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Bicycle Tubes
Does the material they are made of make a difference?

Latex
Latex tubes are made of natural rubber and are typically more than twice the cost of the butyl alternatives. The elasticity of natural rubber allows the tube manufacturers to use thinner material and thus create a lighter bicycle tube. A Michelin Aircomp Latex Tube can weight as little as 65 grams as compared to a standard butyl tube weight of closer to 100grams.

Rubber is also more resistant to puncture and much less likely to suffer from pinch flats which is a good thing. Some believe that the greater flexibility of the rubber creates less heat in usage and leads to a slight increase in peddle efficient. Personally I'd guess most of us would not notice the difference.

Latex tubes do tend to deflate. Natural rubber is a more porous material, thus important to check your tire pressure before you leave the house, and carry a pump if going off road.

Butyl Tubes:
Butyl bicycle tubes are the most common currently available on the market either at the corner bike store or the local hardware shop. Butyl is a synthetic material that is much better than latex in holding air, thus requires less fillups.

Butyl tubes are definitely much heavier than their latex cousin coming in at between 100 and 135 grams, although a few manufacturers have created a few higher tech versions that shave 10 or 20 grams off of these numbers. They have figured out how to make bicycle tubes with a thinner more uniform thickness of rubber, but you do sacrifice puncture resistance in the process.

You can buy specialized Butyl tires like the Innova Thorn Resistant Road Tube that has a thicker layer of butyl rubber on the tread side then it does on the rim side to thwart glass and thorn punctures if this is a risk your riding habits present.

Remember that the more weight you are spinning around the outer circumference of the wheel the greater amount of energy that will be required to pick up speed. Thus go light if you're going for speed and stay on the heavier side if you are a heavier rider or travel on terrain that is likely to pose puncture dangers like rocks or thorns.

Related Information:
Bicycle Tubes

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copyright Jan. 2007