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 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.