I have recently changed the original tyres and inner tube of my 15 year old Specialized Rockhopper. They were starting to deteriorate and I got punctures almost every time I took it on gravel paths.

Before I take them to the local recycle centre, I just wondered if there were any alternative domestic uses for these old tyres and the inner tube? Can they double as something else for gardening or domestic uses? Can they be fashioned into fiendishly simple kids toys?

  • 1
    Lots of uses for old inner tubes, from rubber bands to billfolds. Not so much for old tires. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 1:09
  • Several items here. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 15:09
  • If the rubber is breaking down then that will limit what you can reasonably use them for.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 2:10

13 Answers 13


Tubes are extremely flammable.

I carry a tiny pouch of cut in stripes rubber when backpacking, if things get ugly and I need to light a fire in damp/wet conditions.

Seriously - they burn like gunpowder.

Edit: Reality Check.
Yesterday morning I wanted to start a fire after a light rain. I picked up dry tree branches (from trees, not the ground). Then put about 5cm of tube cut into thin stripes underneath. Touched them with a lighter and was cooking breakfast right away.

  • 2
    I'll have to try that some time. Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 15:08
  • 1
    Probably best not to do this in enclosed areas, as I'm sure there's something toxic in the smoke.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 15:32
  • 1
    @Kibbee, also better not do it over a fire one is going to cook on. I have actually never done this under pressure, only 2 times to test the technique. Pretty tiny amounts of rubber were enough, though - something like 1 strips of 2mm width each.
    – Vorac
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 7:27
  • 1
    @Vorac You can get actual non-toxic fire starter for under $10 (which will light multiple fires). Probably best to invest in this if you actually are doing a long distance off-the-beaten-path hike. Although your trick would work in a pinch.
    – Kibbee
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 12:40
  • 1
    Thank you for coming back with updates - I'd +1 but already did that.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 6:43

Here are some Ideas:


  • Knobby or not, tires that are "fat enough" can be cut and fitted under the downtube to protect it from rocks thrown by the front tire. Remove part of the sidewall of each side, cut to a proper length and fix it with zip ties. (This is actually what I have done with my DH bike, partly because it is usual to transport it with the downtube resting against a pick-up truck's lid. The tire provides protection for both, the bike and the car, and provides friction which prevents the bike from sliding too much.)

  • The previous idea can be also used in reverse: Lining the truck's lid upper border with a stripe made out of the treaded part of a fat, knobby tire.

  • You could use it for lining the top of a stair guard rail in a rustic cabin.

  • You could nail or staple them in the border of wooden stairs that are outdoors in a very humid place, they will add grip for safety.

  • In my Mountain bikes I use chainstay protectors made out of road tire. I just cut the wire part out, then cut to a good looking shape and secure it with zip ties.

Inner Tubes:

  • Cut the tube transversely in widths of half an inch. You've got perfect holders for rolled documents, such as blueprints and building plans, or unused gift wrapping paper.

  • Cut the tube transversely in widths of two inches. These short sleeves can be used to avoid dirt and mud from getting into the seat tube and the seat clamp. Can also be used to protect the head tube bearing against weather on certain bikes.

  • There was a company that made small saddle bags out from inner tube. These bags are easy to manufacture with just scissors, patch glue, needle and nylon thread. (They are just great for carrying an emergency tube and small tools under the seat.)

  • Can be added as handles for carrying lightwheight items.

  • Lining tool handles, bucket handles...

  • Spoke nipple head cover, spoke hole cover or tube protectors. Specially effective if made out of thicker inner tube. Cut a stripe wide enough to cover the well of the rim but not to interfere with the "clincher" lip. Then cut it as long as to barely fit round the rim's circumference. Use patch glue to adhere the ends, overlapping by 2 inches or so. The stretching will make it stay in the rim making installation easy. Don't forget to cut a proper hole for the valve.


One of the most common uses of old tubes that I've seen/used is to wrap your drive-side chainstay with one. It's cheaper than buying a dedicated protector and it's readily replaceable. Just cut the tube somewhere and wrap it around the chainstay, and then secure it with either zip ties or some tape.

Another fun idea is doing a ghetto tubeless setup where you've got anywhere from a whole inflated tube, to just have the tube as a liner inside your tire.

  • 1
    Indeed. Cutting a stripe of inner tube and wraping it around "sensitive" points of the frame are a cheap but very efective way of protecting it from scratches. This is what DH riders use to do here in my country, as the bikes are frequently put very close one to another in a truck bed for the ride up.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 16:02

Use tubes to make U-locks (or anything) less prone to scratching your frame.

My U-lock's base has bare metal which scratches my frame. I cut the circular tube to make it one straight tube. Then I lay one end along the metal of the base of the U-lock. Then I wrapped it tight around itself as if I was wrapping handlebar tape. Then on the last wrap I left it slightly looser so I could put the loose end underneath the last wrap and then I pulled it tight. It stays put fine.

