Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Product: Aerothan inner tube for bicycle tires
Sizes: 700 x 23-28, 28-35 and 35-50
Price: $29.65 (seems to range from $29 – $32) https://amzn.to/3eU76Th
How acquired: Purchased
RBR advertiser: No
- Super light and ultra small (45 grams – 23-28 size)
- Holds air much better than latex
- Supple for wonderful road feel
- Low rolling resistance
- Made of BASF’s Ellastolan (new material)
- Less affected by heat generated by rim braking
- Claimed superior puncture protection
- Easier installation
- Some pumps, valve extenders may unscrew valve cores
An affordable way to significantly improve the ride of most production road bicycles with stock equipment is to upgrade to a pair of lighter tubes. Tires help, too, but for this review, let’s focus on what’s inside most tires, which is the inner tubes.
This is because any weight savings in the tire/tube combination is spinning weight, which is noticeable when it comes to performance. You feel it getting up to speed, on climbs and anytime you’re riding competitively and are looking for every edge. Lighter tubes give you a small yet very nice boost.
To get these advantages, a common approach is to go to superlight butyl tubes. Or, as long as you don’t mind adding air more often, you can go with latex tubes, which are much lighter than butyl. Many roadies feel that latex rides nicer than butyl, too. But even fans of latex often go back to butyl because they tire of having to pump before rides.
A New Tube Material
Enter Schwalbe’s new Aerothan tubes. Working with the chemical company BASF for five years on a new tube design, the companies came up with a material unlike any I’ve seen in tubes before. They call it Ellastolan.
It’s an almost transparent slightly stretchy plastic (not as stretchy as butyl or latex). Unlike butyl and latex it has a smooth, slightly slippery surface, which helps make it easier to install.
The company says “the tube is manufactured in a blow film extrusion process, first into an endless tube which is then cut to length and welded together using a high-precision laser. Schwalbe developed its own machines for its manufacturing site located in Reichshof, Germany.”
According to Schwalbe, the Aerothan’s advantage over traditional tubes include:
• Fully light-weight, right to the valve – about 40% less weight than a comparable Schwalbe extra light tube
• Puncture protection newly defined – the material itself prevents sudden air loss
• Minimal rolling resistance – maximum riding dynamics
• Extremely heat resistant – certified for rim brakes
• A stable ride – even with low air pressures
• Easy installation – without slipping or pinching
• Made in Germany
• 100% recyclable
Here’s my video about the tubes showing more details including installing one. I made it so that you can see the tubes in more detail than in photos alone. I think they’re a very interesting new take on bicycle tubes.
There are a couple of things I don’t know yet, so it’s a little early to make a final judgement. For one, Schwalbe says they have a glueless patch for the Aerothan tubes. But I haven’t seen it or tried it. Hopefully it works well because I’m sure anyone paying top dollar for a tube wants it to be patchable.
The other reservation is with the composite valves. They’re one of the things that let the Aerothans weigh only 45 grams. It’s a weight-saver for sure but the removable valve cores tend to want to unscrew with valve extenders and pump heads that screw on. When that happens you lose all the air you just put into the tire. That’s frustrating.
Overall though, I’m very impressed with the promise of these tubes. I’ve installed 3 so far and they do not need to be topped off nearly as often at latex tubes. They definitely match the lightweight and supple performance of latex, too. And, they’re smaller to take up less space wherever you carry your spare. That also helps when mounting tires – along with the material being smooth and slippery.
If Schwalbe can get the valve cores to stay put and their patches become available and work well (and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be able to), I see the Aerothan tubes as the best option yet in superlight tubes to improve your bicycle’s performance, though they are not inexpensive.
To learn more
Here’s BASF’s video talking about their work on the Aerothan tubes:
Ride total: 9,990
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.