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I wanted to buy a spare tube to carry while riding, but it appears there is wide choice: the first website I checked carried 92 items in the tube category, another one had 69, with prices varying from 3,29€ to 16,5€ (that's 5x).

What should I look for aside from size and valve type? Does brand make a difference, or is it more like “grab any one, they're all the same”?

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Good question! I am often amazed by the price difference in tubes. I get a lot of flats so wouldn't mind paying a bit extra if they would last longer. –  Mac Oct 24 '11 at 0:57
A strong/resistent tyre is the answer to this (not really, but a great part of the answer). I've been using cheap tubes after investing on a resistent tyre and after 2.000 Km not one puncture! and even riding in places that would normally puncture it! The only suggestion I would like to give is make sure your tyres aren't at a hot place for long periods of time, that will wear the tube... –  jackJoe Oct 24 '11 at 8:57
in 'utopia' you can get tubes without the seam/ridge - punctures invariably happen on this seam/ridge, making it hard to fix. Why aren't there any tubes that have the seam/ridge on the side... –  ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Oct 24 '11 at 12:24

3 Answers 3

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I've heard a few people say brand doesn't matter and they all come from the same factory / country. I've had bad experience with some tubes though (ok I'll mention them, BBB). They would bulge in places.
I've typically had no problems with tubes from the major tyre manufacturers like Michelin, Continental and Schwalbe.
Schwalbe marketing suggests their tubes hold pressure longer than other brands due to higher quality standards or possibly more butyl, and Michelin does too for their butyl tubes. Lightweight or Latex tubes will not hold pressure as long and need to be pumped up more often.

I tend to think the large tire manufacturers know their rubber, they have better quality control and they care about their reputation. So I don't subscribe to the "they're all the same" philosophy.
At my LBS there is little price difference, if any, between say a standard Michelin tube and a BBB. The price difference you're seeing may be for specialist features such as very lightweight, puncture resistant, latex etc.

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Unless you're looking for a lightweight or specialty tube (latex, flat resistant, etc), make sure you've got the right size and right type and length of valve stem and you're pretty much good to go with any butyl rubber tube. Most tubes out there are simply re-branded Kenda tubes, anyway.

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I always use Latex tubes. if you buy any of the huge company like michelin or schwalbe you can be sure to have "good" tubes. but i had 2 flat tyres in 6 months using butyl and i'm now cycling almost 6 months with Latex tubes and i didn't have a flat tyre, you'll need to pump your tubes every-time you go for a spin because latex looses his pressure pretty quick (3-4 days and my tubes have no pressure left)

latex is a bit more expensive than butyl but that's only a couple of dollars. probably cheaper than time you loose to put on a new tube

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