Inner Tubes, Why you gotta be so expensive?

Recently I had to purchase 2 tubes for Priscilla’s bike (this was before Ghetto Tubeless Conversion). We went down to the local sporting goods store to get 2 presta tubes. When I saw the sticker price, I nearly crapped my pants! $5.99 EACH! What the, Who the, How the!!!!

I couldn’t believe how expensive these tubes were. A few days later, I went to another LBS to get another tube. Their prices were the same, $5.99. I know for a fact that wholesale cost on tubes are about $1.50 EACH, that’s about a 300% mark up!!!

I don’t get it? Why and how can shops sell tubes at that price! Here’s another kicker, while I was at the LBS perusing the tube section, I heard one of the mechanics talking to a customer. He had a flat and needed it fixed. The shop was going to charge $10 for “labor” and $5.99 for the tube…$16.00 to fix a flat?! Ugh…makes me mad.

As upset about it as I am regarding the price gouging on tubes, I want to pay it forward and tell you about a place where you can buy tubes BELOW cost. sells 3 tubes for $2.98...That’s like a dollar a tube!!!!
Z_345 PNTRT7

No need to thank me, just do yourself a favor and save the money and shop for tubes through Pricepoint…

18 Replies to “Inner Tubes, Why you gotta be so expensive?”

  1. In some ways, I totally agree. But on the other hand, for many bike shops, inner tubes, basic tires, cables, lube and labor on these items is where they make most of their money. It’s the bread and butter of their survival, and they have a right to charge what they can get for them. I don’t really consider it price gouging, and most customers are more then happy to plop a $20 on the table to get a flat fixed with a new tube.

    Then again, personally I’d rather have my personal stash of tubes and do my own labor. For $27, I can have 10 tube shipped to my door.

  2. I am a mechanic and I spent the summer in Florida. At my shop we charge 4.99 for a regular tube and 5.99 for long stem. Of course, while away from my shop I paid full price all summer. I once paid 7.99 for a 29er tube. They told me they were charging more because they “found out” they were charging less than they were paying for 29er tubes. They usually charge 5.99. Shenanigans.

  3. First you forgot to mention that you need to get those tubes from PricePoint shipped. The cheapest shipping option there is $5.95 which makes this $1 tube already a $3 tube, not that much price difference huh? And then ask yourself – how much time does it take to fix the flat? Honestly, not just to patch the tube (or replace it) but the whole ordeal from the moment you get the bike from customer to the moment your customers get’s the bike back. I’d say at least 15 minutes. Often longer. That makes it mere $40/h for shop time (labor, lease, tools, electricity, whole that deal) and leaves probably less than $3 in actual mechanics pocket. Ask yourself – would you work for that kind of money? I am CSOB when it comes to bikes, but even I think $16 for fixing flat is quite a reasonable price.

  4. Well let’s do the math, even at 3 bucks per tube, if you order 10 tubes you will spend 30 bucks, if you get 10 tubes at the LBS, you are looking at spending 50 bucks, not much of a price difference? I can get 2 24 packs of beer by ordering tubes from PricePoint.

    Now, I agree that paying 16 bucks to get a flat fixed at a shop is reasonable, you deserve to pay that much for not knowing how to change a flat!

  5. @Moe and if I ordered a 13 feet container of them I could have got free bike (or a few) for the difference. Such comparison is pointless. Over last 3 years I’ve done 2000 miles on my 29er and I needed only one new tube. That makes it $10 tube since I don’t need the remaining two. Bulk packaging makes sense only if you really need that amount of things. Keep in mind that rubber ages – if those tubes lied down on your garage shelf for 2-3 years they would be leaking air and much more prone to get punctured.

  6. Even if you weren’t buying in bulk, I still think $5.99 is WAY to expensive.

    I guess shops know that tubes are something that people will buy because they need it.

  7. Price gouging – you’ve got nothing. Before I went tubeless I was paying $10-$15 per tube when buying from my LBS. I live in Australia, the exchange rate is .97 at the moment.

