Monday, October 29, 2007

Doing a Latex tube order

For those who've know me for awhile, I've always been a huge tubeless promoter. It started with UST rubber and then I switched to converted non-UST for better weight and tire options. While the benefits were amazing (more control, traction, comfort, and rolling efficiency) it was a bit of a PITA to setup and maintain.

As much as I loved the 26" tubeless options, I wanted to move to 700/29 realm for a few years. One of the reasons I didn't switch sooner is due to the lack of reliable tubeless options. Sure Stan's made 29er rims but they only supported wire bead (=heavy) tires and there were zero reliable CX options. Another quiet, but supposedly viable, option were latex tubes.

Marketing blurb: Endurance and performance The natural elasticity of Aircomp Latex tubes can actually improve efficiency by reducing rolling resistance. Latex has a remarkably high modulus of elongation (700%!), giving it outstanding resistance to punctures and pinch flats. It's the perfect complement to today's high-performance wheels and tyres. The Aircomp Latex weighs just 130 grams (C4 MTB version), making it one of the lightest tubes available. As with any high-performance product, latex tubes require regular maintenance; be sure to check your air pressure before every ride.

Fast forward 1 year and I've been riding their 700cc and 26" tubes on my CX and MTB for the past year and have been very pleased. Up until a month ago I ran about 4000 km w/o a single flat - and we're talking 35psi on the 32mm CX tire and 24f-26r psi on the RIGID 29er 2.2" tire (I'm 185lbs BTW). Naturally I kept pushing to find their limit and only after really denting the rim did I manage to pinch flat them (24psi in the rear on Outback). Fixing latex is hard to do (although I did find some regular pre-glued patches at MEC that seem to work well) so while using a temporary rubber tube I repeatedly flatted at pressures 4-5 psi higher even though I wouldn't feel the tire bottom out.

I still think tubeless is better for 26" rigs simply for it's self sealing abilities (not guaranteed but still better than rubber tubes), but for those of you who are sticking to tubes and are looking at big races this up coming season, I would strongly recommend that you at least try latex tubes. They are well worth the small price premium for gains in efficiency and flat resiliance. They also strech quite a bit making for a useable tire range that is much larger than the advertised size (ie: fat 29er tires). The two negatives are they they will bleed 2-3 psi overnight so you will have to reinflate every day (good practice to chech anyways), and the other is that the valve stem is not threaded and so there's no nut to keep it in place when you're pumping etc.

I'd like to get a couple of back-up tubes (and some for Riley) and know that several of you have been interested in getting some yourself to try. I found a Cdn site that will sell them for $9.59 ea which is the lowest price I've every seen. I'll wait until the end of this week to order so if anyone else is interested we can do one bulk order. Let me know.



the original big ring said...

I'm in Fritz. I'll take three please!

LennyG said...

I'd like three of the 26" variety please! Thanks FritZ

the original big ring said...

Whoops - I meant two Fritz . . . and in the 29'er variety. After all, why would you want to ride anything else??