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What happened to cheap inner tubes?

Old 11-11-20, 12:42 PM
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What happened to cheap inner tubes?

Looking online lately, 700c inner tubes are costing $8- $10 each. What happened to $4 and $5 inner tubes? Or have I just not bought any in a real long time.
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Old 11-11-20, 12:46 PM
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Well, I guess you can still get them at Walmart.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Bell-Stan...5-32c/34038251

Or Amazon...

https://www.amazon.com/s?keywords=Bi...t_browse-bin_1

Ok, I'll shut up.

Last edited by Jicafold; 11-11-20 at 12:51 PM.
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Old 11-11-20, 12:54 PM
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In the past 2 years or so, I've gone through probably 2 dozen "cheap inner tubes", some failing from too many punctures but most failing from either splitting open spontaneously, or developing an un-patchable leak near the valve stem. Each tube that I had to throw out representing probably 3 or more flats that I had to fix by either the side of the road or later on at home.

Do yourself a favor and try to buy something with a reputable brand, the generic tubes I have bought have been nothing but trouble, while the bulk Continental ones, which are a few dollars more per tube, have been 100% reliable. As always YMMV, but that has been my (rather unfortunate) experience with generic Chinese tubes.
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Old 11-11-20, 12:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985
In the past 2 years or so, I've gone through probably 2 dozen "cheap inner tubes", some failing from too many punctures but most failing from either splitting open spontaneously, or developing an un-patchable leak near the valve stem. Each tube that I had to throw out representing probably 3 or more flats that I had to fix by either the side of the road or later on at home.

Do yourself a favor and try to buy something with a reputable brand, the generic tubes I have bought have been nothing but trouble, while the bulk Continental ones, which are a few dollars more per tube, have been 100% reliable. As always YMMV, but that has been my (rather unfortunate) experience with generic Chinese tubes.
Ah. I'm sure that is true. Thank you.

Still, for like co-op or bike flipping purposes I wish I could buy bulk and get like 100 for a $2 each or so.

Last edited by Jicafold; 11-11-20 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 11-11-20, 01:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985
In the past 2 years or so, I've gone through probably 2 dozen "cheap inner tubes", some failing from too many punctures but most failing from either splitting open spontaneously, or developing an un-patchable leak near the valve stem. Each tube that I had to throw out representing probably 3 or more flats that I had to fix by either the side of the road or later on at home.
Most bike stores everywhere use the cheapest tubes available by bulk purchase. When I worked in bike stores, decades ago, the failure rate of cheap tubes was vanishingly low, which suggested that almost all so-called defective tubes reported by customers represented operator error back then.

I hope that some folk who currently work in bike stores can weight in here to report whether they've seen increased failure rates with their generic tubes.
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Old 11-11-20, 01:20 PM
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Customers wanting better quality tubes is my guess. I don't buy cheap, no-name innertubes. The few times I have had to in the last 20 years or so, they have always failed quite quickly.

In fact, I have a preference for two specific brands when it comes to innertubes (something I don't have for tyres, saddles, or anything else bike related).
Even at $15 dollars each, it would still not be a huge amount of money I spend on tubes.
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Old 11-11-20, 01:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
Most bike stores everywhere use the cheapest tubes available by bulk purchase. When I worked in bike stores, decades ago, the failure rate of cheap tubes was vanishingly low, which suggested that almost all so-called defective tubes reported by customers represented operator error back then.

I hope that some folk who currently work in bike stores can weight in here to report whether they've seen increased failure rates with their generic tubes.
Most people probably don't run back to the shop where they bought the bike when they have a flat. They buy new tubes and do it themselves or go to some other shop close to where they had the flat and have them fix it.
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Old 11-11-20, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
Most bike stores everywhere use the cheapest tubes available by bulk purchase. When I worked in bike stores, decades ago, the failure rate of cheap tubes was vanishingly low, which suggested that almost all so-called defective tubes reported by customers represented operator error back then.

I hope that some folk who currently work in bike stores can weight in here to report whether they've seen increased failure rates with their generic tubes.
intepreting a tube puncture
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Old 11-11-20, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Jicafold
Looking online lately, 700c inner tubes are costing $8- $10 each. What happened to $4 and $5 inner tubes? Or have I just not bought any in a real long time.
Two things: First there is a general shortage of bike parts throughout the industry in the US. The pandemic has slowed production and shipping at the same time as people have taken up bicycling. The suppliers simply do not have any tubes available. That has driven the price up.

