Tubolito… 1/3 of a Spare Tube.

With a proper tubeless setup, flat tires are rare. Even so, carrying a bulky spare tube is still mandatory for backcountry insurance. But the game has been changed. Tubolito has created a next level option that’s about 1/3 of the weight and much smaller than a traditional inner tube …

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These days, lugging that unnecessary half-pound roll of rubber is kind of irritating. Considering the level of protection provided by a good tubeless setup, rugged tires, and repair plugs, the inner tube is just dead weight bouncing around your frame bag or backpack. But there is the off chance that you’ll lose a seal during a repair or run out of sealant. So it was welcome news to hear that Austrian brand Tubolito shaved almost 65% off the weight and space from a typical butyl inner tube, resulting in a spare tube that’s one-third the bulk. Tubolito recently debuted this next generation mountain bike tube and sent us one to check out. While we haven’t had the chance to test it (fortunately), here’s a first look and some details.

Tubolito, ultralight spare tube

  • Tubolito, ultralight spare tube
  • Tubolito, ultralight spare tube

Tubolito vs an Ultralight Tube

A tough inner tube that’s this light and small sounded too good to be true. But based on our weigh-in (against the lightest 29er tube we had on hand, a standard 2.0-2.4″ Specialized tube), the claims were fairly accurate. At an actual 83g, the 29er Tubolito weighs 63% less than the rubber 29er tube (221g) and takes up just over 1/3 of the space. Here’s the kicker. These bright orange future tubes are touted to be twice as resistant to punctures and pinches as typical butyl tubes… all while being more elastic. That’s kind of tricky to test, but we’ll make sure to keep this updated should we learn anything otherwise. I will say that the material itself feels pretty tough. It’s more plasticky and less grippy than rubber. Theoretically, this should allow it to move against the tire casing when in use, which might offer some ride benefits, such as less rolling resistance and aversion to pinch flats. Tubolito also claims these tubes are far tougher and more resistant to wear and abrasion. If that’s the case, they’ll last longer bouncing around a frame pack or backpack as well.

Tubolito, ultralight spare tube

  • Tubolito, ultralight spare tube
  • Tubolito, ultralight spare tube

How Tubolito is made

The two engineers behind Tubolito, Christian Lembacher and Akos Kertesz, previously held jobs developing speakers for mobile phones. Working with extremely lightweight and tough high-tech membrane material required for such applications spurred the idea to revolutionize the 100 year old rubber bike inner tube.

Tubolito makes each Tubo with a high-tech thermoplastic elastomer using a patented seamless production technology. As you can see in the photo above/left, there are just two small joins on the each Tubo, the seam where the two ends of the tube are welded, and the circular seam where the tube and removable core valve stem are joined.

So if they are indeed lighter, smaller, tougher, and more durable, what are the disadvantages (aside from price, which we’ll get to later)? For starters, traditional patches won’t work with them; Tubolito will offer their own patch kit for somewhere around $12. In addition, Tubolito isn’t sealant compatible, meaning they can’t be converted to ‘slime’ tubes with a few squirts of Orange Seal or Stan’s.

Tubolito, ultralight spare tube

There are three mountain bike versions of the Tubolito. The standard Tubo as we have here, which comes in a 29er version (85g), 27.5 (82g), and 26″ (78g). Then there is the Tubo-Plus available for 27.5+ and 29+ tires — 2.5 to 3″ width (105g and 110g). And the insanely lightweight S-Tubo, which has a removable valve stem — better for rolling and storage so it doesn’t stick out — and a claimed weight of 45g for the 29er. There is also a Tubo Road that’s even more svelte at 33g.

Made in Europe, and right now only available in Europe (although not in the UK), the standard Tubolito (Tubo) will retail for $34.99, and 27.5+ and 29+ versions (Tubo-Plus) for about $40. Tubolito will likely be available in January of 2018 in the US.

Pros

  • Revolutionary material makes for an insanely lightweight and small spare tube.
  • Tougher and more pinch resistant, according to the company’s claims.
  • Tubolito uses minimal packaging (versus typical cardboard boxes).

Cons

  • Expensive.
  • Standard patches don’t work with the Tubolito.
  • The Tubolito can’t be used with sealant (for protection against thorns, etc).
  • No fat tire versions to speak of, yet.
  • Model/size Tubo (29er)
  • Weight 83g
  • Price $34.99
  • Place of manufacture Austria
  • Contact Tubolito.com

wrap up

Being a staunch advocate for tubeless, it’s a wonder I’m somewhat giddy about new inner tube technology. But, admittedly, deciding on the number of spare tubes for some bikepacking trips has been a bit of a juggling act. The weight and space required is quite annoying given the fact that they rarely see the light of day. I usually opt for one, or even none on some shorter trips. If Gin and I are traveling together, we usually bring two between us, alongside an extensive repair kit. We often fix them to the frame with electrical tape (a fork leg or the seat stay) which makes it a little less annoying, but that exposes the tubes and subjects them to damage, even when wrapped in a ziplock.

