Thermoplastic tube failures

I read with astonishment that a Tubolito tube made it into Dave Rome’s top 10 cycling products of 2022.

I’ve carried a Tubolito in its original packaging in my saddle bag for a year or so. Nice and compact, with a promise of being tough in the event I get a leak in my tubeless tyre I can’t plug. Great.

I rode the Mawson Trail from Adelaide up to and through the Flinders Ranges early October 2022 and nicked a sidewall on my tubeless WTB Sendero. So out came the Tubolito for its maiden run.

It was flat in less than an hour. Sorry boys, got a pump? I had a patch kit (30 minute cure time) but couldn’t find the hole using water in the hand basin of our accommodation that night. We had a support vehicle luckily so I fitted a spare tubeless tyre with fresh sealant.

When we got back to Buninyong my LBS shop assistant (I bought it locally) had bigger kahunas than I when it came to inflating it out of a tyre, and he found a tiny puncture. Probably a thorn. These were the only 2 flats we had out of 3 bikes over near 3000 combined km. Not very impressed truth be told given the tube was gravel bike specific and supposedly tougher than ordinary tubes.

I have another gravel bike, this aimed more at anyroad use, and for it I have two 700c wheelsets. One 38mm tubeless, that I ride mostly. The other 32mm in which I stuck a pair of Pirelli Cinturato Smartube 700 x 28-35c Reinforced tubes. One of those tubes seems fine. The other had a slow leak from new (fine for a few hours - reinflate every other day).

When I was repairing the Tubolito I pulled off the leaking Pirelli and found a TINY leak at the valve weld. Poor quality control. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

I patched this with the Tubolito patch kit and a few days later refitted it and went for a ride. Within 40 minutes I was replacing the tube roadside. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth: Upon inspection at home there was a very obvious leak from the side of the tube, 5 or 7 o’clock from the valve stem and at 3 o’clock on the cross section of the tube. Yep. Right on the side, so definitely a new leak. Given the location I concluded it wasn’t caused by anything I rode over and there is no fault with the tyre bead. I couldn’t fault the tyre at all and I had no problem with the butyl tube I replaced it with. I’m seriously questioning Pirelli’s claim this model is reinforced. :face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth::face_with_symbols_over_mouth:

So that 2/3 of these $45 tubes that have proven to be rubbish. I’m lumping the two brands together on the basis of the CT review I read wherein James Huang stated they were made in the same factory in Austria.

Worse is knowing that they do not match the marketing hype, and can’t be patched roadside; we’ll, not if you don’t have 30 minute for the glue to cure. Good luck in the rain. So what will you do if you get two flats? With butyl tubes your tiny glueless patch kit gets you going again. With these you’re stuffed. I’m never buying these again. No way.

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To me it seems that there is just huge variability - it ends up being a bit of a gamble and I drew the same conclusion as you did. I went through approximately 6-8 tubes till I really gave up on them. Some held up for a short while, others went flat near instantly with the usual mix of leakages at the valve weld, tiny punctures somewhere and plain regular punctures. However, a friend is still happily riding round on his first set of tubolitos on his main road bike, already for thousands of kilometers and never had any issue. I am back to latex tubes and have left the issues behind me.
I am just unclear on your story of patching requiring 30min cure time - I used the tubolito specific patches and tried as well the parktools self-glueing ones and recall them all to be a quick peel & stick job.

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Looks like the Ride Now tubes on Ali Express are quite cheap if you buy them in multiples. Given that it looks like quality control isn’t great with the expensive tubes, perhaps worth a go?

Bicycle Rolling Resistence are due to do a test in a few weeks time of several different TPU tubes including the Ride Now ones which will be very interesting.

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The patch kit has a glue with a 30 minute cure time. That’s quite impractical if you are heading somewhere or are in company and you have more than one puncture.
Another mail in the coffin.

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I’ve had great luck with both Tubolito and Pirelli TPU tubes. I run them as my main tubes on my road bike and have only had two flats, one from a super-fine metal wire and the other because I was railing through some sharp, chunky gravel and took a huge chunk out of my tire (both patched up fine). They’ve outlasted multiple tires that had to be retired due to cuts.

Not doubting that many have had different experiences, but mine have been uniformly positive. The issue with a hole on the sidewall immediately after installation seems like it may have been pinched during installation?

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I carry a Turbolito S on my gravel bike and was riding solo, at dusk in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Rough fire roads with big rock. Got a 1/4” cut just outside the main tread on a fast descent and had to use the tube. It worked fine. Placed a tire boot over the cut to protect it and rode easy. It got me back to the cabin, which is all I was after. These are a great solution to the .01% of tubeless punctures that don’t seal and can’t be plugged.

