superlight blend of latex and butyl, supposedly offering the benefits of both materials. It can be patched with a regular butyl patch kit. Cost is about $14 per tube, but it's probably the best performing, all around tube you can buy.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
    I patch tubes and some have 10,000 miles and 5+ patches, so I figure the cost of the tube is pretty immaterial. I use Michelin lightweight butyl tubes because I like the smooth unthreaded stems.
    Funny. I buy Conti tubes with 60 mm stems because they have a threaded stem. They're "normal price" tube, and with the stem nut the hold the stem in place I can use 'em on my 52mm wheels and not have to pay the premium for tubes with 80 mm stems, or deal with stem extenders. The stem nut pulls the stem up just enough that I can get a pump (or CO2 inflator) on the stem.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Latex tubes have reduced rolling resistance, are lighter, and more resistant to snakebite (i.e. pinch) flats. Downside is that they leak down faster and are expensive.

    Panaracer make a tube (in their own factory) called the R Air that's a superlight blend of latex and butyl, supposedly offering the benefits of both materials. It can be patched with a regular butyl patch kit. Cost is about $14 per tube, but it's probably the best performing, all around tube you can buy.
    Were I worried about the rolling resistance and ride quality difference between latex and butyl tubes, I'd be riding tubulars instead of clinchers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    Were I worried about the rolling resistance and ride quality difference between latex and butyl tubes, I'd be riding tubulars instead of clinchers.
    Well that's a loser scenario, isn't it? Just because you choose to ignore the benefits do they cease being benefits.
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Latex tubes have reduced rolling resistance, are lighter, and more resistant to snakebite (i.e. pinch) flats. Downside is that they leak down faster and are expensive.

    Panaracer make a tube (in their own factory) called the R Air that's a superlight blend of latex and butyl, supposedly offering the benefits of both materials. It can be patched with a regular butyl patch kit. Cost is about $14 per tube, but it's probably the best performing, all around tube you can buy.

    I'll have to look those up! Last time I rode latex was a few years back - they're getting harder and harder to find here.

  13. #13
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I like Schwalbe tubes. I THINK that they lose a little less air between rides. I've never taken the effort to do any kind of a controlled test, however.
    Schwalbe and Michlin both do their own in-house R&D and testing. Some of the specifics can be found on their websites. Some German companies are pretty much industry icons - Zeiss, Porshe, Henckels.....but I can't remember the last time I saw an advertisement outside a trade magazine.

  14. #14
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    Schwalbe and Michlin have their own plants. Their tubes are more expensive and when I can find them - am more than eilling to pay the difference. But most cyclists think a tube is a tube so few shops carry the more expensive tubes.

    Need I mention that I've NEVER seen decent tubes installed as OEM stuff? Which also partly explains the success of companies manufacturing low-end tubes and the widespread availability of their products.
    Quote Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
    I like Schwalbe tubes. I THINK that they lose a little less air between rides. I've never taken the effort to do any kind of a controlled test, however.
    I primarily use the Schwalbe tubes. Haven't done a controlled test, but as anecdotal evidence... My big city bike has Schwalbe tubes and only needs to have the tires topped up every 2-3 weeks, I have a Huffy cruiser "farm bike" with Bell brand WM tubes in it, they need topping up every week. I have had several inexpensive tubes fail at seams or at the valve, I have NEVER had that problem with a Schwalbe tube. I have a mix of presta and schrader valve tubes and they run the size gamut from 16" (349) all the way up to 700c.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Well that's a loser scenario, isn't it? Just because you choose to ignore the benefits do they cease being benefits.
    No, the loser scenario is bragging about how good your latex-tubed clinchers are when they still suck compared to tubbies.

  16. #16
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    Having sold or installed thousands of tubes in my life (the vast vast majority of which were Kenda or IRC or some other inexpensive brand) I can recall one or two occaisions where I saw an an actual defect in the tube. Plenty of flat or punctured tubes that people thought were defective were actually caused by rough handling, improper installation, or a poor rim strip.

    I use whatever tubes I can find that fit, usually the cheapies. I buy 1 or two tubes per year, and usually go through one whole patch kit to keep my family's fleet running.

