By Simon Smythe
Pirelli has launched a range of superlight inner tubes for road, gravel and mtb made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU).
The Italian tyre brand says the new SmarTUBE promises a weight reduction of up to 70% over regular inner tubes. The lightest P Zero road version weighs a claimed 35g compared to the 125g of a butyl rubber 700x25/32c Continental tube.
A similarly sized latex tube, such as the Vittoria Competition, weighs 85g.
Additionally, thanks to the incredibly thin construction, Pirelli says its new tubes beat all records in terms of space-saving, taking a claimed 50 per cent less room in jersey pockets or backpacks.
In advance of the Giro d’Italia, Pirelli launched its new tubular tyre – the P Zero Race Tub SL – which uses a TPU inner tube to reduce overall tyre weight by 10 per cent. This clincher tube, according to Pirelli, incorporates much of the feedback from developing the tubular with its sponsored WorldTour teams.
The new SmarTUBE range consists of the P Zero SmarTUBE, which is meant to be used with the P Zero road tyres; the Scorpion SmarTUBE for use with Scorpion mtb tyres, plus a reinforced version for gravel and long distance for the Cinturato tyre line – the Cinturato SmarTUBE. The latter, says Pirelli, has the same weight as the lightest butyl tubes on the market but offers twice the protection against punctures.
To differentiate SmarTUBEs from regular tubes – in case the low weight and lack of volume don’t do that already – they’re bright yellow.
The yellow colour of course also differentiates them from Pirelli’s competitors’ TPU tyres. Austrian brand Tubolito, with its signature orange tubes has been pioneering the material and recently launched an even smarter tube than Pirelli’s SmarTUBE: Tubolito’s Tubo MTB PSENS is fitted with an NFC chip that can send pressure readings to a smartphone.
Meanwhile, Schwalbe has its Aerothan TPU inner tubes, developed with BASF, which are transparent.
Pirelli claims 35g for the P Zero SmarTUBE, which is sized 700x23/32c compared to 38-40g for the Tubolito Tubo (700x18/28c) and the Schwalbe Aerothan Race at 41g (700x23/28c).
Pirelli is offering just one valve length for the P Zero smarTUBE – 60mm – so valve extenders would be needed for deep section rims. Schwalbe offers 40mm for the Aerothan whereas Tubolito Tubos are available in 42mm, 60mm or 82mm.
The Cinturato version is available with a 42mm valve as well as 60mm.
The P Zero and Cinturato SmarTUBEs can be used with rim or disc brakes whereas the Scorpion SmarTUBE is disc only.
Full specs below.
Pirelli says none of its three SmarTUBES can be repaired – “replace if tube or valve is damaged” – is the advice. By contrast Tubolito and Schwalbe Aerothan can be patched.
Pirelli SmarTUBEs are priced at £27.99/$36.90/€29.90, the same as the Tubo Tubolito Road, while the Schwalbe Aerothan Race/Endurance is slightly cheaper at £24.99.
Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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