Ditch the Latex inner tubes?

Pssssssssssst, pssst, pssst, pssst, pssst,…

Damn, another flat. Right in the middle of a tough interval too. Not a regular “ran over a sharp object” flat either. My roadside inspection of the tube concludes this one to be a failure of the tube itself. I quickly throw in my spare Butyl tube, gas it up with CO2, and get on my way…

On my time trial bike I’ve been running Latex tubes. Why Latex? Latex tubes are lighter and consistently test faster than standard Butyl tubes, Not by a small amount either, we’re talking 5-10 watts per wheel depending on your current tube choice. They also roll smoother, giving a more comfortable ride.

There are a couple of downsides though. Firstly, they are far more fragile. (as I have just found out). Secondly, they are expensive! Two or three times the price of a standard tube. Thirdly, they lose air quickly once pumped up. You need to pump your tyres before every ride. Not the night before. Right before each ride. Latex tubes will easily lose 10psi or even 20psi overnight. It’s a bit of a pain, but one I can just about live with for the additional speed benefits.

But back to the first point. Fragility…

I’ve had three Latex tubes all fail at the same place on the tube. That I cannot live with! It’s most likely caused by the frequent deflate-inflate cycles necessary when using Latex putting additional stress on the tube at that point, plus maybe I’m not as gentle as I should be when using the pump. Who knows. Whatever the cause, it’s a real pain.

Now this is only my “N=1” experience of Latex tubes and many, many people seem to be more than happy with them. I’m not sure I’ll keep using them. In my usage-case the reliability just isn’t there. That “extra speed” isn’t worth much if you’re sitting by the roadside with a flat tyre. Perhaps I’ll try a different brand of Latex tube, or simply go back to Butyl.

Although, my TT wheels are actually Tubeless Ready, so perhaps I’ll go down that path!

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Tubeless every time for me. Still have to pump up before every ride but only by about 5 psi and oh so worth it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been using latex tubes since the 80’s. On all sorts of destroyed and perfect road surfaces. I’ve found most failures are due to catastrophic punctures or cuts, very old tubes, or a rim problem. In particular the OEM Royal rims on my 2010 Specialized Roubiax Expert. There needs to be a good stem to tube reenforcement there, or the rim will tear the tube. Cheap tubes have no or very thin reenforcement here. I’ve had good luck with Vittoria of late. I don’t remember what I used to use in the early days, but they were white or creme colored rather than pink. I have also successfully patched them. Back in the day, I used silk casing sewups on my TT bike wheels. Much lighter rims of a clincher. Though then the rear was a CF disc and the front a 24 or some such radial spoked rim. We didn’t yet have real deep rims in alloy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Just to rule it out, I’ve ordered a different brand of Latex tube as a replacement (was Challenge, now ordered Vittoria). I’ll give them a go and see, plus also be a little more gentle with my pumping perhaps! 😅

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was cleaning out my shop this morning and found two old latex tubes that have been hanging on the back of a shelving set for five years. Both are Vittoria. Both were decomposed to cracking along folded edges they were so old.
        One had a smaller reinforcement around the stem than the other. The smaller version is the newer version of Vittoria

        Liked by 1 person

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