If you’re of a certain age, then you’ve probably seen the great Steve Martin movie, The Jerk. There’s a famous scene in it in which he runs to a guy from the phone company, grabs a phone book and starts exclaiming, “The new phone book’s here! The new phone book’s here!”
Getting excited about inner tubes is likely to cause you to look just as ridiculous.
And with that little prologue, I need to admit that there’s a tube out there I actually get excited about. A tube about which I care. At the end of the review, I’ll give you an address to which you can send Xanax.
But let’s be honest. Most seat bags are so small that if you try to go garbage compactor on them and cram two tubes, a few insta-patches, a CO2 gun and a few CO2 cartridges, all you’re really guaranteed to do is wind up with a jack-in-the-box with a pressurized zipper for a latch.
There’s a special prayer for those who have discovered a blown-out seat bag with nothing but a stem nut bouncing around inside. That prayer is to be recited on the ride home as way of fending off the nearly inevitable flat.
The Panaracer R’Air tube is a thin butyl tube that mimics the feel of a good latex tube. For riders running 700C wheels, it comes in two sizes, 18-23mm and 31-35mm. The 18-23 comes in 32, 48 and 60mm valve lengths while the 31-35 comes in 32 and 48mm lengths.
I run the narrower tubes for everything up to 28mm in width, and I’ve even run them on 32mm tires in a pinch.
Here’s the extra-cool part: When I buy them, I get the 32mm valve length and Panaracer includes a valve extender and valve core nut. No matter what happens, I know that I’ve got whatever is necessary to put that tube to use. I’ve been on so many rides where a rider has a flat only to realize that the valve on the tube in their seat bag isn’t long enough to extend beyond the spoke bed. Oops.
These tubes aren’t cheap. They go for $15.95, but the combination of ride quality, packability and included valve extender makes them more than worth it in my mind. I can get two of the R’Air tubes in a seat bag that might otherwise only hold a single tube.
For those who have never ridden with latex tubes, the improvement in ride quality is a real thing. It makes any tire feel like an open tubular, or nearly so.
Final thought: The new phone book is really here.