If you’re prone to daydreaming about such things, you might see a parallel between conventional bike inner tubes and the incandescent light bulb. Both technologies were cool and innovative in their day, but now they’re about as “with it” as bloodletting is to modern medicine. The problem is that bike tubes and light bulbs are pretty cheap to buy and very cheap to produce, so the juicy profit margin discourages innovation.
Anyway, the next time you’re daydreaming, maybe you can do all cyclists a favor and come up with an affordable puncture-resistant inner tube (and a better light bulb than the CFL while you’re at it). In the meantime, here are some ways to reuse all those old tubes. Tip: Wash all tube materials to remove that slippery coating and general yucky tube residue.
1. Exercise resistance bands
Screw some straight lengths or loops of tube to a wall or sheet of plywood, using wood blocks to prevent tearing at the connections. Stretch the tubes every which way for the ultimate low-budget workout.
2. Junkyard chic accessories
Headbands, arm bands, belts, wallets, bracelets, you name it. All you need are some tubes, scissors and rubber cement to take your look downtown.
3. Drink coasters
Cut tube material into any shape you like, as long as the coasters lie flat. Keep a stack on your coffee table or in an end-table drawer, and toss them out for cocktails.
4. Waterproof clothing
There’s a designer in Holland who has an entire line of couture clothing made with bike inner tubes. It’s proof that you can lace and weave this stuff into everything from skirts to swimwear.
5. Rubber bands
Boring, but useful. Cut a tube cross-ways into strips for regular-size rubber bands of any width, or cut it lengthwise for giant-size bands.
6. Door draft stopper
Compare to commercial products costing $10 and more! Cut a length of tube a little longer that the door’s width. Fill it with sand, seal both ends and keep the cold outside. DIY resource:
7. Protective cover for chains and ropes
Prevents everyday boo-boos like pinched fingers on swingset chains. Works best with straight sections of tube slipped down over the chain before hanging the swing.
8. Slip- and shock-resistant cover for garden-tool handles
Slip a cut length of tube over your favorite scythe, pick axe or spud bar, and go to town. Be sure to wash the tube well first for grippiness.
9. Tug-of-war dog toy
Cut a tube to open the loop. Knot-up one end to form a ball for the dog to grab (with its teeth, of course). Add a knot or two on the other end to use as a handle.
10. Grippy jar opener
If you can think of a better name, go with it. Cut out a flat square or circle of tube. Wash it thoroughly so the surface is grippy. It helps you grip stubborn lids so you won’t dislocate your shoulder opening a jar of capers. Works great for twist-off beer bottle caps, too!
11. Bouncy jungle gym rings
Two bike tubes turn any tree branch into an outdoor play structure. Just lay the tubes over the branch and grab both ends of each to make swing rings.
12. Flower vase
Fold a length of bike tube into thirds, and fasten together into a triangle shape. Fill with water, and slide single flowers into the ends.
13. Crazy sprinkler
Cut a tube to form a long hose, then seal one end. Make small slits at random locations along the sides and top of the tube. Secure the open end of tube to a garden hose, using a hose clamp. Lay out the tube, turn on the water full blast, then run through the ice-cold spray, shrieking like a schoolgirl. Also fun for children.
14. Springy chair seat
A post-apocalyptic version of traditional chair caning. Stretch numerous bands or whole tube pieces across the seat frame of your favorite bentwood chair.
14. Finger protector/thimble
Slip a short length of tube over your index and middle fingers. Grips nicely and protects fingers. Try it if you misplace your thimble.
15. Inner tube shoelaces
Cut the inner tube into long, thin strips to use as replacement shoelaces.