One of the new products we have been testing is the Tube Saddle. It is an innovative way to look at flat tire prevention. The saddle is a U shaped foam insert that wraps around the underside of the inner tube to provide protection from pinch flats. It is a pretty straight forward idea. The photos tell the story.
The biggest benefit is the ability to run lower air pressures without the fear of flats. The secondary benefit is that it becomes nearly impossible to pinch the tube while installing a tire. The foam makes a barrier between the tube and tire iron.
The install is quite easy. The first method is to place the tube around the saddle and then work both parts into the tire together. Once in, the saddle holds everything in place and tube out of the way while turning over the final bead of the tire. It takes a little extra work to get the valve stem in place because of the added foam material between it and the rim.
Tube Saddle with standard inner tube in place
My preferred method of install is more like doing a mousse. But everything in the tire first. Set the rim into the tire to get the valve stem through. Then spoon both sides of the tire on to the rim. Check out the installation video to get a better idea of how it all works.
I have the Tube Saddle mounted in three bikes, each with about 800 miles of Baja time. Testing for flat tires is sort of like fishing; boy you should have been here yesterday, we had a whole mess of them. That is, who knows just when and how a flat will bring you to a halt. So I went to the extreme. I used a new set of very soft Michelin FIM Enduro tires at 8 lbs with stock tubes. Frankly 8 lbs was too soft to even enjoy they rolled around so much.
The result was yes, I was able to get a pinch flat with that set up. It was interesting the pinch was on the top of the tube and so small I had to bring the tube back home to even find it. On the rim side there was no mark on the tube. This tells me the foam is providing some impact protection, just as advertised. This was at the extreme and I would not choose to run those particular tires that low even if I could.
The other bikes are running Kenda’s with 12 lbs of air and we have had no flats. As you can see in the photos, the foam compresses significantly over time. It is most notable in the rear. Nearing the 1,000 mile mark I would venture that the rears are getting towards the end of their service life. The fronts only show about half as much wear and compression of the foam.
Condition of Tube Saddle after 800 miles
It is a bit hard to come up with a definitive conclusion. I certainly think the product has merit. Considering the cost of Mousse’s and even ultra heavy tubes, it could be a cost saver. Perhaps the most obvious draw back is that the Tube Saddle does not provide any additional puncture protection from catus and such. For me, that eliminates it from consideration for a race application. But I like the concept for my Baja tour bikes. Anything that helps keep me from having to change client tires on the trail is good. Even if they do get a good bit of entertainment out of heckling me in the process.
used Tube Saddle next to new one with inner tube in place