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Nit Picker’s guide to inner tubes

Yes, I know, Tyre Inner tubes are hardly the first thing that people look at when considering a Raleigh Chopper, but If you are going to be period perfect, the right inner tubes can make or break that restoration project. That last sentence may be a tad misleading, however, because the correct inner tubes for early bikes are no longer produced. Nevertheless, the differences are worth knowing, and it adds one more thing to your search list. The chances of finding n.o.s. early style inner tubes in good condition is non existent, but it’s the hunt that is the most fun, not the result.

Anyway, just what IS so special about early inner tubes?
The Raleigh Chopper was released as the first production bicycle to have car style tyre valves. This advertising slogan was obviously untrue, the whole Moulton and R.S.W. (Raleigh Small Wheel) range of cycles had been using car style valves for years in the U.K. A minor fact like that didn’t deter our friends in the Raleigh advertising department.

The early (up to 1975???? ) Raleigh Choppers came from the factory with metal valves on the inner tubes, not the more common rubber valves. Inner tubes from Michelin, Semperit and Raleigh’s own brand were fitted to Choppers. The valves were made of metal, with the thread going right down to the base of them.
Here is a picture of two brands of inner tube showing slight differences in the valve style.


All Mark 1, Sprint , Mark 2 five speed and regular Mark 2 bikes had metal tube valves until the middle of the decade. This means that all American bikes would have had metal valves.

The Special Edition of 1976 had rubber valve stems because its aluminium wheels weren’t suitable for metal valves. Around this time, the metal valved inner tubes were phased out on the Chopper range. The metal valves lived on until the turn of the 1980`s on some of the R.S.W. range of bicycles, but not the Choppers.

The metal valve stems had a thin locking ring that was screwed down the valve stem once it was fitted through the wheel, and had plastic black valve caps. As metal valve caps were available to both the car and cycle market in the 1970`s, it is quite acceptable to fit these to Chopper bikes. Correct period metal valve caps often had their makers name printed around the rim, Schraeder being the most sought after, and in my opinion, the most period correct. Metal valve caps can of course be fitted to inner tubes with rubber valves.

valve caps

The later inner tubes had black rubber valve stems, and perfect replacement rubber valved inner tubes are still manufactured in the correct sizes for Raleigh Choppers. Raleigh branded inner tubes are no longer made, but any manufacturer would be acceptable. It is perfectly acceptable to retro fit rubber valved inner tubes to any era Chopper bike, as fitting 30 year old metal valved items is not a good idea if you are to ride the bike. Of course, if you are building a museum quality show bike, re-chromed metal valve stems would be expected. For this application, I would recommend finding some period inner tubes that have a locking ring under the wheel rim, as well as outside, these type can have the valve stem removed from the inner tube, it is best to cut the old rubber away, and after re-chroming, they can be bolted into modern inner tubes. Tubes built like this will hold air acceptably, but I wouldn’t recommend riding the bike!

Inside the tyre, there was also the Rim Protector Tape. This is the large rubber band that covers the spoke ends inside the wheel, and stops them puncturing the inner tube. The rim protector tape, in fact protects the inner tube, not the rim.

All Raleigh wheels were built at the factory with slightly over length spokes, this meant that after the wheel was built, and trued up, a tiny bit of spoke protruded through the spoke nipple, into the inner tube area, this was ground off at the factory, the top of the nipples also was often ground down.


The roughness of the nipple tops could puncture the inner tube, so the Rim Protector Tape was used. On Raleigh Chopper bikes this tape was always off white in colour, and made from a very plasticy style of rubber. They were made by the Herrmans company in Germany. Modern versions of these tapes are available, if your existing ones are unserviceable. I have often seen off white versions still available for the twenty inch rear wheel, but have never seen sixteen inch fronts. As they ere invisible in fitment, black ones would be acceptable if no whites were found.

rim tape

There, for something that is completely invisible in use, we’ve managed to fill a page talking about them!