  8. Price point also has light tubes for a decent price (feel the same as maxxis lights to me.. also notice the maxxis tubes are also in a very similar recycled box). Companies do this all the time charging more for the label.

    Anyways… you don’t have to order in bulk. Just order tubes when you order something else… say new shorts or something, then the shipping thing becomes moot.

    As far as charging for changing the tube.. yeah…. I knew how to do this on the first bike when I was like five years old. If they want to waste the shops time changing a tube, they should have to pay for it. If I was a lawyer and someone wanted me to go over their apartment lease, I’m still going to charge my hourly rate.

  9. They are $2.98 for each tube on, just shows 3 pictures of different models, still a good dfeal if you share the shipping with something else.

  10. In this economy, its wise to learn to do things urself. If not, uve either got money to spare or really are mexhanically challenged.

    Taught my 13 year old to change his own tube, with some guidance he did well.

    Im with RL. Paying 6$ for my kids’ bike tube is redunkulous. I thought it was only LBS that was upping the prices, tried the general shopping stores and they too hike their tube prices.

    Currently i need a 26 for my DH frnt wheel rig. Its running on a thinner borrowed tube/tire combo from my xc rig.

    Works for me.

    Thanks for the heads up RL


  11. Yeah I always by my tubes 5 or 10 at a time (and usually with other orders) off the internet. Save a bunch of $$ when you do it that way!

  12. Way to support the LBS and guys like me that work in the industry… no offence to places like jenson and pricepoint… but all that overstock and mail order is killing the LBS… look at what Dans comp did to the BMX world.

    That is a harsh comment coming from a review site. Yet I know pricepoint is big supporters of the site, I still think you shouldn’t ever put down your LBS cuz when you need something in a pinch ,a tool,a fix,a part, or “How To”… your mail order wont be there, but the LBS will.

  13. oh and you guys fail to realize that mail order places and overstock websites buy in insane amounts of bulk therefore getting lower cost… your LBS wont ever get the same pricing.. I have seen it 1st had as someone both in a LBS and inside sales for KHS… please keep that in mind.

  14. JD,

    I’m not here to attack a shop. Technically I bought those tubes @ Sports Chalet…but even Jax Bicycles in Fullerton sells tubes for $5.99. My point is, tubes shouldn’t be so expensive, especially when dealer cost is around $2.

    I support my LBS on many occasions, but at the same time, there are a ton of people that will look at the bottom line, money.

    But at the same time, if someone can’t fix a flat tire, then you as an LBS can charge for your services.

    I recently paid my mechanic over $500 for a clutch job because I didn’t know how to do it, but he only charged me 30% above cost, not over 200%(in relation to the tube mark up.)


  15. @RL I know you weren’t attacking a LBS.. you just were not supporting it. tI was sad for me to read that you were “MAD” by having to spend $$ in a shop just cuz you could get int cheaper online.

    thats all, I just wanted a voice for the other side, the LBS.

    No hard feelings, I’m sorry if I came across rude or blunt. As a mechanic its a uphill battle for guys like me allways having online ordering sites under-cut the LBS and having the people bring stuff in just for the install.I hope you can understand my pov.

  16. @johnnyd, yes but we’re talking about inner tubes here. I don’t want to pay $5.99 for a stinking piece of rubber every time I get a flat, but if I’m traveling and I run out of tubes, I’m still going to drop $5.99 to get me back on the trails ASAP. I don’t think that means I’m hatin’ on the LBS, it just means that not all of us have a lot of $$ floating around to be wasting it on over priced tubes

  17. Hey, everybody- LBSs sell patch kits, too. 😉

    The markup may be even higher than on tubes, but I bet the final price is still less than $1 per patch. If it’s all about the $$$, how’s that for value?

    AND if you’re lucky (and skilled) you can even fix the flat without taking the tire all the way off the rim!

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