Second, tariffs have finally started taking a toll in the US. There is a 25% tariff on bicycles and parts. That cost is getting passed along. Add that to a shortage... brought about, in part, by tariffs...and the price skyrockets.
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Old 11-11-20, 02:02 PM
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I buy Continental tubes from one of my local bike shops for less than $3.00 each. And, anyone can buy from them, as they have a huge online presence.
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Old 11-11-20, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by tomato coupe
I buy Continental tubes from one of my local bike shops for less than $3.00 each. And, anyone can buy from them, as they have a huge online presence.
Not for $3 each though. I wish.

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=Bike+Tube...ref=nb_sb_noss
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Old 11-11-20, 04:09 PM
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The last places I've bought tubes from were in boxes labeled 'Specialized' (LBS), REI, 'Forte' (Performance Bike), and from JensenUSA (online). When opened, the tubes were all labeled with Chinese manufacturer's logos (Chen-Sing or other). I'm wondering if there's really any difference in the generic Chinese tubes and those made in China for brand-name companies, because I haven't been able to distinguish any differences between them. I'm using both 700 x 32c (or 28c) and 26 x2.0 (or 1.5) tubes and tires.

FWIW: I stopped getting regular flats when I started using puncture resistant tires, so I can't blame the tubes for the few flats I do get each year.
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Old 11-11-20, 04:14 PM
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I can’t answer the question, but consider patching your tubes. A properly patched tube is as good as new. Save up a few flat ones and batch-patch them in the off season. That saves money and is reasonably time efficient.
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Old 11-11-20, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by skidder
The last places I've bought tubes from were in boxes labeled 'Specialized' (LBS), REI, 'Forte' (Performance Bike), and from JensenUSA (online). When opened, the tubes were all labeled with Chinese manufacturer's logos (Chen-Sing or other). I'm wondering if there's really any difference in the generic Chinese tubes and those made in China for brand-name companies, because I haven't been able to distinguish any differences between them. I'm using both 700 x 32c (or 28c) and 26 x2.0 (or 1.5) tubes and tires.

FWIW: I stopped getting regular flats when I started using puncture resistant tires, so I can't blame the tubes for the few flats I do get each year.

What's your preferred tire? I'm in goathead city USA most of the year (the rain really helped clear most off the roads for now).

I used to use some really thick Panaracer tires for fixies ("Everwear") that were virtually immune to goatheads, but I can't find them for sale any more.
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Old 11-11-20, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by Trakhak
Most bike stores everywhere use the cheapest tubes available by bulk purchase. When I worked in bike stores, decades ago, the failure rate of cheap tubes was vanishingly low, which suggested that almost all so-called defective tubes reported by customers represented operator error back then.

I hope that some folk who currently work in bike stores can weight in here to report whether they've seen increased failure rates with their generic tubes.
We haven't been using generic tubes aside from more recently as tubes are harder to get but generally we have bought Specialized, Continental and QBP tubes. I don't know what shops are buying super cheap stuff. My last shop didn't either, Conti, QBP and Maxxis though I do think we got some XLCs at one point and everyone complained and tried not to use them or sell them.

If I were running my own shop I would most certainly not use cheap tubes I don't want a lot more customers coming back with issues, I wouldn't have time for that and don't have much time for it now either. I would personally stock Continental and Schwalbe and maybe QBP or Sunlite if only for the odd size stuff. No thorn resistant tubes and no tire liners. Quality tires, quality tubes and checking rim strips regularly and replacing them more often.

However yes a lot of tubes tend to be customer defects and they just won't admit it.
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Old 11-11-20, 09:51 PM
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However yes a lot of tubes tend to be customer defects and they just won't admit it.
Yeah, I don't pay extra to shop at a bike shop, only to get this kind of attitude when something goes wrong. Of course it's not your fault, nothing is anyone's fault these days, it's always the other guy, CYA.
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Old 11-11-20, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Jicafold
Not for $3 each though. I wish.
Yeah, you're right. The price jumps all the way up to $3.75 if you buy them in pairs – still below your $4-$5 target.
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Old 11-11-20, 09:53 PM
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There is a world-wide shortage of everything related to bicycles. Even now, as winter approaches, things in a shop's cart at QBP are likely to be canceled before the order gets placed. Today I was amused to hear shop employees get excited because they could get trunk bags.
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Old 11-11-20, 10:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemond1985
Yeah, I don't pay extra to shop at a bike shop, only to get this kind of attitude when something goes wrong. Of course it's not your fault, nothing is anyone's fault these days, it's always the other guy, CYA.
You did an excellent job quoting me without including me but yeah tube issues tend to be on the customer. I rarely if ever see a defective tube that has actually come apart at the seams.

