Tubolito inner tubes can’t be patched with regular patches but they sell their own compatible patches. Sealant won’t seal a Tubolito tube, but it also won’t damage them. So they can be used in tyres that have had sealant in. Tubolito sell a variant of their inner tubes designated with an ‘S’ to signify that they are designed to be carried as a spare. They are thinner and fold up smaller to take up less space in your pocket. The ’S’ version also has a removable valve to pack into a jersey pocket even easier.
The ambitious Austrian company Tubolito tackled a challenging task. Given the common trend of going tubeless, is there still a sizable market demand for tubes? Obviously, the convenience of an inner tube is evident. And for the die-hard inner tube user there isn’t any other alternative. For current users, Tubolito is a great step forward. According to their claims, these inner tubes are more durable and lighter.
The highest priority for me was to find out how they hold up in gentle or demanding conditions? Inner tubes are prone to defects, regardless of the construction, but I was very intrigued by its advertised lightness and durability. I didn’t expect them to be on par with a tubeless system in regard to puncture resistance, nor in terms of pinch flats. However, based on the used materials and construction I imagined they are undoubtedly more robust and long-lasting than regular inner tubes. The Tubolito tubes are also less porous than latex tubes, and more in line with butyl versions.
I needed to coax myself into the ‘old-school’ inner tube usage again. Opening the package, the first wow-moment was the weight, or the lack of it in my jersey pocket. Putting the Tubolito tube into a tyre is as simple as putting any other inner tube on. It doesn’t need to be pre-inflated either, as its durable material isn’t prone to take damage or twist in the process. It might be regarded as a small disadvantage that the material doesn’t sport any flexibility though. Once the tyre is inflated up to the desired pressure no concern is needed as for a potential twisted tube.
I tried to work out a tangible difference between tubeless and Tubolito in regard to agility and dynamic. Does Tubolito accelerate quicker? Is there any noticeable difference? Frankly, I can’t tell. Truth be told, I didn’t feel any sluggishness compered to tubeless though. And after a puncture-free period I quickly forgot what system is in there.
Now a tougher test followed with subsequent races. Much to my regret at the time I kicked off the test, I managed only 2 cyclocross races. Zero defect, despite tire pressures as low as 1.4 bar. Burping was non-existent. Once the cyclocross season was over we moved over to gravel races, mostly in Italy and France. The weather was a mixed bag, and temperatures weren’t benevolent either. I trusted Tubolito to keep me puncture free and escape any nasty cold weather tyre repair. I had a stress-free time with Tubolito, and albeit the rims were hit fairly hard numerous times, no pinch flat slowed me down. Fortunately, only on one occasion did I manage to damage a side wall. It wasn’t ripped totally, but the side wall was seriously thinned. The Tubolito was almost visible. I was able to nail down the remaining 79 km despite a rocky and rooty track. After a closer inspection, the tire could have been fixed with a sturdy tire patch. But what amazed me was the fact that the Tubolito withstood the “attack”.
On a MTB site of things, similar results are to be reported. Again, it was my mental hesitation to line up with inner tubes after such a long tubeless time. Most of all I didn’t want to sacrifice my proven low tyre pressure I use to race: 18/20 Psi front/rear [Body weight 58 Kg]. The immediate welcome effect was the stability the Tubolito featured in tight and fast turns. Here, the Tubolito excelled again.
The smooth elastomer Tubolito uses proved to be astoundingly puncture resistant in environment littered with glass chips, etc. I didn’t challenge the tubes by looking for exposed places but sometimes it was unavoidable to ride through some nasty debris. Much to my luck I ended up puncture free.
I also tested the Tubolito road inner tube. Thus far a couple of alpine marathons had been done. Endless high-speed downhills with caliper brakes that heat up rims and put the tubes under lots of extra stress. I trust the used materials and even though I can’t directly compare them to regular tubes in regard to heat management, no fatal defect is to be reported so far. I also like the fact of reduced friction between inner tube and tire. Again, it is anecdotal and not lab proven, but subjectively they feel more agile compared to latex inner tubes. And finally the road version is just as light as it’s off road counterpart. Besides, the valve is removable, thus packing my jersey pocket is way tidier.
On the road side of things, the Tubolito won’t be swapped for tubeless. For me, these inner tubes outweigh the current road tubeless or inner tube systems to be found on the market. On gravel and MTB, I will test them periodically. The most appealing fact for me is its weight. It’s just stunningly convenient to have it on hand in case of damage, at the same time not being bothered by a hefty weight and bulky dimensions.
I wholeheartedly endorse the Tubolito inner tubes to those conservative inner tube users, despite its premium price, as long-term it pays off. For the rest of us (tubeless-users), it’s nice back up, not only for its feather weight, but also for its robustness and easy way of repair although a special repair kit is needed.
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