Tubolito just released a new product, the MTB PSENS “smart tube.” It weighs ~93g, and has an NFC (near field communication) chip inside the tube, to read the air pressure and send the reading to a very nearby iPhone or Android phone, via the free Tubolito app. The MTB PSENS costs $50. Obviously, we had to try it out.
Installation is straightforward as any tube can be, and the PSENS doesn’t call for any sort of extra care. With the tube installed, take your phone and tap the top of the tire, with the valve at high noon, and with the Tubolito app, the NFC chip will read the pressure in the tire and send it to the app.
The NFC chip doesn’t have any power source, so it requires the phone to be close to the chip so that the chip can draw power and use it to read.
Tubolito says that the phone needs to be within 3cm of the sensor, and closer is better. It all works best tapping the top of the phone, or near the camera lenses on an iPhone, just above the valve. I still had an error message occasionally trying to read the pressure.
Mostly, the app and sensor seemed to be reading about 5psi lower than what all of my other gauges were reading. For example, I would air up the tire with a digital Silca pump first, and remove the chuck with a 24PSI reading. The Tubolito app would read around 19psi, and then my Topeak digital gauge would read around 23/24psi.
After working with the Silca pump and Topeak gauge a few times and the Tubolito app still reading a lower pressure, I tried using my Lezyne pump, and had the same results. The Topeak, Lezyne, and Silca gauges would all read within about 2SPI of each other, and the Tubolito app seemed to always be about 5PSI under these readings, if not a little more.
A Tubolito rep says that the sensor should read within about 3psi of the actual pressure. Personally, I don’t think it’s a huge issue. I hardly use tubes at all anymore, and most mountain bikers I know don’t either. If I do, it’s in an emergency situation in the event of a puncture on the trail. At that point, I could care less what the pressure is. I’m going to air the tire up until it’s rock hard, get back to the trailhead, and swap the tire when I get home anyway.
At $50, the PSENS is more than I need out of a tube, and an $8 tube usually works just fine, as I usually need one once a year or so. The technology is pretty cool though, and I may try and cut that chip out and stick it in a tire to see how that would work. If the gauge accuracy improves, I wouldn’t mind being able to read the pressure via my phone.
What are your thoughts? Do you like the technology, and do you appreciate the weight savings a Tubolito brings over a traditional tube?