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Lighter Fatbike Tube Alternatives

Size matters

L to R: Specialized light tube & Surly 'light' tube

Most of us have had the jaw-dropping experience of holding a Surly tube in our hands, but we have to ask ourselves, ‘Are they necessary?’ ‘What are the advantages and is it worth the weight for the riding I do?’

A bunch of us in Alaska (and many other places, too) have been running standard mountain bike tubes in our fat wheels for years, without issue, rolling on everything from Large Marges to 100mm hoops of various brands. I’ve pounded the crap out of my fatbike, riding with up to 60 lbs of gear on my Pugsley, hauling butt downhill and taking jumps, riding almost abusively, trying to find weakness in my custom-drilled 100s.

Nearly half the weight of Surly tubes

This also means the tubes have taken a punishing and while the headset has come loose numerous times, I’ve never had a tube problem or lost air.

Most people agree that it’s good to swap tubes out for new ones every year or two, so since my buddy & I were due and about to head out on a big trip, I decided to run a comparison to get a real number on the weight savings.

Specialized 26×2.3/3.0 Presta 290g
Stock Mukluk 3 tubes 26″ Presta 400g
Surly .9mm XC 26×3.0/4.0 Presta 555g
Surly 1.3mm 388g
Surly 1.0mm 490g
Q-tube 26×2.4/2.75 287g
Q-tube SL 26×2.4/2.7 259g

*average weights of each tube.

Note that the Surly tube weights are counter intuitive! You’d think that the thinner tubes would be lighter. Why? Different production runs, mis-labeled boxes and an effort to make all their fat-bike tubes lighter come in to play here.

Also, of the 7 tube types, the Q-tube SL was the most consistent. Over the 6 tubes weighed they only varied by 6 grams while the spread on the heavier tubes was 24g from lightest to heaviest.

There ya have it. One pound difference between a pair of light tubes and a pair of the Surly ‘light’ tubes. Bontrager and other brands of ‘normal’ bike tubes should be about the same weight, as long as they aren’t downhill tubes, like the Surlys are basically designed to be.

Riding in the thorny desert or doing a big wilderness route? Still not sure if I can recommend the Surlys with the track record of the light tubes that I’m aware of… although one less thing to worry about might be nice.

9 Responses to Lighter Fatbike Tube Alternatives

  1. Dana March 19, 2012 at 9:16 am #

    Good to know thank you.
    I had considered the Novara 26×2.3 toobs from REI as an alternative but as of yet to try them.

  2. woodi March 19, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Do all of these specific brand tubes properly fill out the tire, or do they suffer from the narrow spot around the valve area? Looking to go with light tubes but I want my tires to stay true and round.

  3. Ben Welnak March 20, 2012 at 12:16 am #

    nobody has really addressed goatheads. the fat tires are regular rolling velcro strips for those little bastards. Nothing can withstand them, except some sealant.

  4. ckyhl January 28, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

    Remember, you are riding a Fatbike. Also need to consider the tire you are running, TPI of your tire, your typical pressure, and your terrain. I often run 120 TPI Husker Du’s with 2.5-2.8 Bontrager tubes at 8-10lbs psi on Marge Lites. A very lite combination, but If I leave the trail at all I will flat. Meanwhile, my buddy with 27TPI Nates with regular 1mm Surly tubes will not flat. Don’t discount how much tougher 27 TPI tires are vs 120 TPI. When bushwacking over nasty rocks, logs, and other pinching debris you need to worry about more than simply saving 1 lbs of rotational weight (total on both wheels).

  5. sam_sp February 11, 2013 at 8:20 pm #

    I tried the 2.7 Q-Tubes (by the way, they are stamped kenda???) on a 4.0 fatty and I have pulled 2 presta valves on the rear wheel when I was riding. Any thoughts?

  6. bryan March 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

    Bens right, my fatbike tires are goathead magnets! Wish there was something that could address this problem.

    • surlyryder April 6, 2014 at 6:06 pm #

      Been running Origin8 Devistators with Kevlar and Surly tubes for 2 years with no flats. Heavy as hell man. Probably going back to Surly tires with Sunlite tubes. Think I will just carry a bottle of Slime for flats and then ditch the tube later when I get home. Also carry titanium spoons with me at all times.

    • Shawn McPherron June 25, 2014 at 10:07 am #

      The first time I rode my fatbike, I picked up about 8 thorns and goat heads within 30 minutes. I thought Darn, I wish I had Stan in these tires like my ghetto tubeless 29ers. So, I simply opened the presta valve on my Qbike tube and poured a couple ounces of Stans into the tubes. I have not had a flat in 9 months of riding.

  7. SteveK August 11, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

    I’ve seen people use a foam pool noodle and scrape out middle area and line the outer tire with it and use regular MTB tubes in their fat tires. helps with flat protection.

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