Schwalbe promises performance and durability with new Aerothan inner tubes

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If you’re a proud, card-carrying member of #teamtubeinside, Schwalbe’s latest development will be cause for celebration.

Despite the somewhat misleading name, the company’s new Aerothan inner tubes aren’t more aero than … well, anything. However, they are made of a special non-rubber thermoplastic polyurethane polymer that was developed by the chemistry wizards at BASF, and Schwalbe is making some very heady claims about the stuff.

First off, Schwalbe’s Aerothan inner tubes are remarkably light, with standard 700×23-28 mm road tubes boasting a claimed weight of just 41 grams, wider 700×28-35 mm all-road tubes sitting at 61 grams, and even a 29×2.4-3.0-inch mountain bike tube weighing a scant 81 grams. Those claimed weights are well in agreement with road and all-road samples I have here, and it’s worth noting that they’re comparable weight-wise to the amount of sealant you’d have to add to tubeless tires.

Those low weights won’t mean much if you’re still stuck on the road or trail regularly changing flats, though, and Aerothan is supposedly excellent in that respect, too, being “much more robust and durable than butyl, latex, or other synthetic tubes.” According to Schwalbe, an Aerothan tube is more than twice as hard to puncture than those other materials, and is also supposedly best in terms of pinch flat resistance — a particularly interesting claim given that Tubolito seems to use a similar material for its high-end inner tubes, too.

All of the Aerothan tubes are built with 40 mm-long reinforced plastic valve stems with removable Presta valve cores. The decision to use plastic was almost certainly made in the interest of weight, but plastic’s reduced durability relative to metal in this application still gives me pause.

Schwalbe adds that even if and when you do puncture an Aerothan tube, the air tends to bleed out more slowly than with an ultralight butyl or latex tube, meaning you have more time to pull over for a repair before things go totally flat, and it’s supposedly more resistant to heat, too. In terms of the actual repair, the Aerothan material does apparently require a special patch kit, which Schwalbe offers (naturally) in a convenient glueless format.

In terms of rolling resistance, Schwalbe’s claims are notably more subdued, with suggestions that Aerothan is competitive with other top offerings, but not a head-and-shoulders advantage over what’s already available.

“Test results for its rolling resistance keep up well with latex … and with tubeless systems,” reads the Aerothan press release.

For the space-conscious, it’s worth noting that Aerothan tubes pack down a fair bit smaller than even ultralight butyl inner tubes.

Eight sizes of Aerothan are available in total (including versions for all manner of gravel bike setups and even 26″ mountain bike tires), all with 40 mm-long plastic valve stems with removable Presta cores.

Retail price is — gulp — about US$32 for all sizes, with pricing in other currencies to be confirmed.

More information can be found at www.schwalbe.com.

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