Most of us are quick to change the bike tires but often forget the inner tubes. We literally have no clue of when to change the tubes. So, how often should you replace inner tubes?
Consider replacing inner tubes every time you replace the tires or when the inner tubes can no longer hold air. Regardless, it’s a good idea to do it after 2-4 years of hard riding.
Let’s face it; you wouldn’t want repetitive flats to frustrate you. Not only could you damage the rim, but you could also crash if you lose control of your two-wheel.
Those are just a part of why timely replacement of the inner tubes is recommendable.
Now, how about I guide you on how to replace your tire’s inner tubes?
Let’s get into it.
How Often Should You Replace Inner Tubes?
You must identify the right time to replace the inner tubes.
Here are the general basics for doing it:
1. Replace Inner Tubes During Every Tire Replacement
If you want your inner tubes to serve you as long as the tires, you have to replace the two simultaneously.
Below is a table summary that shows the average mileage of inner tubes for different bike tires. You can use it to know how often you should replace both the tires and the inner tubes.
|Bike Tire Type
|Average Inner Tube Mileage
|Mountain Bike Tire
|Road Bike Tire
|Hybrid Bicycle Tire
|Up to 5000 miles
2. Replace Inner Tubes When They Can No Longer Hold Air
If your inner tubes can no longer hold air, either because of repetitive punctures or too many patches, it doesn’t make sense to continue using them.
That’s an indication that the tubes are worn out and need replacing.
But if the tubes are new, first identify the source of air loss before replacing them. You wouldn’t want the replacement inner tubes to have the same fate just as soon as you fit them.
3. Replace Inner Tubes After 2-4 Years of Hard Riding
Let’s talk about how often to replace bike inner tube depending on how easy or hard you ride.
a) Mountain Bike Inner Tubes
Generally, a mountain bike’s inner tubes can last up to 8 years if you only ride casually and less frequently.
But if you are an aggressive mountain biker who rides regularly, the inner tubes can only last you 3-4 years.
The reason why mountain bike tubes wear faster is because of the aggressiveness of the terrain. The more you ride off-road and do it aggressively, the likelier you will wear down the inner tubes.
Note, however, that thorn-resistant mountain bike inner tubes like the 2 Pack Bike Tubes (View on Amazon) can last you much longer, even double the mileage of standard MTB tubes. That’s hugely because of their thicker walls.
b) Road Bike Inner Tubes
A road bike’s inner tubes have a shorter lifespan than a mountain bike’s inner tubes.
While they can last you up to 5 years if you only ride casually and less frequently, they’ll only last you 2-3 years if you routinely race or commute with the bike.
The reason is that road bike tubes are narrower and, as a result, easily punctured.
I should mention, however, that thorn-resistant road bike inner tubes like the Stop-A-Flat Puncture-Proof Tubes tend to last longer than their standard siblings. Due to their thick and puncture-resistant walls, the tubes are more enduring.
c) Touring Bike Inner Tubes
If you casually ride your touring bikes once in a while, you can expect the inner tubes to last you up to 10 years.
In contrast, if you are a professional cyclist who trains regularly, expect the inner tubes to last you 2-3 years at most.
Generally, the tubes are narrower like those of road bike tires and thus more susceptible to punctures.
d) BMX Bike Inner Tubes
BMX bikes are hardy, but it doesn’t mean that their inner tubes are so.
Expect the inner tubes to last 2-4 years if you ride casually and 1-2 years if you race or freestyle with the bike.
You have to replace the tires often because the stunts have a massive impact on the tires and inner tubes.
e) Kids Bike Inner Tubes
Kids ride bikes often and more aggressively than adults. They are always trying out something new and sometimes at the expense of the inner tubes.
So, don’t expect kids’ bike inner tubes to last as long as those of adult bikes. That’s unless we are talking about bikes for smaller kids.
While inner tubes of kids’ bikes can go for three years following easy cycling, they are only likely to last 1-2 years when cycling aggressively.
How Long Should An Inner Tube Last In Years?
Generally, the lifespan of inner tubes depends on two things: how easy or hard you ride and the tube material.
Let’s discuss the two:
a) How Easy or Hard You Ride
Logically, the more aggressively you ride, the likelier you are to wear down the inner tubes. So, expect the inner tubes to last you longer if you ride casually and less regularly.
But if you are an aggressive cyclist who rides regularly, the inner tubes will last you a shorter period.
Here’s a table summary to guide you on the tube’s lifespan, depending on how easy or aggressive you ride.
|Up to 8 years
|Up to 5 years
|Up to 10 years
|Up to 3 years
b) Inner Tube Material
Bike inner tubes come in two popular material choices; butyl rubber and latex.
- Butyl Rubber
A good number of inner tubes are made of butyl rubber, which has some fantastic properties.
For starters, butyl rubber is tough, and so it makes robust inner tubes. It also enjoys better air retention, which is good if you want to avoid natural deflation.
Butyl rubber also resists sunlight degradation, thus more durable.
