Whether you put a lot of miles on your road bike each day or you like to hit the mountain bike trails on the weekend, you probably don’t think twice about your bike tires until you get a flat. Flat tires are inconvenient, irritating, and can be dangerous.
We have created a comprehensive guide on bike tubes and have chosen some of the best bike tubes available so you can feel more confident every time you hit the road or the trail.
In a hurry? The test winner after 6 hours of research:
Schwalbe inner tubes
Why is it better?
Last Updated: January 2, 2019
By Max Shumpert: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding bike tubes available for those who are interested in upgrading your bicycle. The best 5 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best bike tubes currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.
SCHWALBE INNER TUBES
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SUNLITE INNER TUBES
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Now that you have a better idea what to look for when selecting an inner tube for your bike, we’re sharing some of our favorite bike tubes so that you can find the right tube for your mountain or road bike.
Whether you’re riding a rocky terrain or training for competitive road bike racing, here are some of the best bike inner tubes.
best mountain bike tubes
When you hit the trails on your mountain bike, you want a bike tube that can withstand the varied terrain of the landscape.
1. SCHWALBE INNER TUBES
One of the best mountain bike inner tubes is Schwalbe Inner Tubes. When creating their inner tubes, Schwalbe inserts the tubes into a mold and inflate the tubes to ensure constant air thickness and air pressure retention.
Additionally, all tubes are inflated and stored for 24 hours to ensure that the tube holds consistent air pressure. Schwalbe tubes are also visually inspected for quality control.
These bike tubes are available as a twin pack, which means that you can always have a spare on you when you ride. The Schwalbe tubes are made of a high-quality butyl rubber and have a strong resistance against punctures, which is of particular importance on diverse terrain.
With a Presta style valve and Skyscape metal valve caps, you’re more likely to retain the right amount of air pressure during your ride and less likely to re-inflate on a regular basis.
The 26” inner tubes have a width that can safely expand anywhere from 1.50 to 2.50” without causing strain on the tube or an increased risk of a flat tire.
2. SUNLITE INNER TUBES
Sunlite is known for outfitting your bicycle with all the gear you need from training wheels for beginner bicyclists to a variety of bike inner tubes. We like the Sunlite Inner Tubes for mountain bikes because they are available in a twin pack and there’s always a spare tube handy.
While this tube is a great option for a mountain bike, it also works with most cruiser bikes or other bicycles with a 29” tire.
The Schrader style valve makes inflating and deflating the tube easy. The 48mm valve makes installing and inflating a little easier than some similar models with shorter valves. With a longer valve, there’s no need for an extension or adapter.
Best Road Bike Tubes
When you’re logging miles on your road bike, you want a bike tube that will withstand the long miles and will be lightweight enough to keep you up to speed. We have selected some of the best road bike inner tubes that are worth checking out.
1. KENDA ROAD BICYCLE TUBE
Kenda bike tubes are a popular pick among road bike enthusiasts, and we agree. The company has been making bicycle tires for over 50 years, and they remain one of the top sellers due to affordability and reliability.
The butyl rubber road bicycle tube fits a 700c or a 27” tire. As one of the best road bike tubes, you can select your Kenda Road Bicycle Tube with either a Presta or Schrader valve. The smooth valve makes it easier to use your air pump whenever it’s needed.
With .87mm of wall thickness, this road tube is thinner than most bike tubes on the market but makes it an ideal tube for a road bike. As with all tubes, but particularly ones with a thinner wall, be sure to use extra caution when installing, inflating, and deflating.
2. CONTINENTAL BICYCLE 700C BICYCLE TUBE
If you’re looking for a company that has a lot of experience handcrafting bike tires and tubes, you should check out Continental bike tubes. Continental has been hand making bicycle tires in Germany for over 100 years.
We chose the Continental tube as one of our favorites because it’s durable and has removable valve cores for adding extenders or when using a self-sealing “slime.”
The Shrader style 40 mm valves are shorter than others you may find, but they work well with rim depths between 24 and 30mm. Continental bike tubes are butyl rubber and go through a thorough inspection process to ensure quality, safety, and comfort.
Best Bike Inner Tubes
It can be hard to find a reliable and high-quality inner tube for a standard bicycle when there seem to be endless options for mountain and road bikes. It’s important to remember that some people ride bicycles that aren’t categorized as road or mountain bikes.
Whether you’re riding your cruiser around the lake or riding your city bike to the grocery store, you still need an inner tube on hand just in case you get a flat.
1. SUNLITE BICYCLE INNER TUBE
Sunlite already makes one of our favorite mountain bike inner tubes, and this popular company makes a great reliable and affordable inner tube for any style of bike.
The Sunlite tube comes in a variety of sizes which are perfect for smaller wheels like a kid’s bike or a BMX to a Roadster or Cruiser style. Each size of bicycle inner tube has a Schrader style valve so it’s easy and familiar to use when inflating or deflating your tire.
Most valves are 32mm long with the exception of some road bikes. As with other inner tubes with a shorter valve, the Sunlite Bicycle Inner Tube valve works well with an extender (if you need a longer valve).
What Is A Bike Tube?