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I’ve been carrying a pair of Schwalbe Aerothan tubes in my saddle bag all year but never had to use them. Does anyone have experience with those?

The reports here make me think that I should test before the next ride whether they actually hold the air. I think that they’re not as superlight as the Tubolito/Pirelli tubes (but still considerably lighter than latex or butyl tubes). Is it wishful thinking that there is less variability in how well they hold air?

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I miss the ultra light forté butyl tubes they used to sell at performance before the physical locations where shuttered. Those things packed down way smaller than any other tube I’ve ever used using the James Huang method. I had one as a spare forever that finally died after like 9 patches and it only died because I rolled out a flat and tore the valve stem.

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It’s obviously possible as it wasn’t there before I fitted it. But I’m an enthusiast in his mid 50s. I lived car free for most of the 90s, had a hiatus due to a back/knee injury but returned to cycling 2005. I do 10 hrs/week and have fitted thousands of tubes. This would be the first I’ve pinched on installation, and they’re pretty easy fitting rim/tyre combo. So that adds to my disappointment given it’s a model aimed at bigger tyres (gravel) and supposedly tougher than the light ones.
Anyway, it’s an easy fix: my saddle bags are big enough for the butyl tubes the bikes came with. I’ve only once had to fit a tube in the wild in the 25,000 odd kms I’ve done tubeless. I sought the more compact ones because I wanted to carry two tubes when venturing in more remote areas.
I appreciate everyone’s input.

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You’re right to be upset about manufacturing defects, but a thorn into the side of the tube - that will puncture anything. You didn’t say if the puncture was in the same location as your sidewall cut or not. If it was, it was likely caused by the sharp edge of the tyre cut. Again, that will puncture anything.

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It sounds like you haven’t had a great run with them, but if you’re taking a tube bikepacking and don’t have your spare tubes wrapped in something soft to protect them, you’re asking for a puncture before you even try to put it in the tyre. And unfortunate you got another flat so soon after putting it in, but with what I’ve heard of the thorns on the Mawson, maybe you’d have got a flat even sooner with a butyl tube.

As for roadside patching, I’ve had no problem doing it with the self adhesive patches (Schwalbe or Park have both worked). The glue on ones are really only for use at home.
Though I also take them bikepacking as insurance.

I guess everyone has different experiences, but I think the faillures you’ve had are at least partially user error.
Sure their design might not fit your use case, but that doesn’t make them bad.

I use/have used the Aerothan ones, and prefer them for two reasons.

  1. They seem to have a better connection of the valve to the tube (haven’t had an issue with Tubolito or Aerothan, but they just seem better supported)
  2. The valves aren’t bright orange flags on my rims :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I always test my tubes before I roll out for a big bikepacking trip so I know they’re good before I start. But the one in the saddle bag on my roadie I rarely check becuase I’m usually riding with someone and can always uber if it all goes south. But for both I wrap them in either a rag or duct tape to protect them from rubbing a hole from my multitool or whatever they’re packed with.

For bikepacking they’re unreal. The size of a butyl 29" tube vs an Aerothan is huuuuuge, which is very handy when packing space is at such a premium, the weight is a bonus, but totally secondary.

Used them a bunch on the road. Absolutely no issues and no punctures.

You’re correct of course, but it wasn’t in the same spot. Curiously the pinhole on the 650b Tubolito was on the inside of the tube, as opposed to the sidewall cut 1mm below the tread. I have on one occasion before been required to fit a tube to this wheel, so I don’t think there’s a fault with the wheel that punctures tubes from inside. I bought the compact one for my Mawson Trail venture.
The Pirelli 700c puncture came up at 3 o’clock on the tube (90 degrees from tread); someone speculated it could have been mis fitted. But I’ve literally fitted thousands of tubes and never once before damaged a tube by not seating it. Both these tubes are marketed as extra tough, aimed at gravel riders.
As noted, no issues with either setups using standard tubes that cost 20% as much.

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Mate, which part of it leaks from the valve stem weld is user fault?
And you assumed I didn’t protect the tube in my saddle bag.
:face_with_raised_eyebrow:
Yeah, nah. I’m an old hand. If I were a novice and not someone with several hundreds of thousands of kms behind me, who builds bikes and services them for self and friends, and has done since BMXs were novel in the early’80s, maybe. But you’re off mark there. No user error.