Upcycling projects can be fun and rewarding as you express your inner artisan. Let’s look at just what you can do with those old inner tubes. With the holidays fast approaching or someone’s birthday coming up, you could have the perfect gift for any bicycle fanatic at your fingertips.
Strap down pretty much anything
There is no need to complicate matters on this first recycle project for your old bikes tubes. They make fantastic bungee-like elastic straps to secure pretty much anything. They aren’t as stretchy as rubber bands but almost. Once an inner tube is out of service, make a clean cut to the left and right of the stem to break the circle to reveal one long tube. If you can leave the stem and achieve your goal, that’s fine too.
A standard butyl inner tube inflates to many times its size so don’t be afraid to tug and pull. Use several to hold a rolled-up mattress closed or to keep that sleeping bag or tent, you know, the one with no sack, in a tight bundle that is easy to manage and store. Need thinner strips? Cut the tube in half, twos or threes to create more. Add hooks to the ends or camping clips (like those on backpack chest straps) to hold whatever together. You can just tie it in a knot too. Need beefier holding power? Try an old mountain bike tube.
Got an old chair with a blown-out seat or backrest? Breathe a second life into any chair frame in need of a facelift by using old bike tubes to weave a new seat or backrest. Start by cutting out the stem and either using an intact tube whole for extra strength or cutting it into half or even smaller strips as desired.
Firmly secure one end of your tube or strip at the starting point of the frame of your chair with a knot, screw or a furniture tack, the same ones used in reupholstering services. Now wrap it around over itself and start your weave pattern. Methods vary depending on the shape of the chair but you’ll work it out. Use contact cement on the ends of two strips and stick them together if weaving in one continuous piece.
Contact cement is very strong but I’d recommend some type of supportive stitching in addition to the glue if it’s destined for the chair’s seat. You can do an entire chair with only four to five bike tubes.
Need more tubes? Head to your local bike shop. They’ll have plenty and you’ll be reducing landfill waste. Here are some other brilliant woven or braided bicycle tube ideas:
- Drink coaster
- Magazine rack
- Pencil holder
- Tablet or computer sleeve
Bicycle chainstay protector
Before the invention of the rear derailleur with a clutch, bicycle chains would regularly slap the chainstay of your beautiful bike, making a lot of noise and leaving unwanted marks on the paint. It isn’t common with road bikes but an every-ride occurrence with mountain and gravel bikes with a non-clutch, rear derailleur.
In comes the superhero powers of an old tube to save the day. Measure the length of your bike’s chainstay and cut an equal length of the inner tube. Slice the tube in half and wrap it around the chainstay. Secure it in place with a few zip ties. You’ll protect your bike frame and ride in silence too.
The perfect shim or grip
Have you ever tried to add bells or other accessories to your handlebars only to have the screw bottom out before being secure? A strip from an old tube is the perfect friction provider. Cut the width you need and wrap it as many times as necessary to fill the gap. A strip from an old inner tube will prevent any accessory from sliding around the smooth surface of a handlebar or seatpost.
Get a grip
Want to get a grip on a tool you have at home or one among your bike maintenance tools? If the girth of the handle is a hair larger than the tube, simply cut the portion you need and work it up the handle. A smaller handle? Wrap a strip multiple times around the hilt and secure it in place with some super glue, contact cement or a zip tie. Heck, you could even make your own handlebar tape from old tubes when the time comes.
Mark your page
Strips of old bicycle inner tubes make excellent bookmarks. The great thing is that you can completely customise the width and length to meet your needs or book. It would be perfect for that huge cookbook you’ve got in the kitchen or on your coffee table. You know which one I’m talking about.
Looking to fill a huge space on the wall above your couch and the art at Ikea just doesn’t do it for you? Take a risk and make your own piece of contemporary art. Simply create a frame to the size you need and then stretch entire tubes or strips into a variety of directions. It may sound like a crazy idea now but I bet you’ll be getting compliments from all your friends. And it’ll be a piece that no one else has; big points for originality.
Patches for flatted tubes
I tried this the other day and it worked like a charm. Cut out a circle from an old inner tube and use it to patch a tube. I went through the regular steps when patching a tube, meaning I sanded both surfaces thoroughly before cleaning them with an alcohol wipe. Coat the surface of the “patch” and the tube with contact cement and wait a few minutes before attaching the two surfaces. You’ll have a lifetime supply of patches from just one tube.
Are you a city commuter, someone who rides through winter or all year round? You may already have fenders on your trusty old bike but your feet sometimes still get wet when the skies open wide. Keep more rain from blowing up onto your feet by making some flaps for your fenders.
Larger tubes work best or glue several strips together until you get the size and shape you want or need. Simply attach them to the fenders for an additional boost of protection. If you need a bit more girth, glue several layers together until the desired thickness is achieved.
A roll-up tool and spare holder
Looking to replace the roll-up pack that holds your spare and a few road tools but you aren’t keen on the prices on similar products at your local shop? Fear not! You can make your own by glueing or sewing strips of old bike inner tubes together to create the size you need. Pockets are equally easy to create too. Thin strips will hold it all together, and it’s waterproof! What more could you ask for?
Injury rehab and muscle resistance
Did a doctor or physical therapist recently prescribe some exercises with elastic bands? Or are you trying to make your own home gym? Break out your old bike tubes and use them as therapeutic elastic bands. Thinner strips require less resistance, and wider or built-up layers require more muscle resistance.
Bicycle repair stand
You’ve been thinking of treating yourself to a dedicated bicycle repair stand but you aren’t sure where you are going to store it. If you’ve got some used tubes, you already have a bicycle repair stand lying around the house that takes up little to no space.
You’ll need two hooks (or something similar) spaced out the length of your seatpost to handlebars on your garage ceiling. Place the loop of an inner tube on each hook; tubes of the same size are ideal and will make your job easier. Now hook the nose of your saddle through one loop, and fit the other around your bars to rest on the stem. Voila, you’ve got a new bicycle repair stand on-site that is cheap as chips!
Do you have a favourite item you’ve made out of old inner tubes? Share your pics and tips on our Instagram and other social media pages.