If you’re relatively new to the biking scene or have been fortunate enough never to have a flat, you might not know much about a bike tube. You might think, “Aren’t bike tires just regular tires?” Unlike standard car tires, most bike tires aren’t tubeless.
A bike tube is a butyl rubber or latex rubber balloon that is shaped like a donut and has a valve for inflation.
You might be wondering if there’s a difference between rubber or latex tubes. Latex tubes are a little more flexible than the standard rubber tubes and can adapt quickly to the changing shape the tire when riding. Overall, latex tubes are faster and lighter.
Latex is sensitive to some oil and grease and may not hold air as long as rubber tires. They are also more fragile than rubber tubes so you might find yourself changing the tubes more frequently.
Bike Tube Dimensions
Selecting the right size of bike tube is important to help reduce the risk of overstretching or pinching (both can lead to a flat tire).
Want to know your road bike tubes size? Like bike tires, bike inner tubes sizes vary depending on the size and type of bike tire.
Your bike tire tubes sizes are easiest to find when you are changing out an old tube (assuming that it was the right tube in the first place), but it’s always good to know how to select the right size tube.
You should be able to see the correct dimensions on the tube or the inside of your bicycle tire. Our size guide should give you all the information you need but you can always double check with a bike tire professional in your area, too. Here’s the basic information you need:
In general, the diameter should be the same diameter of your bicycle tire.
Too large of a tube and your ride can be uncomfortable or damage the tire. Too small of tubes make it difficult when replacing bike tubes and you’re more prone to a flat.
When you look at diameter dimensions, you may notice that there are other measurements, too. This is often the ETRTO (The European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation) measurement or a French measurement.
For instance, a 27” tire might also have a 630mm ETRTO measurement and a 700C French measurement. While it can be a little confusing, just pay attention to the measurement on your tire or the inner tube.
Some common diameters include 24” on a BMX tire, 26” for a fat tire, 700c for a road bike, and 27” for an older road bike or standard U.S. bicycles.
The width of the tube is often marked after the diameter. For example, on a tire with dimensions 27” x 1-¼, 1-¼ is the width of the tire. Again, much like selecting a tube based on the diameter of the tire, it’s always good to choose one closest to the width of the bicycle tire.
The majority of bike tubes have a wall thickness of 1mm. As we briefly mentioned earlier (when discussing latex and rubber tubes), the thinner the tube, the more likely it is to puncture. If you choose a tube that’s thinner than 1mm, keep in mind that it may require more maintenance.
The dimensions of a valve vary depending on the type of valve you have. Most valves are either 6mm or 8mm in diameter.
Before you take your bike out for a ride, make sure you have easy access to the valve and you can reach it with your bike pump. If not, you can get a valve extender. Even if your chances needing to add more air are slim, it’s always best to be prepared.
There are three bike inner tubes valve types. Some experts may only mention two (Schrader and Presta), but there are three that you should get to know a bit.
You might be most familiar with the Schrader valve as it’s known as an “American” valve and is also the same valve used on cars and motorcycles (in addition to many bicycles). The Schrader valve is about 8mm in diameter, and the length may vary depending on the wheel rims.
A Schrader valve is spring loaded, which means that there is a small pin in the center of the valve opening. You can add or let out air just as you would with your car’s tire. When you press on the center pin, air is let out otherwise the spring keeps the valve locked and airtight.
You’re likely to come across a Schrader valve on standard and popular bicycles.
A Presta valve, sometimes known as a “French” valve, is smaller than a Schrader valve. Presta valves are usually on the narrower rims of the higher-priced road and mountain bikes.
Rather than a spring-loaded mechanism to let in air and keep air from leaking out of the bike tube, a Presta valve has a locknut at the top of the stem. Before you can add air to your inner tube, you need to unscrew the locknut and then make sure it’s screwed back evenly and tightly.
If you have a Schrader pump, you should be able to find valve adapters that work with a Presta valve. If you want a little extra insurance when inflating a bike tube, find a Presta valve with a rubber O-ring seal to make it more difficult for air to escape.
The third valve is less common but worth mentioning. The Woods or Dunlop valve is a cross between the Schrader and Presta valve. This type of valve is often seen on bicycles outside of the U.S., but you never know when you’ll ride a bike with a Woods/Dunlop valve.
The top of the valve stem is narrow and has a large locking ring under it. Below the locking ring is a main part of the stem. If you want to let air out of the Woods/Dunlop valve, unscrew the nut part of the way. You can gently pull on the tip of the valve if air is not coming out.
When you inflate a tube with the Woods/Dunlop valve, use the same pump that you would use when inflating bike tubes with a Presta valve. There’s no need to unscrew the nut; this feature is nice because you’re less likely to lose small parts when inflating or deflating.
Special Features To Consider When Looking At Bike Tubes
While we’ve already discussed bike dimensions and valve types, there are other features to consider when looking bike tires and tubes.
Tubes That Seal Themselves
Maybe you’ve heard of self-sealing bike tubes. These “self-healing” tubes basically seal small punctures within the tube as soon as they happen due to the chemical “slime” that’s sprayed inside the tube.
