Pirelli's New $37 SmarTubes Are Claimed to be 70% Lighter Than Butyl Inner Tubes

May 13, 2021 at 6:59
by James Smurthwaite  

Most of us have moved on from using inner tubes in our tires and have embraced the benefits of tubeless but there's still a value in carrying a tube in your back pocket or under your seat for a worst-case scenario to nurse you home.

Whether in your tires or on your body, it makes sense to get the lightest tube possible so in recent years we've seen brands move past the traditional materials of latex and butyl to use thermoplastic polyurethanes for tubes that are claimed to be both lighter and stronger than ever before. Tubolito was the first to market with the technology and Schwalbe released its own version with the Aerothan in October last year. Now it's Pirelli's turn with the Smartube, which has taken inspiration from the brand's World Tour tubular tire that was launched for the Giro D'Italia this week.

Pirelli says its tubes are made from a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), and that they will save up to 70% of the weight of a general butyl tube while being stronger at the same time. The other advantage these tubes have over a standard rubber tube is that they are claimed to take up 50% less space, meaning you'll have more room in your pockets or bags for other gear.


Three mountain bike options are available - 29x1.8/2.2 (claimed weight 75 grams), 29x2.2/2.6 (claimed weight 100 grams) and 27.5x2.2/2.6 (claimed weight 95 grams). These numbers are slightly heavier than the claimed weights for both Tubolito and Aerothan tubes but they are lighter than comparable latex tubes and they should also have better air retention (latex tubes typically need to be re-inflated before each ride).


The tubes come in Racing Pirelli yellow, have a 60mm valve and don't come cheap at $36.90 per tube.


118 Comments

  • 80 0
 I am just mad that they didn't break the $40 barrier. As soon as they do that I will buy.
  • 67 0
 I'll sell you one for $40, but since it's you I'll do you a deal at two for $100.
  • 7 6
 It's the kind of product that could literally be wrapping for some other product because it costs almost nothing to produce. A 2-liter soda bottle probably has more plastic.
  • 5 1
 @timeOday: amount of material used doesn’t equal cost to produce. Scale has a lot to do with it. Plenty of other factors too.
  • 25 0
 @timeOday: yeah. And look at microprocessors! What gives, there's like a gram of sand in there; that's less than my hourglass.
  • 1 1
 @sspiff: well played sir
  • 2 1
 @timeOday: It always easy to assume things are cheap. TPU tubes are not. I have friend who does them, they are the product with the worst margin he ever made.
  • 3 0
 Uhmm... too cheap for my Specialized.
  • 38 3
 Hmm, should I upgrade that spare tube that has been sitting in its package in my backpack for years? I could lighten my 10 pound bag by 100 grams (1/4 pound). I can move up from 59 out of 100 on my strava times to 58.
  • 9 0
 So what your saying is that it is a bargain!
  • 7 1
 I tube that's been sitting for years really should be replaced, it is likely to fail you when you need it.
  • 6 0
 Honestly pedaling up a mountain is such a suffer fest for me that anything I can do to reduce the weight of the gear I'm carrying is worth it, especially if it's 40 bucks and hopefully a 1 time purchase. Same reason I pay a little more for XT cassettes. My bike is heavy enough as is.
  • 3 0
 @timeOday: serious question - do these TPU tubes last longer before breaking down? I like the idea of carrying a lighter backup, but am not willing to spend so much more if I still have to replace them unused every year or so...
  • 37 0
 Are they ebike compatible? I dont want no stinking non ebike tubes.
  • 21 0
 Does Pirelli or Tubolito or anyone else make a ligth weight fat bike tube? 26X4.8? The butyl tire i have strapped to my fat bike has got to weight at least a pound.
  • 13 0
 I questioned tubeless on my fat bike at low temps. finally did it, no issues works great light weight!
  • 15 0
 REVOLOOP actually makes a ultralight tube specifically for fat bikes. They're pretty sweet and I prefer using them over tubeless because fat bikes are a little more complex to setup, require 6oz of sealant per tire, and because my fat bike is seasonal its much easier to maintain.
  • 4 0
 I've used a 26x3 tube as a spare, they stretch out fine in a pinch.
  • 3 0
 I just standard 27.5 tubes in my 4.8s
  • 15 12
 People still ride fatbikes?
  • 2 0
 Do you get punctures fat biking?
  • 1 0
 @jwestenhoff:

