Best Bike Tubes: Basic but Essential Parts for All Cyclists

Get the best out of your tires with these top three bike tubes

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Whether you’re commuting to work or getting your kicks from flying down a mountain, there’s one thing you shouldn’t go on a bike ride without. If you bring along a replacement inner tube, you can repair punctures at the side of the road and quickly get back on your way. The tube you choose will ultimately affect how your bike performs, so it’s important to be informed. We’ve gathered the three best bike tubes on the market.

  • Best Overall
    TAC 9 26” Bike Tubes w/ 32mm Schrader Valve
    Summary
    Summary
    A 26-inch bicycle inner tube made from high-quality butyl rubber for maximum airtightness. Has a removable 32 mm Schrader valve. Capable of handling pressure up to 160psi.
    Pros
    Pros
    The valve stem is specifically designed with a reinforced base to prevent breakage.
    The tubes are accurately sized and fit well.
    Cons
    Cons
    These tubes may not be suitable for heavy-duty use. Rim strip and tire levers are an optional add-on with this package that you’ll need to pay a little more for since they are not included as standard.
  • Best Value
    Slime Self Healing 20” Schrader Bicycle Tube
    Summary
    Summary
    A 20-inch inner tube with Schrader valves. Pre-filled with the correct amount of non-toxic, non-flammable Slime Sealant, which is intended to seek out and heal tread punctures up to 3mm in size.
    Pros
    Pros
    An inclusive sealant improves confidence in tires and reduces the risk of roadside repair. It’s much easier and more efficient than adding slime to ordinary tubes.
    Cons
    Cons
    It can be difficult to inflate properly because of the sealant in the tube. Sealant settles at the bottom of the tube if the bike is left standing.
  • Honorable Mention
    Continental Race 28” S42 Presta Valve Bike Tubes
    Summary
    Summary
    A 28-inch, all-purpose, accident-proof, butyl rubber inner tube with a 42mm Presta valve. Pack includes five tubes, two Continental tire levers,  and two Diamond Grade reflective stickers to ensure ease of use.
    Pros
    Pros
    Each individual tube is subject to rigorous quality control tests before leaving the factory. Valves are removable to allow for repair and/or replacement without sacrificing an undamaged tube.
    Cons
    Cons
    Bonding structure at valve placement does not inflate at the same rate as the rest of the tire, making it more likely to get damaged. Not ideal for racing or performance riding.

Tips

  • Buy the right size inner tube for your bike. Measure the circumference of your wheel for the right length and then check how narrow or wide of an inner tube you need to properly fill your tire.
  • Always check your existing inner tube to determine the type of valve you need. There are two common types: Presta and Schrader. Presta valves are long and narrow with a built-in twist lock, while Schrader valves are typically short and squat.
  • If you’re looking for a smoother ride, choose latex over butyl rubber tubes. Latex tubes are lighter and more supple but are also more challenging to fit and need topping up more often than butyl tubes.

FAQs

Q: Do bicycle inner tubes have an expiration date?

A: The life of your bike tube depends on the quality of its construction. In general, they shouldn’t need to be replaced unless you get a flat tire.

Q: Are latex tubes more resistant to punctures than butyl tubes?

A: Latex is stretchier and more pliable, so latex tubes do tend to be more puncture resistant. However, this also means they need inflating on an almost daily basis, and this extra effort is likely to outweigh the advantages of fewer accidents.

Q: How do I store bike tubes?

A: It’s sensible to protect tubes from damage as much as possible while not in use. Keep the cap on the valve and store it in the original box, a ziplock bag with talcum powder, or wrapped in an old sock. 

Final Thoughts

The high-quality butyl rubber TAC 9 26” Bike Tubes w/ 32 mm Schrader Valve is our pick for best overall bike tubes, while the sealant-filled Slime Self Healing 20” Schrader Bicycle Tube is our best value pick.