While this is a relatively inexpensive way to protect your bike tube, it doesn’t guarantee that your tubes will last forever. It can add a little added security for a long ride.
Extra Tough Tubes
Another feature to consider when buying bike tubes is whether you would benefit from thorn proof bike tubes. If you ride a road bike or stick to smooth terrain, thorn resistant bike tubes or even puncture proof bike tubes might not be worth the installation or money.
If you ride on rocky terrain or in areas where “goat-head” thorns are prominent, it’s not a bad idea to have a bike tube that’s a little more rugged and can withstand the abuse.
No More Tubes
If you think that bike tubes sound like a hassle, you might think that solid rubber bike tubes sound like a good option. Solid rubber tires cost more than the standard bike tube, but you won’t have to worry about changing a flat.
Tubeless tires don’t offer a lot of versatility when it comes to riding. While they might be a great alternative for casual bike rides and even commuting, they don’t really do much for competitive riding or for long rides (according to some reviewers).
Changing An Inner Tube
Before you even settle on the type of bike tube you want for your bike, you want to make sure you know how to change an inner tube. If you’ve never had a flat consider yourself lucky because almost every bicyclist will encounter a flat or two during a ride.
Once you’ve mastered the art of changing a flat, don’t forget to carry a spare inner tube or two so that you’re not stranded on the side of the road while you’re on a ride. It’s also a good idea to get a set of your own tools and always have them on hand.
A tire lever is the best tool to use to remove the tire from your wheel. If you don’t have a quick release lever for your wheel, you’ll want to make sure you have the right size wrench to remove the outer axle nuts. A patch kit is always a good idea to have on hand.
There are lots of videos on the Internet that will show you the step-by-step process of changing the tube on your bike (which you should check out), but we’ll give you the basics.
Don’t be afraid to ask a fellow biker for help or ask a friendly bike mechanic how to show you, if you’re still unsure on how to change a flat.
What To Consider When Buying A Bike Tube
We briefly discussed what special features to consider when buying a bike tube, such as a thorn resistant tube or a tubeless tire but let’s revisit some of the important things to consider before buying the best tube for your bike.
Remember, not all bikes are created equal (nor are their inner tubes). If you ride a road bike or do competitive bicycling, the bike tube you choose will be much different than if you ride a mountain bike or even a standard bicycle.
Road bikes have narrower tubes with a larger diameter than a mountain, BMX or even a fat tire bike. Always get the correct measurements before buying and installing a new bike tube.
Wheel Size and Diameter
Even if you know the size of your bicycle wheel, it’s always a good idea to measure once or twice. A good way to double (and triple check) is by checking out the measurements on the tire and the inner tube.
The measurements on the tire and tube should match but if not or you’re still unsure, ask a professional at a bike shop. Take your bike along, if you’re able (not just the measurements that you wrote down).
Most tire widths range from 1.75 to 2.215 inches. When buying an inner tube, you want to make sure that your measurements are close (if not exact) to those of the tire. Remember, too big can be damaging and too small can make it more likely to go flat sooner.
The width of your tire should be included with the measurements on your tire but if not, measure the flat surface across the tire’s tread from one side of the tire to the other.
Valve Type and Length
As we already mentioned, you’re most likely to come across a Schrader valve if you ride a standard bicycle. These are usually the easiest to inflate and deflate because they are similar to the valve on a car tire.
If you have a high-end road bike or even a mountain bike, you’re more likely to encounter a Presta valve. This can be a little awkward to get used to, due to the locknut, but it’s also easy to inflate and deflate as needed.
If you’re riding a bike overseas in a country like Asia, or you’ve found vintage cruiser, there’s a good chance the bike has a Woods/Dunlop valve. Although these valves are harder to come by these days, the valves make it relatively easy to adjust the air pressure as needed.
Depending on the type of valve you have, you might have a valve that’s 40, 48, or even 60mm. The length of the valve should be easy to reach with a bicycle pump (without adding too much strain to the valve stem).
If it’s too difficult to reach with the pump, consider getting a valve extender. Always test out your bike pump and other tools before you go out for the first time with your new bike or inner tubes.
Unless you purchase a solid rubber bike tube, there’s no way to guarantee that you’ll never experience a flat tire. Latex tubes are lighter and faster but are also thin, fragile, and require a little more care when handling.
Rubber tubes are standard and a little more durable. Both are good options, but it all comes down to what kind of riding you will be doing on your bike and the rider’s personal preference. Self-sealing bike tubes can reduce the headache of changing a flat, but again there’s no guarantee of preventing a flat tire.
Select The Right Bike Tube With Confidence
As you can see, you don’t need to be an expert to learn a little bit of everything about bike inner tubes.
Now that you have all the information you need about how to select an inner tube for your bicycle, how to install one, and how to choose the right one for your style of bike, you can ride with a little less worry about what to do the next time you have a flat tire.
Not only are you able to determine the correct dimensions for the right inner tube but you can confidently make a decision about the type of inner tube you need, the type of valve you want, and how to install a brand new tube.
Having this knowledge not only makes your next bike ride a little less worrisome but you can also help out a friend when he or she gets a flat on your next bike ride together.
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