Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Product: Aerothan inner tube for bicycle tires
Sizes: 700 x 23-28, 28-35 and 35-50
Website: Aerothan Tubes | Schwalbe Tires North America
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.
George Straznitskas says
For what it’s worth…..I bought 2 and promptly installed them in a bike I was talking to Florida for the month of February ‘21. Loved the roll. Try as I might I couldn’t locate the specified patch kit. At Bike Tires Direct I was told the one they sold me would work. I bought a Tubbilito patch kit with fingers crossed.
Each tube did go flat during my 1st week there. Neither patch kit worked.
I replaced the Aerothans with my normal $5 cheapo tubes and encountered zero flats the remaining 3 weeks. Not as nice a roll as Aerothan but at least it rolled.
Schwalbe, if you sell the tube for $30, ya gotta sell a patch kit.
Jim Langley says
Thanks, George. I agree that the patch kit should be available. Someone pointed out another video which shows the guy installing a Schwalbe Aerothan glueless patch. So maybe the reason we can’t get patches is just the current worldwide shortage of all bicycle parts?
Seth Shaw says
I admit, my pockets are short and my arms are shorter. Spending $60 (what happened to my zero key?) for a pair of tubes which flat as often as butyls, notwithstanding its weight and suppleness, is pointless to me. Such an exalted price suggests you should not need a patch kit often, if at all. I will proffer the notion that if the patch kit is sold out, perhaps the tubes are more, not less, vulnerable to punctures? Unless the tube price drops dramatically I can’t (yet?) see the value.
Maybe, but I have had quality control issues with their tires, and so will not even consider the tubes….
I have, in the past couple of years, purchased tires which are so off in diameter that it was impossible to inflate the tires and keep them on the rims (even my LBS said they were unfit to install). I have had others which blew off the rims when being ridden.
This is just my experience….. but can also google to see that I am not alone in experiencing issues with their tires.
Jim Langley says
Thanks for the feedback, Walt – as I said in the video I have had good luck with Schwalbe Lugano road tires – and I ride their Marathons on a couple of commuting bikes and they’ve been great, too. I appreciate you sharing your experiences with bad fit and blow-offs. Thank you,
Don Macrae says
That does not tally with my experience of Schwalbe tyres at all – after several years experience.
Ed Pavelka, RBR cofounder says
FYI everyone — at the moment (afternoon of May 6), Bike Tires Direct is selling these tubes for $26.99, a 10% discount. A pair, costing more than $50, qualifies for free shipping.
William Wightman says
The price is a bit off-putting for a consumable. Perhaps the elite riders will push up the volume and product maturity over the next few years. I have found that Continental (for quality) road tubes and a liberal amount of Teflon powder between the tube and the tire give me a tangible improvement in next-flat tube installation and rolling resistance. The biggest improvement though is riding tires that are at the end of wear life and have very little rubber left. That is a sweet spot that does not last long.
Fred R says
No doubt I won’t buy those tubes if they can’t get the darn patches, that’s silly.
The other think I didn’t hear about is how LONG will those Schwalbe patches stick to the tube? is it just going to stick long enough to get home, or will stick on the tube for the rest of the tubes natural life? I have not problems with Park glueless patches on regular butyl tubes, those patches will stay on for several years, they’ll even stay on my spare tube that is not inflated and rolled up to fit in my seat bag, so I have no problem with those type of patches, but there has been a lot of issues with other brands of glueless patches where they would only stick for roughly 24 hours, and this is why I want to make sure that the Schwalbe self stick patches will last the life of the tube and not a few hours than throw the tube away, because that’s crazy having to pay that kind of money for a tube and have to throw it away after one flat because the patches are not permanent.
Is the new material compatible with tubeless sealant. May as well try if the cores are so easy to remove,.
Jim Langley says
No, Bill58. Schwalbe says the Aerothan tubes must NOT contact sealant.
Will Haltiwanger says
I have used the Tubolito tubes and never had occasion to try a patch. I have seen videos of people using Flex Seal Tape for tube repair and I am now carrying some of that as an option. That might work on these tubes.
Ray Bourne says
A good review – thanks Jim.
I have used latex tubes for about 12 years (36,000 miles) mainly because of the quality of the ride. It’s not as subjective as it may seem. When I do get the few flats that I have had, I replace with a butyl tube that I carry in my under-seat “Trunk.” I can immediately feel the change in ride quality – much “stiffer”! Then when I patch the latex tube with a regular Rema #0 and replace it in the tire, I can feel the change back to the supple ride I appreciate. BTW, I use ONLY Continental 4000 tires for the same ride quality issue. I’ve tried many others, but always go back to the Conti’s.
I’m not at all shy about paying the $30 price. Shoot, the Michelin Air Comp latex tubes cost nearly $20 apiece and they can be hard to find. The Aerothans with their lighter weight, improved puncture resistance, and lower porosity are certainly worth 10 bucks more!
Ray Bourne says
I would except I’ve got a great set of conventional Rolf wheels and I don’t want to change them out. I can buy a whole lot of Aerothan tubes for the price of a new tubeless compatible wheelset!
Good point Ray. I too have a set of wheels that are tubed and can’t be converted. But it doesn’t sound like these expensive tubes prevent pinch flats which to me would justify the cost. To really accomplish that I think tubeless is the way to go.
Jim Langley says
Actually, as I said in my review, Schwalbe says the Aerothan tubes are more pinch flat resistant, MattK. That material they’re made of is less grippy than butyl or latex.
The review says the tubes are more puncture resistant. A pinch flat might be different from a puncture, more like a slice. I wasn’t sure if they were the same.