Bicyble Tire Tube Material Differences and Selection

Posted at: May 16, 2022

There are two types of bicycle tire tubes, latex tube and butyl tube. 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 Tube Butyl Tube TPU Tube
Price High Cheap Expensive
Weight Light Slightly heavy Very light
Durability Not so high High Very High
Heat Resistance Low High High
Rolling resistance Low High Low

Butyl Tube

Butyl tube 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.

Thick, rubbery butyl tube

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

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

Latex Tube

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 tube.

Latex tube resembles a thin glove.

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

TPU (polyurethane) tube

The third force in bicycle tube is TPU (polyurethane) tube, which has emerged in the last few years.

Weighing only 40g, or 1/3 of a standard bicycle tube, TPU tubes are extremely lightweight and have very high puncture resistance, making them a favorite of an increasing number of road bike and MTB users.

The only disadvantage of such innovative TPU tube is the price. Butyl tubes cost about $5-10 per tube, and even latex tubes, which are considered expensive, cost about $20 per tube, but TPU tubes cost more than $40 per tube.

The TPU tube costs more than $40 per tube. It is not bad in the sense that the weight can be reduced by more than 100g and the durability is high, but it requires courage to pay almost $100 for the tube.

Use of latex and butyl

Butyl tube is cosier for everyday use.

The advantage of butyl tube is its cheapness. Tire tubes for road bikes, hybrid bikes, and other sports bicycles can be obtained for as little as $3 if they are butyl. Latex tubes, on the other hand, are usually over $10 per tube, and the most expensive ones cost about $20 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 hybrid 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 Tube for Riding Performance

The advantages of latex tube 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 tube should be used for such applications.

However, latex tube 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.

TPU tube if weight reduction is important

The biggest advantage of TPU tubes is their light weight: each tube weighs about 40g. Butyl tubes usually weigh 160 to 200g, so you can reduce the weight by 100g or more at most.

Since lightweighting with wheels and tires often costs hundreds of dollars, TPU tube is probably the best choice if lightweighting is important in the sense that it can reduce weight by 100g for less than $100.

Especially for road bikes, where “lightness is justice,” a 100g weight reduction in the wheelset, which is the rotating body of the bike, will have a significant impact on the ride, making it a highly advantageous choice.

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