If you were in on the topic at hand and what I was talking about which you seemed to have missed you would know I wasn't talking about anything beyond tubes. This being a tube thread and all and the quote directly mentioning tubes.

Plenty of people who jump curbs, ride through stuff, don't check their tires or rim before installing a new tube, don't put a tube in properly, don't pump their tires properly ...all can lead to tube issues that would not be the result of the shop. I had one guy who tried to pit us against another shop and claim we screwed up and then the other shop which was great which he had to go back several times after to get it replaced again but he never brought the bike back to us and continued to change his story each time we talked and I offered to help him and never saw the bike.

If we make a mistake we warranty our work but honestly with a tube you can pick up a shard of glass or piece of metal in a short time of riding. If we truly screw up then yeah we will make it right but just saying I am never wrong ever is just silly. If tubes weren't prone to puncture and problem we wouldn't worry so much about cost or carrying them with us or other tube concerns we have.

If I wanted to be a crook in the bike industry I wouldn't last long and wouldn't feel right with myself. I believe honesty is usually in 99.999999% of cases the best policy and sometimes yes my friend that does mean the customer isn't always right. However one doesn't need to be nasty about it but just honest in as positive or kind a way as you can put it out. It also means sometimes we all make mistakes and if you cannot own up to them, you are lying to yourself and others.

Here is a proper quote of what I said that Lemond1985 altered to lose my handle just so people know:
Originally Posted by veganbikes
However yes a lot of tubes tend to be customer defects and they just won't admit it.

Last edited by veganbikes; 11-12-20 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 11-12-20, 07:09 AM
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Only twice have I seen defective tubes. It was a freak occurrence during a group ride. Guy flattered. Had two new tubes. Both were still in their boxes. Both were split at the seams. Figured the factory put out a defective batch as the guy had bought them both from the same place at the same time. Another group member had to give him a tube.
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Old 11-12-20, 08:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Jicafold
Well, I guess you can still get them at Walmart.

https://www.walmart.com/ip/Bell-Stan...5-32c/34038251
I will never buy the Bell inner tubes from Walmart ever again. I bought one once because I was in a pinch, and the thing was like two or three sizes too big. I would have had to fold it over a couple times or tie a couple of knots in it in order to get it to fit inside the tire. It was definitely not a 700c tube. I even took a picture of the tube on the wheel and it's amazing how far oversized the tube is. Don't know if I still have the picture or not.

Last edited by Milton Keynes; 11-12-20 at 08:14 AM.
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Old 11-12-20, 08:58 AM
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During the last few years I've used CST (Cheng Shin) tubes which probably count as cheap/generic, at 3.60 a piece at LBS, and Schwalbe, at €5-6. Can't say I've noticed any difference apart fom the threaded Shrader valve stem on Schwalbe.
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Old 11-12-20, 12:01 PM
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I’ve just found that tubes have gone up in price. I paid $10.00 at a rail trail side bike shop when I had a valve separated from the tube. After that I looked online and at my LBS. I found that $7.00 and up was what to expect.
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Old 11-12-20, 05:25 PM
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Since 1982 I have worked in a bike shop, and outside of a batch of faulty tubes from Specialized around 2011-12 (about 600 were received with a 10% failure rate at our shops) defective tubes are a rare occurrence. Yesterday a customer arrived with a flat tire. We had replaced the tube a three weeks ago, claims he rode it once and parked it. Insisted the tube was defective. I had him observe me pull the tube out, find the leak and match it to the location on the tire. Sure enough there was a nail stuck in the casing. He shut-up real quick after that.
Assume nothing, have absolute proof, then make a claim.

As for one shop being pitted against another shop's workmanship or quality of product, we encounter this all too often. Fortunately those situations are not our first experience at the rodeo and we diffuse them immediately by telling the person we are not there to judge another shop's work or determine if it is less than satisfactory. We are there to fix problems. That is what we do.
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Old 11-12-20, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Ghazmh
I’ve just found that tubes have gone up in price. I paid $10.00 at a rail trail side bike shop when I had a valve separated from the tube. After that I looked online and at my LBS. I found that $7.00 and up was what to expect.
Everything bike related is going to go up. Not sure if it's going back down after this initial craze cools down. You can expect bikes and components to be 10-20 percent more expensive next year. That's what happens when the industry sells everything they produced for the 2021 bikes in 2020.

I have seen defective tubes. But it's rare. The most annoying defect was when all the presta valves were shipped loose. Nobody expects that.
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