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.
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.