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Tubes shapes have been designated to perform best when properly inflated. What this means is that a properly inflated tube will expand to fill the cover without distorting the intended shape. So, how do you know when a tube is filled “enough,” especially when there is no gauge to show that the tube has been filled to the optimum level? How does one keep from under inflating or over inflating a towable? What is the appropriate level of inflation for performance? Properly inflated tubes glide over the water with the least amount of resistance. Under inflated tubes plow through the water, creating drag, which in turn puts undue strain on the tube’s tow point and tow rope. In addition, a cover on an under inflated tube can quickly distort, fill with water and become damaged. Just as under inflation will cause problem, over inflation will put stress on the cover seams and PVC bladder welds. The hot summer sun will have a dramatic effect on an over inflated tube! The air inside a tube that is over filled would soon expand to almost double its size were it not for the cover containing further growth. In general, you should fill your tube until the nylon cover is fairly wrinkle-free. Our tubes are built from 30 gauge PVC material with good elasticity. This elasticity is what allows the Connelly tube to expand until it fills the nylon protective cover.
For open top tubes such as Connelly's Spin Cycle, Swept Wing, Wing Two, Mega Wing and 4 x 4, it is a simple matter of placing the PVC bladder inside the cover and aligning the molded Boston valve with the corresponding opening in the nylon cover. If you haven't done so already, unfold the PVC bladder and lay it out to roughly match the outline of the nylon cover. Always try to find a clean, debris free area to inflate your tube because sharp rocks, twigs and glass could puncture the bladder or rip the cover.
Unscrew the main body of the Boston valve (or speed valve in the case of the Spin Cycle) and inflate the tube half full. Replace the Boston Valve assembly to stop the back flow of air. At this point, check the alignment of the tube and cover. You can fine tune the tube alignment by grasping the Quick Connect end fitting and shaking the tube back and forth. With a little effort, the tube will just about center itself. Once everything is aligned to your satisfaction, unscrew the top cap from the Boston valve. This 3-way valve has a rubber flapper on the bottom of the threaded stem which allows air to be pumped in but also keeps it from coming back out. So, with the top cap removed, continue to inflate the tube until the nylon cover is fairly wrinkle-free and the PVC bladder feels taut. A tube that is inflated per these instructions will glide across the water and not drag.
Keep in mind that once the tube goes into the cold water, it may feel as if it is losing air. However, it is just the fact that the air inside the tube is contracting. The opposite is true as well: When the tube gets hot from the sun, it will expand greatly. If this happens, adjustments can easily be made: Add a little air if the cover looks sloppy; let air out if things are heating up. Bottom line: Check the inflation level before each use.
Some tube models, such as the Connelly Wing Two and 4 x 4, use nylon straps that encircle the PVC bladder. The purpose of these straps is to lock the top fabric to the bottom to prevent hands and feet from getting caught under loose material. These straps also help the tube maintain its desired shape. When inflating tube with these 'control straps', it is a good idea to lay the PVC tube inside the cover, align the two straps and then join the two ends with the mating pieces of "hook" and "loop" material. The length of the straps has been optimized to fit best when the tube is properly inflated. Once the straps are secured, inflate your tube as instructed.
Larger, fully covered tubes are as simple to fill as the little ones, although there might be a few more steps to completing this process. One of the nice things about Connelly fully covered 'deck style' or fun tubes like the Big O, Scooter, Hot Rod, Convertible, Cruzer, Dub Ya, Dually Deluxe, Mega Wing Deluxe, Phantom Wing and Triple X is that they come preassembled. This means the bladder has already been lined up inside the nylon cover before it is boxed. It is now just a matter of adding air. However, I would still advise inflating the tube half full and then checking out the alignment of the cover and the PVC bladder. If the tube has headrests and inflatable seat cushions, it is easier to fill them before the rest of the tube is inflated.
Even if the deck style is not pre-assembled, it is an easy process to get this style of tube ready for the water. Un-box your new Connelly tube and lay the nylon cover face up on a clean surface. A sandy beach or grass lawn works well. In the middle of the side control gusset (Usually near the back or rear side of the tube), there will be a zippered section. This zippered section will be about 50-70% of the width of the tube. Unfold the PVC bladder and orient this in the same direction as the cover. Now, fold the bladder in thirds lengthwise or just a little narrower than the zippered opening. Slide the front of the bladder through the opening and up to the front of the nylon cover. Then, reaching far inside the cover, simply flip the sides of the folded bladder out towards the sides of the nylon cover. Check the alignment of the Boston valve through the hole in the cover. If they match up, close the zipper, being careful not to pinch the bladder in the teeth of the zipper. Inflate the tube half full and check it out. If needed, grab the front fitting and shake the tube up and down and side to side to center the bladder. If everything is lined up, continue to inflate the bladder until the cover is almost wrinkle free and the bladder is fairly taut.
The smaller single and double rider tubes can be filled adequately with a hand held DC pump like the Connelly Tube Gun. Larger tubes will require an inflator with a lot more output. The Connelly Quick Draw inflator is an AC pump that can fill just about any tube on the market to a reasonable level. Although this AC pump requires an electrical outlet, one way to gain some portability would be to purchase an inexpensive inverter that plugs into a boat's cigarette lighter or attaches to a car battery. For the customer who like to fill their tube up on the way to the lake, Connelly offers the Schrader-style Quick Fill Adapter that will work with a gas station inflation hose.
I have a water ski rope. Can I use it to pull a towable tube? The answer is NO. Ski ropes usually have a handle that must be taken off to use it on a tube. In addition, a ski rope was never designed to pull a towable, especially if there are 2 or more riders on the tube. Tubes often go slack and then get pulled tight while the boat is moving causing a lot of stress on the rope. A used slalom ski rope usually has some fraying or wear near the bridle that can further weaken it. An un-unsafe rope or an un-safe method to tie a ski rope to a tube can cause it to break. Depending on where it breaks, the rope will snap straight back and hit the kids riding in the tube, or snap back the other way and hit somebody in the boat. To avoid this problem, buy a good tube rope that meets WSIA standards for the number of riders you are pulling. Tube ropes already have the rope eyelet weaved into each end of the rope to make the connection strong between the tube and boat so that the rope does not come off the tube.