When it comes to the sport of cycling, every single ounce counts. That can, however, be at the expense of quality. The Viennese start-up Tubolito has designed an inner tube for bicycles that is both light and very strong. In a test where the tire was punctured, the Tubolito proved to be three times stronger than a conventional bicycle tire.
One of the founders of Tubolito, Akos Kertesz, tells us more about this.
What were you doing before founding Tubolito and how did the idea come about?
Christian is a chemist and I’m a mechanical engineer. We worked in the smartphone industry together and researched the most durable material for loudspeaker membranes. That’s how we stumbled upon TPU, a very high quality plastic. We both love mountain biking. We figured it could also be a good material for a bicycle inner tube. That’s how the idea for Tubolito came about.
You claim that the inner tube was in desperate need of innovation. So what was the problem?
While other areas of bike technology are constantly being innovated, inner tubes haven’t undergone any further development for ages. Conventional tubes are made of butyl or latex. Both have advantages and disadvantages. Our Tubolitos incorporate all the advantages. They can even be tailored to particular properties where needed.
We focus primarily on the aspects of weight, stability and compactness.
- Weight: Tubolitos are up to 80 percent lighter than conventional products. Weight is saved through the rotating mass – i.e. where weight reduction is most effective.
- Stability: The material we use is already in use in other industries like the automotive industry. The advantages lie in the combination of its light weight and resistance. A Tubolito is up to three times stronger than a conventional inner tube.
- Compactness: compared to conventional inner tubes, Tubolitos are extremely small when rolled up owing to their reduced thickness. You can store them easily in your bike jersey or in a saddlebag.
What was the main obstacle that you encountered?
The bicycle industry has its own rules. As well as stakeholders that aren’t usually obvious to the end user. We had to learn a lot as newcomers in the industry. About the retail structure, packaging requirements, etc., for instance. However, we soon found partners who supported us in bringing our products to the market. Since then, we have been able to offer our products worldwide.
What have been the best moments so far? What are you particularly proud of?
When we come across Tubolitos in specialty stores or on a bike. Those are very special moments. We are constantly aware that all the work was worth it and that we were able to turn an original abstract idea into reality.
How difficult was it to find funding?
When it came to funding, we had great advisors and also got good support from INiTS, the Start-Up Incubator at TU Wien. After several negotiations, we soon reached an agreement with a private investor and were once again able to concentrate on the development and industrialization of the products.
How sustainable is Tubolito?
As passionate cyclists, the environment is very important to us. By using high quality materials, we are able to produce our inner tubes with significantly lower water usage and CO2 emissions than is the case with butyl or latex. It takes 15 bathtubs less water to make a Tubolito compared to a latex tire. In addition, we use manufacturing waste to make other products, such as shoe soles.
Where will the company be in 5 years? What is your ultimate goal?
We see ourselves as ‘Tube engineers’ and are always working on the further development of our products. Our goal is to design the perfect tire for every use. We are currently researching high-tech inner tubes. We are constantly researching, designing and testing and are only satisfied when the results meet our high standards.