Latex vs Butyl Tubes – What are the Differences?
You may have heard this buzzword regarding modern, wide-rimmed wheelsets that are blowing up the cycling market. Rolling resistance is a value assigned to the amount of energy a tire loses through deformation as it rolls down the road. The patch of tire in contact with the ground is compressed while the rest retains its natural shape.
Rolling resistance, or CRR (Coefficient of Rolling Resistance), is an important metric to understand when selecting which tires you’re going to use (spoiler alert, and tubes), and for what application. Cyclists work harder, and expand more power, when rolling resistance is high. The inverse is also true, so cyclists want the lowest possible CRR to achieve the greatest amount of speed for the least energy investment.
If you love to crunch numbers and want to take a deep dive into tire rolling resistance, you may find your favorite tire here. Others have gone a step further by scientifically testing a wide variety of inner tubes to see how they affect a tire’s CRR.
Comparing results between the two means you can actually determine the rolling resistance of your favorite tire and tube set up. According to scientific research, latex inner tubes, and not butyl, are the way to go if you want the best rolling resistance possible.
But why is that?
Latex inner tubes are made from natural rubber, created with the sap excreted by a rubber tree. Rubber has a low modulus of elasticity, meaning it rebounds quickly and can handle a tremendous amount of deformation with less energy loss. Latex inner tubes can expand to over seven times their actual size.
Latex’s natural properties mean that when you pump up a latex tube, it fills every nook and cranny of free space inside your tire. And when you ride over potholes or irregular surfaces, it sponges up changes, rebounding efficiently and constantly as it takes the shape of the road.
Standard butyl tubes work fine, but its artificial rubber compound expands less, only 1.5 times its size, and doesn’t bounce back with the same performance as latex. As a result, a butyl tube loses more energy as it deforms, creating a higher rolling resistance.
Winner : Latex tubes has better rolling resistance due to its natural rubber properties.