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Reuse inner tubes. Save your money and our environment.
By Øyvind Aas
One of the great things about cycling is all the stuff you can buy to make the riding experience better. Strangely enough there are a lot of cheap, sometimes even free things you can do as well, that might be just as rewarding.
One annoying feature of the chain and sprocket transmission is the chain slapping on the chain stay. This isn't just a very irritating noise, but also causes havoc on a good looking paint job.
A number of solutions to this problem have been suggested by various bike related companies throughout history. Shimano made their plastic Sharkfin in the early '90s. This contraption was designed not only to protect the chain stay, but also to keep the chain from falling between the frame and the wheel, especially important at a time when chain stay mounted U-brakes were the brakes to have.
Personally I've never experienced a chain getting stuck between the chain stay and the tyre. What the Sharkfin actually provided, was another place for Shimano to stick its name on a bike. The Shark fin is mostly gone and we are left with our own imagination to figure out how to protect and silence our bikes.
Lizard Skins is one company that has thought about this problem. Its neoprene chain stay protector does what it is supposed to do, but has its quirks. It costs money and it gets quickly contaminated and dirty from the chain lube. It would also look bulky on road or cyclo-cross bikes.
A free solution is at hand. The next time you have a flat don't throw the tube away. If it has a small hole in it patch it up and use it for later, of course. But if the hole is too big to patch you can recycle it as a as a chain stay protector. This can be done crudely or it can be done nicely. Either way works, but nicely works better.
You'll need some scissors, the inner tube, your bike, some strong, quick-etting glue and a bit of patience. Cut the tube into a piece the length of your bike's chain stay and split it up length wise. Now clean the tube with a solvent, this will make it easier for the glue to do it's job, rub it with some sanding paper as well. Wrap the chain stay with the tube, making sure to cover the chain stay all the way to the dropout. Stretch the tube around and glue it into place by putting glue on the outside of the tube and rolling the tube over the glued side. A centimetre of glued overlap should be sufficient. It will work best if the seam is on top of the chain stay facing either in or out. To make it easier it is a good idea to attach the inside part of the tube with a bit of stickytape to make it easier to stretch the tube tight. The tube will cover this tape anyway leaving the chain stay looking flawless.
When the tube is pulled tight, just wait until the glue sets and the piece of tube stays put. This will silence the bike, protect the chain stay and look good for quite some time, and it's free. If done properly it can even look good on a road bike.
Old inner tubes serve more purposes as well. An inner tube damaged beyond patchability can be used in a number of ways around the house or on your bike.
If you get a tear in the sidewall of a tyre, your tube might be beyond patching as well. Hopefully you are carrying a spare tube at least a spare tyre would be to much too expect. To save the ride start putting your teeth into the punctured tube. (If you have the foresight to carry a knife, you can use this insead.) You'll need a decent sized part of it to mend the hole in the tyre. Bite, tear and pull the punctured tube, make sure it is the punctured one, into at least one right sized piece. If you're carrying some glue from a patchkit, glue the piece of tube over the hole on the inside of the tyre. If you're not carrying glue, place the patch over the hole and let the new tube press it in place. In the case of a very big hole use several layers of inner tube. Now ride home carefully.
Around the house, pieces of tube can be used to seal a drafty window or door and plenty of other things. I've used a piece of tyre to hang my bike from the ceiling and a loop of inner tube to hold the handlebar. You can also use slices of inner tube as rubber bands to keep you inner tube in place in your seat bag or for anything else really. All in the name of recycling.
Got any more recycling tips. Tube related or otherwise? let us know