Latex Butyl? Different tire tube materials and how to choose the right one.

Posted at: May. 16, 2022

There are two types of bicycle tire tubes, latex tubing and butyl tubing. The following is a summary of the differences between the two and which one you should choose.

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Difference between latex and butyl materials

Latex Tubing

Latex is a type of rubber. There are “natural rubber latex” made from natural rubber and “synthetic rubber latex” made from petroleum, but most bicycle tube latex is “synthetic rubber latex.

Latex is characterized by its resistance to deterioration, elasticity, and resilience. Medical gloves are made of latex, and they do not break when pulled, return to their original shape firmly, and are thin but firm, making them “thin, light, and strong” in bicycle tire tubing.

Compared to butyl tubing, latex tubing is about twice as expensive.

Butyl Tube

Butyl tubing is made of butyl rubber, whose main ingredient is isobutene, a petroleum-based material. In contrast to latex, which was characterized by its “thin and strong” properties, butyl is characterized by its “just plain toughness.

Butyl rubber is so tough that it is used in waterproof tape, the inner lining of sports balls, the inner liner of tubeless tires in automobiles, and electric wires.

As a bicycle tube, butyl tubing is also sturdier than latex tubing, but its thickness increases its weight.

Butyl tubing is generally the most commonly distributed type of tire tubing.

Latex Tubing Butyl Tubing
Price High Cheap
Weight Light Slightly heavy
Durability Not so high High
Heat Resistance Low High
Rolling resistance Low High

Use of latex and butyl

Butyl tube is cosier for everyday use.

The advantage of butyl tubing is its cheapness. Tire tubes for road bikes, cross bikes, and other sports bicycles can be obtained for as little as 300 yen if they are butyl. Latex tubes, on the other hand, are usually over 1,000 yen per tube, and the most expensive ones cost about 2,000 yen per tube.

Butyl is also more durable, so butyl tubes are more cost-effective overall. Therefore, butyl tube is recommended for daily use such as commuting and city riding.

Also, the “spare tube” that you carry on your road bike or cross bike is also safer if you use butyl tube, which is stronger in terms of material, as a flat tire means that there is some kind of problem with the tire, so you should use butyl tube as your spare tube.

Latex Tubing for Riding Performance

The advantages of latex tubing are weight reduction and reduced rolling resistance. Since latex is an elastic and resilient material, it flexibly conforms to the shape of the tire, reducing friction with the tire and rolling resistance.

When racing or riding long distances, it is important to have a bike that is as lightweight and has low rolling resistance as possible, so latex tubing should be used for such applications.

However, latex tubing is sensitive to heat, so be careful when using it on carbon wheels for rim brakes, as the heat from the rim can deteriorate the latex and cause a puncture.

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