I've never had a flat on my fatbike, but 90% of my miles are on snow. Before tubeless, people would tear their valve stems or get pinch flats running low pressures.
  • 1 0
 @jwestenhoff: I don't think the issue with fat biking is punctures, it's there weight of the inner tube. Instead of replacing my non tubeless rims and futzing with a pound of gorilla tape, is easier to keep the tubes. Unfortunately the tubes are close to two pounds each, hence the interest in non butyl tubes. It's much cheaper to spend 120 dollars on tubes than to replace my rims.
  • 1 0
 @englertracing: and thank goodness for the weirdos!
  • 2 0
 @jwestenhoff: my fat bike is pretty exclusively for winter riding to keep myself conditioned. Snow really smooths out trails and softens anything that would have otherwise caused pinch flats. Due to snow/ice I don't ride as hard as I would during warm months. With all of that I never am worried about flats on my fat bike.
  • 19 1
 I don't even carry a tube anymore, unless I'm pretty deep in the backcountry. Cushcore and plugs have taken care of 99% of my issues & can get me out as needed
  • 3 3
 Guessing you've got carbon or otherwise dent-resistant rims. Even with cushcore, it's possible to smack an aluminum rim hard enough to mess up the seal around the bead.
  • 4 0
 @rodeostu: nope just regular old alu rims. Sure I've smacked them hard or broken a spoke, etc, but - I can get out just riding the cushcore and get myself home for almost all of my rides without too much issue from my locals or any bike park
  • 3 0
 Yep me too. Unless I'm racing or on a farther away/big ride... I don't bother with a tube.
  • 2 0
 @jhilly: ok. I guess I'm just unlucky or a fatass, as I've definitely jacked up the bead-tire seal even with cushcores.
  • 2 0
 @rodeostu: I think the point was to hobble home on a tire that won't hold air but is held up enough by the cushcore
  • 2 0
 Genuinely curious, what happens if you slice sidewall? (Guessing plugs wouldn't cover this)
  • 1 0
 @rodeostu: same with carbon rims, with cushcore i came up short and slammed on a rock and broke my rear wheel. first time in 3 years though!
  • 2 0
 @thompsy01: You can run flat with cushcore, of course it won't be very fun and you shouldn't smash through rocks but it beats walking home
  • 3 0
 @zoomingzephyr: Ok. But running on a backup tube still beats riding on just a cushcore.

Don't get me wrong, I love cushcores, but the foam is not a replacement for air pressure.
  • 2 0
 @rodeostu: True, but some of us are lazy or the cut is bad enough that a tube won't work
  • 1 2
 @islandforlife: Selfish. its good to have one for someone that may need help out on the trail.
  • 1 1
 Selfish. its good to have one for someone that may need help out on the trail.
  • 1 0
 @timeOday: yeah, my ride is over pretty much if I flat & that part I’m willing to accept, but I’m at least getting down the hill still in the saddle
  • 1 0
 I carry a tube because of Sod's Law.
  • 1 0
 @likeittacky: Again, on my local 2 to 3 hour rides... no one "needs" a tube. A walk out is 10 to 40 minutes from anywhere in the trail network. My buddies all carry their own tubes and generally my solo rides are typically dawn patrols where I literally don't see another rider. On longer, bigger, further afield rides or racing, and even at the bike park, I carry a tube and have absolutely given my tube to a stranger who needed it.. multiple times. I've also helped numerous riders from adults to kids change their tube or fix an issue with my muti-tool... I've given out many of my zip ties that I carry and even let people use my pump and even my CO2 once.

So f*ck off with your stupid comment and shitty assumptions... I'm probably one of the least selfish riders out there... dick.

Also, who's more selfish, the rider who has his set-up so dialed that he doesn't need to carry a tube... or the rider who's bike is shittly maintained, doesn't ride with inserts, doesn't check their pressures and yet still doesn't carry a tube and then relies on other riders to give them a tube when they need it? Ha... f*ck off with your stupid bulshit...
  • 1 0
 @islandforlife: The lonley Island life has gotten to you poor bastard ?
  • 1 0
 @likeittacky: the lonley island life is sweet!! It's when those damn mainlanders piss me off is when things get hairy!
  • 6 0
 I've seen more than one Tubolito valve stem snap at the base before it could ever be installed. Haven't seen an Aerothan in the wild yet, but the valve stem base looks to be reinforced much better than the Tubolito. Tough to tell what the story is with this Scorpion in these pictures, but it looks more in line with the weak-ass Tubolito.
  • 6 0
 I'll second this, I've personally had a tubolito fail on me before it was even installed. I've also seen it happen to two other friends other than myself. Tubes aren't worth a crap if they don't hold air. Hopefully these will work better than the Tubolito.
  • 1 0
 Seems like a potential issue with any tube, no? I've pulled out an old tube from the bottom of my pack more than once only to find it didn't hold air after a few years of bumping around with tools and dirt.
  • 5 0
 @VtVolk: Yeah, but it'll take quite a while for that to happen with a butyl tube, and if folded properly and wrapped in a piece of recycled FedEx tyvek envelope it can be avoided for a very long time.