The weight and space benefits of Tubolito as a spare tube are without a doubt game changing, and I don’t doubt that they work. They are costly though; spending $35 on a spare tube seems kind of crazy. However, if they are as rugged and durable as the company claims, they should last a long time. This makes Tubolito highly appealing as a spare tube for bikepacking and trail riding. I plan on carrying this one for a while and I’ll make sure to update this post or write a further review down the road.

  • Rowan Boutette

    If they’re not sealant compatible, would they be damaged by putting them in tubeless tire that just had sealant in it? This could be potentially mitigated by wiping out the inside with leaves or something, but I wonder how sensitive they are.

  • mikeetheviking

    Awesome!

    We totally need these for fat bikes!

  • I think they aren’t sealant compatible, meaning they won’t seal using sealant (it might not stick to them). I don’t think they degrade as a result of touching sealant, although I could be wrong… There’s not a lot of info around this right now, but I’ll attempt to find out.

  • That would certainly make a lot of difference in weight, for sure.

  • dexey

    I’m not convinced that we totally need fat bikes.
    Still looks like another fad that manufacturers are happy to feed.

  • Chris

    I feel like there’ve got to be more cons…saving so much weight while being tougher seems too good to be true, unless it really is a revolutionary material. If it is all true, the obvious market I’d think would be roadies looking to shave grams where it matters most, as opposed to MTB spares. Anyway, interested to find out more!

  • Doug Nielsen

    You are right on! I’m imagining the space savings in my frame bag… maybe add my MacBook Pro with some movies now that my freaking monster 29+ tube is gone. Not sure what to do with all that space. Probably could fit my 2 year old in there now lol.

  • @dexey:disqus You might take a look at this, http://www.bikepacking.com/stories/trail-goes-cold/ … or these: http://www.bikepacking.com/type/fatbike/ … Fat bikes are keys to different terrain and surface conditions (snow, sand, etc.). Perhaps that will convince you :)

  • Tuglatonic

    Ah how the mind works…you run tubeless for yonks and you tear a sidewall on a 29+. You are able to effect a repair of the sidewall and need to tube up to get going again. You do your best to inspect the inside of your tyre for previous prickles that have penetrated the tyre and sealed up and find all but one. You use this new tube, pressure it up. Ride 100m and then you are flat. With no puncture repair available you are stuffed. We need to see this tube field tested before we can rely on it…we need to see it easily repaired and we need evidence that they are strong enough to hold up a heavy bike in rough terrain.

  • I agree on the testing side, but they do offer a patch kit, so as long as you have one of those on hand the stuffed scenario is avoidable…

  • Tuglatonic

    Hi Logan. The article says “will offer” a repair kit which I took to mean that it wasn’t available yet. We do so many things from experience…I rely on a certain type of tyre, bike etc. Rubber tubes are baked into my DNA and while I would dearly love to free up the space that a 29+ tube or worse a fat bike tube takes in my kit, reliance on a new material with picky patching protocols might take a while to get comfortable with. I will keep watching…

  • Ah yes, that’s coming from my US based sensibilities, just because neither the tubes and kit are available here yet… probably not until after the beginning of 2018, according to sources. But, yes, hard to do a complete test without the complete kit. I hope to get both and actually give it a proper shakedown soon…

  • Tuglatonic

    I was sorting through some stuff the other day and was pretty shocked to see how an old tube of mine, carried for emergency purposes had perished and cracked after being tightly rolled up and stashed in the bottom of a frame bag. Happy to inspect and replace gear that wears out over time as this is part of the game but again, this new material, how will it cope with time in a repair kit? The problem with all of this is that new tyres are so good and the tubeless systems so stable that with proper top up of sealant and regular replacement of worn tyres, punctures are becoming a thing of the past. Or are they…..?

  • Brian

    If you don’t need a fat bike, you’re not riding in the right places. ;-)

  • Tuglatonic

    @dexey:disqus Try it you’ll like it! We have big stoney riverbeds in NZ that head up into the mountains and the fatties are just great. Plus just the grip afforded on slick rain forest trails is just great for enjoyable riding especially on long accents. Go big!!

  • @rowanboutette:disqus @loganwatts:disqus I got a response from the Tubolito crew and although they tested and confirmed that sealant doesn’t “seal” their tubes, they also confirmed that it has no negative effects on their tubes either! That’s nice to know..

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