It’s Time To Rethink Tubes | Schwalbe Aerothan

Words: William Tracy; Image: Courtesy Schwalbe | From issue 99

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We preach the gospel of tubeless devoutly around here but we know there are still plenty of holdouts among our readers. Schwalbe, one of the biggest backers of road tubeless, realizes this too. “As a company, we still believe wholeheartedly in the benefits of tubeless tires, but also understand that it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution,” said Schwalbe brand promotions manager Sean Cochran.

Hoping to better serve those who haven’t been swayed by the benefits of tubeless, Schwalbe has a new take on the humble inner tube, a product called Aerothan. “With the development of the Aerothan tube, we can now, without a doubt, offer all riders an improved riding experience, not just those who make the leap to tubeless technology,” said Cochran.

Made of a thermoplastic polyurethane also called Aerothan, the new tube improves upon butyl, latex and other tube materials in just about every way. For most riders, one of the most compelling reasons to make the switch will be weight. The smallest version, Race, is sized for 23mm–28mm tires and weighs just 46 grams on our scale. That’s about 60 grams lighter than a standard Schwalbe tube and about 20 grams lighter than the brand’s extra-light tubes. Double that for a set of wheels and that’s some impressive weight savings. At $31.45 a pop, the Aerothan tubes are much pricier than standard tubes, but if you approach it from the perspective of grams saved per dollar, you’re hard pressed to find a better deal in component upgrades.

In addition to weight savings, getting fewer flats is another selling point of these new tubes. Schwalbe’s testing shows that they withstand twice as much pressure from small objects like glass and metal shards. They also perform above the rest in pinch-flat prevention. Though we haven’t put in the long-term miles with them to notice a trend of fewer flats, we haven’t punctured on them yet. If you do puncture though, there’s an added safety feature in that the tubes don’t blow out. Instead, the Aerothan material stays intact and lets out air slowly.

The tubes can be run safely at far lower pressures than standard tubes (as low as 1 bar, or 14.5 psi, in the mountain bike version). Plus, the material has a much higher heat resistance, withstanding 150°C at 78 kph in Schwalbe’s testing, preventing overheating in rim-brake wheels. Setup feels easier than normal with the Aerothan tubes, too. They don’t easily get snagged between the tire and the rim, meaning fewer pinch flats during installation.

If you’re already convinced that tubeless is the way to go, there’s still reason to pick up one of these tubes. Tubeless isn’t foolproof, and flats can still happen. When they strike, you’ll want to have a back-up tube on hand. Might as well make it one that is lighter, takes up less space and won’t have degraded after living in your saddlebag untouched for a year. 

$31.45 each; 46g (23mm–28mm version); 7 tube sizes (road, gravel, MTB);

From issue 99. Get your copy at the Peloton shop.

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