So, how can you know that your butyl rubber inner tubes are degraded and need replacing?
Well, watch out for these signs:
- Unusual darker color change
- Tube inflexibility (loss of elasticity)
- Visible cracks
- Uneven inflation
If you notice the above degradation signs, replace your butyl rubber inner tubes.
Latex enjoys more elasticity than butyl rubber, and as a result, it’s likely to regain its shape quickly. It’s also more resistant to flats, especially pinch flats.
However, latex has poor air retention, which means you’ll have to inflate the inner tubes more frequently than butyl rubber tubes.
The other issue with latex is that they heat up quickly after aggressive braking if you use them with rim brakes.
Latex also degrades from exposure to sunlight and other harsh environmental conditions.
Overall, latex inner tubes have a shorter lifespan than butyl rubber inner tubes.
But if you protect your latex tubes from harsh weather, they can last you longer. Also, the inner tubes could last you longer if you avoid rim brakes.
1. Is It Worth Repairing Inner Tubes?
Given that bike’s inner tubes are costlier to replace, repairing them may seem like a cost-saving take. The only problem is that if the inner tubes are worn out, they’ll suffer repetitive flats to frustrate you.
2. How Long Do Inner Tubes Last?
Below is a table guide that indicates how long inner tubes last. You can use it to compare the lifespan of the inner tubes of different bike tires.
|Up to 8 years
|Up to 5 years
|Up to 10 years
|Up to 3 years
3. How Do I Identify a Bad Inner Tube?
If your inner tube no longer holds air even after patching it up, it’s likely bad. Also, if the inner tube suffers repetitive flats, the chances are that it’s bad and needs replacing.
4. How Much Does It Cost To Replace Bike Inner Tube?
On average, a new bike inner tube costs $11-$20. If you do the replacement yourself, then you won’t have additional costs.
But if you take the bike to a mechanic, you may incur an additional $10.
5. Do I Need A New Tire Or Just A Tube?
If the tire is in good condition, the chances are that you don’t need a new tube. But if the tire is bad, perhaps with multiple punctures, the chances are that the inner tube is equally bad and needs replacing.
6. How Do I Repair A Puncture On My Inner Tube?
Here’s how to fix a hole in a tube:
- Find an inner tube repair kit
- Use tire levers to separate the tube from the tire
- Submerge the tube in water to identify the source of leakage (look for air bubbles)
- Dry the puncture area and then make it rough
- Spread some adhesive before applying the patch
- Press down the patch until it holds firmly onto the tube
- Can I Use Superglue to Repair a Puncture?
- Does the Inner Tube Size Have to Match the Tire Size Exactly?
In conclusion, how often should you replace inner tubes?
Depending on preference, replace your inner tubes during a tire change, after 2-4 years of aggressive cycling, and when the tires suffer repetitive flats.
Frequently Asked Questions
How frequently should one change the inner tubes?
Typically, a bike’s inner tube has a pretty extensive lifespan – one that can stretch up to even 10 to 20 years! This is mainly applicable assuming the inner tube is not exposed to harsh elements such as excessive UV light, ozone or petroleum fumes which can subsequently accelerate deterioration. For longevity, storing your bicycle in a secure, sheltered environment where it’s safe from extreme conditions is definitely recommended. I remember, once I stored my old Schwinn in a controlled environment, I didn’t have to change the inner tubes for nearly two decades! Truly, adequate care and maintenance can significantly prolong an inner tube’s lifespan.
How often should motorcycle inner tubes be replaced?
This generally depends on the type and wear of your tire. If tire replacement isn’t a regular yearly routine for you, I’d advise changing the tubes. However, if yearly tire replacement is common, you could alternatively use the existing ones. Age is definitely a significant factor in this decision-making process. From my personal experience, I’ve found that older tubes, having effectively proven their worth over time, tend to be more reliable compared to the newer ones. So, meticulously consider the age and condition of your tubes before deciding on replacement.
Should tubes be replaced when tires are replaced?
Yes, it’s generally a prudent practice to replace the tube while fitting a new bike tire. The previous tube-tire combination might have triggered a weakening in the tube at the valve attachment point, or even where the valve penetrates through the rim. This is also an optimal time to give your rim-tape a thorough check if you’re putting clinchers into action. I remember, on one instance, while fitting a new tire on my road bike, I noticed a significant wear at the valve attachment point on the tube – a potential puncture possibility. Since then, I’ve made it a point to replace the tube everytime I change my bike tires.
Do bike inner tubes wear out?
Latex, the primary component of bike tubes, is highly susceptible to heat and UV light. So, the storage location of your tubes can be a major determinant of their state. Exposure to sunlight, UV rays, and dramatic atmospheric conditions speed up the wear and tear on latex tubes. However, when shielded and cared for, these tubes can exhibit remarkable durability. There exist 20-year-old tubulars that perform just as well as their younger counterparts! Hence, under the right conditions and protection, a bike inner tube can have an impressively long life.