  17. #17
    KingoftheMountain wannabe Savagewolf's Avatar
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    I just buy whatever tubes are available to me. I'm not going to pretend to be able to feel the difference in the tube of brand X versus brand Y. Perhaps I've been lucky, but I've never had a flat in a tube that was due to a defect. If I did, then I'd consider a different brand, but I think the quality standards and simplicity of a clincher tube is more than sufficient for my uses.

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    Quote Originally Posted by achoo View Post
    No, the loser scenario is bragging about how good your latex-tubed clinchers are when they still suck compared to tubbies.
    Maybe you're confused about the topic? No one is talking about clinchers vs. tubulars; this is about inner tube quality for clinchers. If you have anything useful to add in that regard, that'd be great!
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Here's a link to some data showing latex definitely rolls faster than butyl, requiring fewer watts to keep at speed. Scroll to page 4 to see direct latex vs. butyl comparisons; most of the tire tests on the other pages were done with latex tubes because they're clearly faster than butyl:

    http://www.biketechreview.com/tires_...sting_rev9.pdf
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pistard View Post
    Is there a diffence in tubes, between more expensive and cheaper? I never really though about it, just grabbed whatever was on the rack etc. Do you guys stick with brands? I am mounting some gator skins on my hybrid, any tubes better then others? thanks
    it depends on what differences you are looking for, weight? rolling resistance? thorn resistance?

    Tire choice is going to be a much bigger factor in most cases.

    I use armored tires, and whatever tube was on the shelf.
    I top of the air regularly to avoid sidewall wear/pinch flats.
    Never any problems.

    You're running gator skins? I don't think you're going to feel any difference in tubes under that.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by chaadster View Post
    Here's a link to some data showing latex definitely rolls faster than butyl, requiring fewer watts to keep at speed. Scroll to page 4 to see direct latex vs. butyl comparisons; most of the tire tests on the other pages were done with latex tubes because they're clearly faster than butyl:

    http://www.biketechreview.com/tires_...sting_rev9.pdf
    On-road tests indicate that latex might actually be slower. I'm not sure that tests done on a trainer tell us anything but how well things work on a trainer.

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    WRT tube quality among brands, I have always been in the "they're all the same" crowd. But I changed my mind after buying a supply of Forte tubes. I'm not a Performance basher, but almost all of those tubes were defective. It may have just been that particular batch, but I'm not going to spend any money to find out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    On-road tests indicate that latex might actually be slower. I'm not sure that tests done on a trainer tell us anything but how well things work on a trainer.
    Which tests are you referring to?
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Six jours View Post
    WRT tube quality among brands, I have always been in the "they're all the same" crowd. But I changed my mind after buying a supply of Forte tubes. I'm not a Performance basher, but almost all of those tubes were defective. It may have just been that particular batch, but I'm not going to spend any money to find out.
    That company doesn't make their own products - they simply pick products from different suppliers to have repackaged under their own house brand. That's a bit like buying and selling stocks - ocassionly you can pick a real loser.

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    Innertube producers probably produce different grades of tubes, as well, so that they can offer different price points. I don't know that's true, but it would be the rare industry that doesn't do something like that. Rubber producers, like Exxon, sell different grades of butyl, which I imagine result in tubes with different characteristics, or maybe old machinery that hasn't been updated is still used by some, resulting in finished products inferior to modern standards. Certainly somewhere in the production chain, there are differences that affect quality.

    Whatever the precise case may be, there's little doubt in my mind that tube manufacturers are making compromises with regards to quality, cost, and value. Except in the cases where, like Michelin or Schwalbe, the manufacturers brand name itself has market value, there's probably little incentive to manufacturer the best tube possible. If you can land the Giant contract, so long as you're not having x% of tubes fail during assembly, you're golden. Other than that scenario, I wonder if there's any feedback loop at all?
    Chaad--'95 DeKerf Team SL, '02 Lemond Buenos Aires, '05 Novara Buzz, '73 Schwinn Collegiate, '06 Mountain Cycle Rumble, '09 Dahon Mariner D7, '12 Mercier Nano, '12 Breezer Venturi

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