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The Cove Hitch LeadThe Clove Hitch
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Water HoseWill's water hose.
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Hand BagJulia's hasty handbag.
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BIke Frame WrapPaul's bike frame wrap.
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Chair SeatTim's chair seat.
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Trailer HitchTim's trailer hitch.
By Dan Goldwater
Ever since the TV series MacGyver – in which our intrepid hero makes a new fantastical escape each week using only duct tape and a multi-tool – duct tape has been embedded in our collective consciousness as the mainstay of any DIYer’s arsenal. In my own youth as an aspiring Mr. Fix-It, I often used duct tape for my assorted projects. Over the years though, I started noticing the casualties of my wonder tape – everything around me still falling apart and now covered with a dried and cracking mesh of disintegrating silver plastic. Until summer time, when it all turned into a dastardly sticky goo that infected anything it touched. My friends, too, had started to notice similar problems. Slowly we came to a realization – the glamour of duct tape is a Hollywood-inspired fiction. A moment of introspection rippled through us. We started looking at all our best projects, our most useful creations, our most reliable repairs and it turned out that our real “duct tape” wasn’t duct tape at all: it was the humble bicycle inner tube.
Why are inner tubes so great? Not only are they an instant fix for many problems, but they are also durable, waterproof and have a cool aesthetic when used creatively. And nearly any bike shop throws away lots of blown tubes every day, giving you a worldwide source of free “obtainium” inner tubes. They are just waiting for you to give them a new life! Either check the bike shop dumpster or ask them to save you a box.
Thinking the inner tube way
The most common reuse application for inner tubes is as super-friction bungee straps; they’re great if you want to attach a milk crate, a trailer, an iPod, an extra jacket or a beer bottle to your bike frame. A few wraps around a bike frame can create a high- friction cushioned mounting surface. A few more wraps will allow you to lash on all sorts of oddly- shaped items you can strap on at all angles and varying tensions. At home, inner tubes can fix a leaky pipe (as a faucet gasket or a joint wrap), or replace a broken screen door spring. For hiking and camping, they attach gear, cinch your backpack and keep tarps from flapping about. You can easily make a protective slip-on cover for small electronics by cutting a length of the right diameter of inner tube. In addition to these quick fixes, here are more inspired ideas I’ve seen from some of my friends:
bike frame wrap: Saul Griffith wrapped his bike frame with a single layer of inner tube. It keeps his paint new, and keeps the bike from falling over when leaned against a pole. How to do it: split the inner tube lengthwise to make it thinner. Wrap tightly around the bike frame either tucking your ends under the wrap or with a cable tie.
chair seat: Tim Anderson replaced the blown seat on his chair with a 100 percent inner tube mesh. It’s super comfortable. How to do it: tie many inner tubes together and weave under and over, back and forth.
bike trailer: Tim made a bike trailer by lashing scrap wood together with inner tubes. Then, he took it to the next level and made a boat. Both of these projects illustrate that significant construction can be done with inner tubes. How to do it: to make strong joints at any angle, just tightly wrap inner tubes over and over in layers.
accessories: You can sew inner tube strips together into a rubberized cloth. Perhaps not the easiest way to make your accessories but the look is unique. Julia Hasty made a stylish handbag and waterproof hat. At the easier end of things, I’ve seen some very snazzy inner tube belts, as well as the basic “oops my pants are falling oh here’s an inner tube what luck!” belt.
water fun: Will Bosworth filled an inner tube with water to keep us soaked on a hot day!
Most of the inner tube projects above (and many more) can be found in full detail at Instructables.com
Here are a few tips to up your inner tube-fu:
Attaching: The high friction of inner tubes means that some very simple knots will stay tough on the bounciest ride. A great way to attach an inner tube to a milk crate, a 2-by-4, a bike frame or most any other object is the Clove Hitch. Sounds fancy, but after you’ve seen it, you can remember it as “wrap twice around and tuck the ends under.” You can find a how-to movie at animatedknots.com. With normal rope, a Clove Hitch is not that secure, but the high friction of inner tubes keeps them reliable. Other inner tube knots can be hard to untie once they are tight. For a more permanent application, you can upgrade to a Constrictor Knot (also at animatedknots.com), which has one extra twist.
Wrapping and joints: If you usually only strap down a few groceries, you may not realize how strong an inner tube joint can be. You can make a super strong joint between pieces of wood or metal by tightly wrapping an inner tube many times around the joint. A joint like this can handle up to a few hundred pounds and easily replaces a fair number of screws, bolts or nails.
More great inner tube projects:
• Did you think duct tape had a lock on wallets? Think again: www.instructables.com/id/bike-innertube-wallet/
• Sprocket and inner tube belt: www.instructables.com/id/Sprocket-%26-innertube-belt/
• A truly unique bike-mounted dog-poop warning system with some creative inner tube use: www.instructables.com/id/Friend-Of-Humanity-Dog-Poo-Warning-Spray-System...
• Inner tube strap-on harness (really!): www.instructables.com/id/Recycled-harness-hot-things-to-do-with-old-bike...