If you held one of the Tubolito's in your hand, you'd quickly realize just how fragile that stem & the connection to the tube are. You could snap it just refolding it brand new... because if you plan on throwing it in a pack the way it comes rolled with the stem sticking out, you might as well throw it directly in the trash and save yourself the 100 or whatever grams altogether.

Oh, and that Tubolito is approximately 6 times more expensive.
  • 1 0
 @krka73: great tip on the tyvek. I'll have to try that.
  • 7 0
 what I am really hoping for is a faster dialing rotary phone, or perhaps a smaller, light 8 track tape.
  • 1 0
 or ...wait for it... a _nine_ track tape!
  • 9 1
 How is the tube smart?
  • 30 2
 It is allways smart to lure stupid peoples money.
  • 13 0
 The tube knows.
  • 7 0
 It is smart to carry a tube?
  • 8 0
 It can log in to the Bill Gates 5G chip that was implanted into your brain via the vaccine and broadcast your tire pressures to "Big Tube". No telling what they'll be able to do with that information!!
  • 3 0
 I've been using tubolitos on my gravel bike, and been thoroughly impressed. They hold air better than butyl and offer great road feel. Downsides for the TPU is that it's a bit more finicky to set up, since the material is made from a straight extrusion. I really like that my spare tubo takes up about a third of the space in an under saddle bag, leaving more room for snacks.
  • 4 1
 >> Whether in your tires or on your body, it makes sense to get the lightest tube possible

You've obviously never seen my body. The weight of the spare tire is the problem.
  • 2 0
 My fat thumb is the problem for me; it's why you have one downvote when up was intended.
  • 5 0
 These with Tannus could be unstoppable.
  • 4 0
 Tubolito with Tannus did not work for me. At all.
  • 1 0
 @Swervsroundsquirrels: What happened with the Tubolito? I have been running heavy standard tubes and have had no issues except they are heavy af.
  • 2 0
 @Swervsroundsquirrels: please elaborate, I am about to install that exact combo
  • 2 0
 @CDT77: couldn’t make 2 runs without flatting. Though I know how to install tubes, thought the first one might have been user error. Second tubolito also pinched.
  • 1 0
 @Swervsroundsquirrels: Really!!?? Thats crappy news - but it helps me debate about using tubolito... did you end up running normal tubes? If so - how did you like the combo w the Tannus Armor?
  • 3 0
 @CDT77: I am running Tannus tubeless with no issues, very easy set up and maintenance.
  • 1 0
 @andrewbikeguide: I've heard good things re the tubeless Tannus.. but have run CC for a long time and the reason I am switch to the armor is to prevent flats (punctures / sidewall slashes).

Looking at nullifying the weight penalty of the actual armor with lighter tubes.. not sure which of the light tubes is best..
  • 2 0
 @CDT77: I´ve been runníng TA with TL for the whole season without any issue, just follow the instructions and be careful...Also, I wouldn´t recommend running any less air pressure than with regular innertube and check the pressure often as TA will be squeezed much thinner after few hours so obviously the pressure will drop. It´s a good idea to let the pressure out after ride if you want to prolong life of TA and prevent permanent shrinkage too, but pain in the ass at the same time.
  • 1 0
 @Mondbiker: That does sound like a PITA.. not sure which direction I'll end up going... maybe just reg. tubes in the armor..

PS. What pressures are you running exactly?
  • 2 0
 @CDT77: the letting air out applies regardless of what innertube you are running though, but regular innertube is less likely to suffer from this practice. I was running 26psi at ca 190lb RTR weight. And no, I wasn´t letting the air out and after few months TA was less than half of its original thickness but worked just fine afterwards. So I will go back to it if tubeless in the rear wheel pisses me off again with reliability issues as it was the most reliable setup so far, slow rolling was the only drawback for me.
  • 1 0
 @Mondbiker: 26psi (!) I am also 190lb RTR and run about 20psi tubeless.. or 16psi tubeless w CC.. hmmmm.. gives me a lot to think about.

I don't mind / care if the TA is less than its original thickness - as long as it has adequate 'cushion' to prevent punctures / slashes in the encased tube.

