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Is using latex inner tubes worth it?

My use of it would be on a racing bike, for training and racing purposes, only on road, mostly in good condition (but in an urban environment so there are some worse spots...).

I ride on a set of Conti 4Season 23mm tyres which weigh 230g each and I love them so far (have them also on my touring bike and I suffered 2 punctures in 10000 km, find them fast and grippy).

My current tubes are 105g and the latex ones I am looking at are 82g so an overall gain of 46g on the whole bike which does not seem completely negligible since it is a moving part...

As I said, I intend using this on racing and training, so I will never ride without a track pump more than a day so pressure loss should not be a problem assuming it can keep enough pressure for a couple of days (I am saying two because I need one whole day of fully usable pressure). So will the pressure be an issue for me?

How about comfort and rolling resistance? I read here and there comfort is increased and resistance is lowered. How noticable is it? and again: is it worth it?

Also, I hear the elasticity of latex allows it to puncture less and even when it does to lose pressure slowly (compared to butyl) and ride home with a few pumps. It that true?

And when it does puncture, can it be fixed with regular patches?

Finally, are there any precautions to be taken while mounting it, pitfalls to avoid and so on?

Overall, is it worth it?

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Doing some math, 46 grams does seem negligable. Assuming you are climbing 10 kilometers in a day (which would probably be a lot), The energy to lift the extra 46 grams could be calculated with E = mgh. .046 * 9.8 * 10000 = 4508 Joules. 4508 Joules, is 1077 calories (notice the small c) or 1.007 kilocalories (this is food "Calories" big C). –  Kibbee Oct 31 '13 at 13:23
    
@Kibbee, once upon a time I did a similar calculation. Turned out a 70kg person with a 10kg backpack, in order to walk all several hours uphill, needs half a mars bar. Human body is effective, but very inefficient. Other examples of inefficiency if that grass converts no more than 1% of sun energy into energy, grass-eating animals convert no more than 1% of that into usable chemicals and so on for the food chain pyramid. I am going far too off-topic. –  Vorac Oct 31 '13 at 13:29
    
About 15 years ago I was on a tour with a couple and the guy decided to change out their tubes for latex, because a buddy had told him they were the greatest thing since sliced bread. Two days later he was swapping the old tubes back in -- the latex ones wouldn't stay inflated for 8 hours. –  Daniel R Hicks Oct 31 '13 at 15:46
1  
@Vorac I understand what you're saying. But walking is hardly the most efficient method of locomotion, especially when compared to cycling. If there really are more flats, or just a tendency to lose air over the course of the race, that will slow you down much more than 46 grams of mass. If you're going to start worrying about 46 grams on a bike+rider of 80 kg, you're crazy. That's under 0.06% of the total mass. –  Kibbee Oct 31 '13 at 18:02
    
@Kibbee, I totally agree on that one. –  Vorac Nov 1 '13 at 9:04
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1 Answer

Pros of Latex Tubes

  • Lightweight compared to butyl tubes
  • More flexible than butyl tubes, leading to a smoother ride.

    Cons of Latex Tubes

  • More expensive (about 3 to 4 times the price)
  • May be more susecptable to blowouts.
  • Should be powedered with talc before installing to reduce stickyness and avoid pinching.
  • Looses pressure more quickly due to more porus nature, you need to pump before every ride

    You'll probably notice a difference using latex tubes only if you are running higher TPI road tires. A higher TPI tire (100TPI+) is going to be thinner, more flexible, lighter, and have lower rolling resistance than a low TPI tire. The Latex tube will help when using these tires, since it's flexiblilty will compliment the flexibility of the tire. Ultimately, this will give a 'smoother' ride because the tire will be able to conform better to the shape of the pavement and be very light. A standard butyl tube would add more rigidity to the flexible tire, reducing the benefits of the more flexible outer casing.

    However, if you have a very rigid tire, then it will not have as pronounced effect, in this case, you're probably not going to care much about the difference in tubes. So if that's the case, just run standard butyl tubes, because you won't notice much of a difference.

    From what I can tell, You can mend punctures easily with ordinary patches and glue. Sheldon Brown recommends using a piece of old latex tube cut in to a rounded shape and attaching it with tubular rim glue (regular vulcanizing fluid from a patch kit can be used but does not work as well)

    If you already have nice tires, and a smoother ride and weight savings are important to you then it may be worth checking out latex tubes.

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