There’s no doubt that tire pressure is an important part of riding bikes, especially as tire and rim systems continue to get wider and more optimized. Now, Tubolito is introducing a new way to make the most of the pressure in your mountain bike’s tires with the P-SENS smart inner tube.
Tubolito is most known for making super lightweight and more robust (but pricey) tubes for all bike disciplines. They seem to be impressive tubes from the reviews I’ve read, and there’s some real appeal for these as spares—the lighter a tube can be, the better.
The P-SENS tube (seriously, who came up with that name? It’s, uh, not great.) uses the same robust, thin, light, and recognizable bright orange material as Tubolito’s other tubes, but it adds an NFC chip just above the valve. This, paired with a built-in pressure monitor, allows users to instantly get an accurate reading of the current tire pressure using the Tubolito app (iOS/Android. It’s an interesting idea, but there are some obvious issues here.
For one, there’s no live reading. You have to physically touch the phone to the tube’s NFC chip (it will read through the tire) to get a reading—because there’s no Bluetooth transmitter here, you can’t send real-time data to a head unit. Systems like the Quarq TyreWiz are designed to send live tire pressure data, but at $200 it’s a pricey upgrade with marginal benefits.
A P-SENS tube isn’t much better. At $50 per tube, these are some of the priciest inner tubes I’ve ever laid eyes on—about five times the cost of a typical butyl tube. Considering that tubes are designed to be consumable, there’s not a lot of value here. Sure, you can patch them a couple of times, but that’s a bandaid at best. If you were to replace a pair of P-SENS tubes once, you just paid as much as you would’ve for a TyreWiz setup.
That’s not the only issue here, either. Right now, Tubolito is only selling the P-SENS for mountain bike tires. If I were to call up every mountain biker I know and ask them what sort of tubes they’re running, they’d laugh. Because most mountain bikers don’t run tubes—they’re totally tubeless. So, price aside, there’s already a very limited market for Tubolito’s smart inner tubes.
There would be more value in these tubes if they make them available for road bikes, where tubeless is still trying to gain more traction. But still, tubeless road is an eventuality for almost all riders—like disc brakes or electronic drivetrains. Costs come down, practicality goes up, and it just happens. I’ve been running road tubeless for about a year now and couldn’t be happier.
Despite all that, I like to see innovation. I like to see companies thinking outside the box and trying new things. That’s really how Tubolito got its start, so it’s nice to see the company still trying to push the envelope. Even if it’s pushing it in a direction that makes little to no sense.