PS. CC is great.. you can ride out if you get a flat.. but it doesn't 'prevent' flats..
PPS. Another solution I was entertaining was running a super durable tube and no insert..
  • 1 0
 I'm running Tannus with lightweight Schwalbe tubes and a lightweight Schwalbe tires and for me that is the ultimate combo, but I'm a light rider anyway.
  • 1 0
 @mentalhead: No kidding eh!? Any pinch flats? What kind of pressures do you run? How is the rolling resistance?
  • 2 0
 @CDT77: DH tube is heavier than tannus + tubolito and not really comparable in terms of rim protection. I run 26psi but you might be running higher volume tire than me, riding less rocky trails etc so as always it depends on too many variables. However I cannot imagine riding 16psi even on the beach lol.
  • 1 0
 I don't see the big advantage over the super light tubes, I just go to rei and get the $6 rei brand tubes that are really just Kenda tubes rebranded. It's not like your riding full-time there just to fix a flat so you should only need it for an hour or so.
  • 4 2
 It isn’t about the riding weight. It is about the extra pack weight you are always carrying.
  • 5 0
 @Austink: and size. Spare tube is by far the largest and heaviest part of my pack.
  • 1 0
 @RonSauce: Really??? Water is the heaviest by far. Why not strap the tube to your bike?
  • 6 1
 @AFunFox: water doesn't count. Strapping a tube to the bike doesn't make it any lighter. Pocket, bag, whatever, its still the single bulkiest item that can theoretically be left behind.

So far I've seen more failures than success with the raw innertube strapped to the seat when its needed. All of that being said im still not dropping $40 on a tube of any weight or size.
  • 3 0
 Buy a £1.75 halfords tube and remember to empty the bowels before you ride........ job done & money saved, I'm so n doo row.....
  • 2 0
 I'm gonna do this: buy the tube AND take a poo. I've gamed the system!
  • 1 0
 I'm carrying an Eclipse tube from Switzerland (not sure if they're still in business). The 29er is 60gr. only. I'm using those as spare for almost 10 years now. They cost around 50 EUR, but are 8 times more resistant against thorns - which if you're running tubeless you might have plenty of them in your tire and a normal tube will get punctured right away.
I don't know why not everyone is using them, I just replaced mine once in those 10 years - because I switched from 26" to 29" wheels. Even if you get a puncture, they come with patches that work really well, so you basically can use that tube for many years and at the end it's way cheaper than standard tubes and the low weight and small size are so convenient, as you can carry them in your pocket.
  • 5 0
 ..... i guess it's always asked ..... tube be or not tube be
  • 4 1
 Havent used a tube since 2008. With plugs, Co2 and little stans bottles, I dont even carry a tube these days.
  • 8 0
 ohhh now you're gonna slash a tire
  • 1 0
 @mariomtblt: Tube wouldn't fix that anyway
  • 3 0
 @ewoodard024: tube and a boot or a used gu wrapper would fix a sidewall slash no problem unless it was huge.
  • 3 1
 I'm running with tubes. They're cheap, easy to fix and no sloppy sealant to deal with. All you have to do is think light when you're riding over rock gardens. Be like air.
  • 3 0
 Small detail. If you get a hole. What do you patch them with .? Where do you get patch kits? How much?
  • 4 1
 Now i can fill up on an extra slice of pizza without worrying
  • 1 0
 I have yet to use my five year old spare butyl tube. I'm waiting for manufacturers to market self inflating clown balloons until then.
  • 1 0
 I wondered the same. I’m hoping Revo tubes. That’s the only discipline where this makes significant sense.
  • 5 3
 A tube for the price of a tire smart move
  • 11 0
 Not all of us are running Mongoose branded tires.
  • 2 0
 @Peally: Tubeless valves and sealant for both wheels would be cheaper than this tube for one wheel, however.
  • 1 1
 @Peally: My last pair of Minions cost $30 each. You just have to keep an eye out for the deals.
  • 1 1
 @Peally: In Euope you can buy a Pirelli tire for less than 40 bucks
  • 2 0
 @dark-o: Fair enough, $40 is a pretty screaming deal on tires compared to MSRP on Maxxis whatevers in the states.
  • 2 0
 Will these freeze and crack when you put in CO2?
  • 1 0
 70% lighter than a conventional tube, 170% better chance of pinch flat than a conventional tube
  • 2 0
 They goofed up in the last image.
  • 1 0
 good news, i like to have more alternatives for tubeless and/or tubes in general.
  • 1 0
 Is there any info as to which specific discipline these are rated to? ie can you use them for DH or is that too hardcore?
  • 3 0
 No 26" size...grrrrr:/
  • 1 0
 A yellow condom ay, this should help cut down the aids epidemic in the Ebike community.
  • 1 0
 Good move, make tubes from plastic instead of a totally organic compound. :/
  • 6 4
 What the f*ck is a tube?
  • 1 0
 looks good where can you get them from...
  • 2 1
 Who uses tubes or a 40 dollar tube
  • 1 0
 Schwalbe already did this a while ago...
  • 1 1
 Shocked that there is still a market for tubes
  • 2 0
 Spares. Not all tire damage can be fixed trailside
  • 1 2
 no one cares
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