PROTECT AND SERVE: INNER TUBES RECYCLED

Generally speaking tubes should be retired after two, three patches at most but that needn’t mean consigning them to landfill. Michael Stenning looks at some practical and creative resurrection.

I’m someone who can go months without flatting and then get a run of six in as many rides. New tube instated by the roadside, injured tubes are mended and relegated to spares wherever possible. If you are one of those who lead a particularly charmed life, pop down to your friendly local bike shop. When tackling punctures, mechanics simply replace the tube since it’s cheaper and the only guarantee of repair. Ask and bribe nicely with biscuits and chances are you’ll come away with their pile of dead butyl.

Headset lower race/seat collar boot 

 

The lower race bears the brunt of stress and sans mudguards; bearings are subjected to large helpings of dodgy water thrown up by the front wheel. Seat posts can also get right, royally stuck in situ - especially on ‘cross and mountain bikes with rear facing collars. 

 

Big 700x38-43mm or MTB 24/26x1.75 sections are easiest to apply. Cut a strip two inches or so for traditional headsets, nearer three for “hidden sets”. Remove the post or fork blade and slip in place.

Smearing some butyl-friendly synthetic grease around the cup or collar makes it easier to pull in situ and offers some additional protection. Baggy fit? Simply fold the tube over again, turn-up style.

This method, minus the grease works quite well on cheap but cheerful LEDs. Simply cut a small section of tube, make an incision so clips/similar mounts will still connect and roll over the top, ensuring it sits flush so moisture cannot be channelled inside and the lens isn’t obscured. 

Chainstay/Top Tube Protector

Chain suck was pretty much eradicated in the 1990s but a bouncing chain can leave more than unsightly battle scars, especially on expensive composites.

 

Clear “helicopter” tapes are arguably the most aesthetically pleasing solution but are relatively expensive. Neoprene sleeves come next in the style stakes but these hold water and require periodic washing to prevent grit and similar abrasives scratching pretty paintwork.  

The late 1990s saw many of us dressing down pretty bikes by mummifying the frameset under acres of old inner tube, or in some cases electrical tape. Thieves soon cottoned on this disguise indicated it was worth nicking.

 

However, applied to the top tube, old butyl protects against chips n’ dings when locking to street furniture, or should the bike slide when loading children/shopping into trailers/tagalongs.  Simply cut the inner tube along its seam and wind tightly, overlapping in the same way as handlebar tape. Secure the ends with a zip tie-sorted.

Sometimes, achieving that perfect fit between bar/post and light, computer or similar accessories can prove fiddly. To be fair, most universal mounts are refreshingly so these days. However, if you can’t get the goldilocks feeling, trim a section down to suit and slip in between the clamp. 

 

Shock absorbing handlebar underlay

 

I’ve used this trick quite successfully beneath drops - especially getting 80’s Bennett tapes to adhere to super slippery chrome track and pursuit style TT. While lacking the outright damping of some gels/tapes, it brings comfort very close to corks used in conjunction with standard glossy wraps, without giving an overly chunky look.

Cut the tube along the seam and using the same technique, dress the bar. Seal at the tops with decent quality electrical tape and apply. 

Mummifying tool handles is a simple way of improving comfort and grip.  

Repair/Refinements

Because butyl is really strong and incredibly stretchy, it can be used for a wealth of other things. In emergency, I’ve lashed broken panniers and moderately-laden racks together by the roadside and, even, used them to hold 6x6ft fence panels in place while the concrete set.

Wallets/Tool Rolls

 

Yep, inner tubes reincarnate very nicely as wallets and tool loops. Thick, 26x1.95-2.3 are ideal; though bog standard will also do the job - ask nicely and your friendly local bike shop may well hand you a few from their scrap bin. Some basic sewing skills and, ideally, access to a machine makes for best, professional looking effects. The only real limit is your imagination. 

PUBLISHED MAY 2016

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