You can slip a section of tube over the "U" of the U-lock and then roll up the ends (like shirt sleeves) so it keeps it in place.

  • I've also used a knotted loop of inner tube (and a plastic hook) to make my lock much less likely to bounce out of its bracket
    – Chris H
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 9:35

I recently came across belts made out of used bicycle tires. Wiki article on how to make a belt using bike tire tread

enter image description here

  • problem is that by the time they're ready to throw out they're going to look pretty scruffy as a belt.
    – stib
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 13:28
  • 1
    Mmm....don't know, I'm looking to loose my spare tire by biking :)
    – BPugh
    Commented Oct 8, 2013 at 19:14

My brother and I made an awesome slingshot with old bike tubes tied between two trees when we were kids. We used to fire dog food pellets (we were using what came to hand) right over our neighbour's yard.

I use old tubes for bungie straps on my trailer, combined with a metal clip. Also a cheap and cheerful bike lock can be made with a length of chain inside an old tube and a padlock. My work has a bike cage, so I don' really need a D-lock, so I use one like this.

Here's another one. I plaited three or four together into a great chew toy for my whippet

enter image description here

  • 1
    Oh, and the other day I forgot to bring my belt to work. Lucky there was an inner tube in the bottom of my locker. My waist is about the right circumference for a 700c inner tube to make a comfortable belt
    – stib
    Commented Dec 8, 2017 at 0:39
  • Oh man, we made a shoulder-braced slingshot out of a broken frame and a tube. I have to photo it some day.
    – Vorac
    Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 0:43

I've used bits of old tubes to improve the wrist seals of my drysuit for kayaking - a 1 inch slice over the wrist seals straps them down tight, so water doesn't get in when I bend them (I have small wrists for my height apparently). A bit specialised, I admit.


I made a case for my iPhone from a MTB tube.

It was easy — just cut the tube open, looped it over itself to create a pocket, leave some extra for a floppy lid of sorts, and ... stick it with tire-patch glue.

Simple, and works great. Good for keeping sweat off the phone, and gives some protection if you drop your phone.

Cheap, and pretty cool, too, to whip out the phone wrapped in a rubber sleeve.

I get a few questions about it. People are always surprised to learn that I made it myself (I guess a lot of people don't do that).

  • I really like the idea of a homebrew case made out of knobbly worn Continental X-King tyres :)
    – Imran-UK
    Commented Dec 9, 2017 at 9:58

Tyres can be re-used as:

1) Home Furniture corner padding,

2) Protecting chainstays and front Cross tubes against gravel chipping,

3) Sewing them onto bottom of luggage bags to prevent wear and tears.

4) Brake pads (in emergencies only).

Tubes can be re-used to:

1) using strips cut from them as chainstay protectors or for other areas of the frame.

2) using them as sort of a padding between stuff attached to handlebars. (bell, lights, horns, cyclo-computers, etc.) so as to prevent scuffing.

3) as emergency gators to protect the inner tube in case your tyre develops holes or cracks.


I use inner tubes to make custom handlebar grips. You cut long strips, twist them, then wrap the twisted strips around the handbar. Provide grip and a surface that gives a sa function of how tightly it's twisted.

  • I've done something similar using larger electrical heatshrink over the top of strips of padding like this. It is surprisingly comfortable and durable.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 2, 2021 at 11:09

One use for old inner tubes is for securing bikes to car bike racks (non-roof type).

It is simple, quick and won't scratch your bike.

If you tie one end on to rack you can use the other end to loop:

  • through the wheel to hold the wheel in place
  • through the frame to secure the bike on the rack

I then pull the tube tight and hook it back to the rack to get it very tight and secure.

This makes putting the bike on the rack quick and more simple without having to muck around with rachet ties.

  • What's a good way to make the end you loop through the bike easily attachable/detachable from the rack? You mention a "hook", but there is no hook on the tube. Did you cut the tube to make it two-ended? Is there a suggested way of making or adding a hook at one (cut) end?
    – PositiveK
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 0:06
  • I haven't added or cut a hook, my bike rack consists of two prongs (for lack of a better word), I use only one tube which I have threaded back on it self around the main pole of the rack. I put the bike on the rack, run the tube around the wheel back around the pole the back up onto one of the prongs (hooking it over as such). This holds it tight.
    – DWGKNZ
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 1:15

During the blasted summer heat, while sitting at a desk or drinking a cold one. Have a floor step-on pump attached to a punctured old* tube. Preferably use a wide MTB tube**. Adjust puncture size for different amount of wind.

* old - with too many patches now to run smoothly; or with a wide cut; or with a large puncture on the edge of a patch; etc. ** The tube serves the same purpose as does a capacitor in an electric circuit.


One more way to use inner tubes is to put them inside the tire to add further protection against thorns to your new inner tube.

  • That may help a little, but compared to a proper tyre or liner, it's heavier and less effective.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 3, 2013 at 9:33

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