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A good mountain bike tube can make the difference between a very short ride and a long one. So how do you find the right tube and where do you buy it?
As surprising as it may be there are a lot of different kinds of bicycle tubes. From different sizes to different types of adapters, there are tons of options.
Determine Your Tire Size
The first step in choosing the correct tube is determining the size of your mountain bikes tire. Bicycle tires list the size of the wheel in this format, (26x2.25). These numbers tell us the diameter of the wheel (26 inches) and the width of the tire (2.25 inches). For determining a tube size we only need the diameter, in this example that is the 26 inches.
Once you have determined your tire size it's time to go shopping for your tube. You can purchase a bicycle tube at most athletic or department stores. Places like Wal-Mart, Target, Academy Sports & Outdoors or Dick's Sporting Goods are a good spot to start. If you have a local bicycle shop nearby try stopping by to get their expert opinion.
Ask an employee where they can find the bicycle tubes inside the store. You need to find the correct size, so take the tires diameter that you found and match it up with the boxes of tubes at the shop. In our example, we will need to find a box with a 26' tube inside of it.
Choose A Valve Type
The valve on a bicycle tube is where you will connect your pump and put air inside the tube. There are two types of valves that come on most bicycle tubes. Presta or Schrader. Sometimes your bicycle is designed for a particular valve, other times either one can fit. It's best to examine the valve you currently have on the bike before selecting a new tube.
For the most part the type of valve you use it a personal preference, but there are some benefits unique to each bicycle tube valve type.
Schrader valves are short, fat and identical to the valves you see on a car. A benefit of this type of valve is that it is a universal fit. If you get a flat all you have to do is make it to the nearest gas station and use their air pump. The downside of the schrader valve is that they can be harder to pump than a presta valve because of the spring in the core.
Presta valves are long, skinny and have a locking nut on the top of them. The locking nut on the top of a presta valve prevents accidental depression of the core which could release the air in your tire. Unfortunately, presta valves also require a special pump that fits over the valve head.
Select a tube that has the valve type you want in the size that you need.
Flat Proof Gel Filling
Most likely the reason you are searching for a new tube is because you had a flat in your old tube. If you want to prevent a flat from occurring in the future most stores and bicycle shops have bicycle tubes that are filled with a puncture filling slime or gel. These are highly recommended for mountain biking on trails with thorns and will only add a dollar or two to the cost.