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airless_bike_tire.jpg

More than one commenter on yesterday’s post about tweels in development for the military expressed curiosity about the possibility of non-pneumatic bicycle tires. Turns out you can buy them, online, right now, from here, and here, and probably some other places that don’t turn up in a Froogle search. I have not tried them myself but I’d be curious to have comments from anyone who has.

Sean Michael Ragan

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and makezine.com. My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c’t – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.


  • Mig

    As a side note I didn’t realise Froogle still existed. They changed it to “Google shopping” on the UK site I would say a couple of years ago. Strange.

    Those prices seem too good to be true, I wonder what the quality is like and how long they last before they perish/go bald?

    • Mig

      aka Google product search (beta)

    • Sean Michael Ragan

      Sadly, yes, they changed the name, which was like the best name ever. I have persisted in using it out of protest.

  • Frank

    From http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gloss_aa-l.html#airless

    Of all the inventions that came out of the bicycle industry, probably none is as important and useful as Dr. Dunlop’s pneumatic tire.

    Airless tires have been obsolete for over a century, but crackpot “inventors” keep trying to bring them back. They are heavy and slow. They give a harsh ride and poor high-speed cornering on rough surfaces. They are also likely to cause wheel damage, due to their poor cushioning ability.

    • Sean Michael Ragan

      …to Sheldon Brown, his argument seems to be based on the assumption that materials science has not advanced since 1890.

      • Chek

        Material science has definitely advanced, but are we necessarily using it here?

        Sure, our tire rubber is better, we have different tread patterns, etc., but most of these tires seem to attempt to just add some rubber ribs to make up for air. As a result, it doesn’t distribute pressure throughout the tire.

        I think it’s a feasible idea, but not simply by adding rubber ribs.

      • dave in PDX

        but difficult to back up. Sheldon Brown was THE authority on all sorts of bike engineering. His website taught countless makers to fix, mod, and hack their rides. look him up on the wikipedia- he knew what he was talking about. RIP Sheldon.

  • bm

    Google “nu-teck aireless reviews” and check some of the bikeforums.net discussions which are fairly detailed. Road/Urban riders seemed mixed, but I couldn’t find much for MTB riders which may be due to the decreased absorption of airless tires v. pneumatics. I was surprised that weight was only a few hundred grams heavier for the MTB airless versus a self-healing tube and tire setup.

  • bm

    that should be “shock absorption”…

  • Patrick

    I’ve got a lot of bike riding experiance including a few long distance trips. My longest one being coast to coast across Canada a few years ago. I tried many types of airless tires the see if they would be a good choice for long trips and none have come even close to being good enough to consider. The main problem I have is that don’t have the right give to them. What I mean by that is that they feel fine with norman meight or presure on them but a sudden force like standing up on the pedals and pushing down hard ot climb a hill they feel soft, and when taking a corner I’ve foudn that all but one type (I can’t recall the make) made the back end feel loose. Overall I think they are great for a childs bike because of their light weight or for slow moving commuter type travel but I can’t recomend them yet for serious biking. I think the main hurdel a good airless wheel needs to overcome is not the softnes or hardness but it’s resistance to sidways shear, I’d take a sofer tire that did’nt feel loose on corners to a harder one that did. I’d love a good set of those honeycomb looking ones for my motorcycle if I was going on a longer tip.

  • snarkyFish

    as i understand those.. they are just solid rubber tires.. the analog would be solid rubber car tires.. which.. we don’t use because they’re stupid.

    These are equally stupid for bikes.. they’re a rough ride and they ruin rims.

    Show me a tweel for a bike.. (plastic spoke material with an open collapsible airspace that mimics pneumatic compression) and i’ll be excited.

    • Chek

      I suppose the goal here is to mimic an air tire that redistributes pressure across the entire tire.

      However, do you really need deforming spokes for that?

      It seems to me the honeycomb wheel idea is good for higher loads, but that it should be possible to redistribute pressure through the tire area alone with the use of a structure instead of air (provided the pressure wasn’t too high for the materials). That would be harder to accomplish on, say, a car because of the higher forces, but I think it should be okay on a bike.

      Still, it would require some different materials in a different geometric structure, not just some rubber ribs.

  • Beaver

    I was looking into these and what I came away with is…

    1.) Sites that sell them have terrible service
    2.) Most people say the traction and rolling resistance is too different
    3.) There are ways to get a tubed tire reasonably puncture proof with fix a flat, thick walled tubes, and armadillo tires.

    I may get a pair just to see but so far… the last few weeks of research are telling me otherwise.

  • MarkP

    I rode on one of these for a few months. Not only was it like riding on sand, it also started popping spokes on my bike like toothpicks. Getting the tire off to replace the spokes was no easy feat. I eventually chucked it and replaced the wheel.

    On a powered vehicle, I expect it would decrease mileage fairly significantly.

  • Tim

    I have a fleet of bikes I maintain for our kids and I have tried several different “airless” tubes and the results have been consistent across the board – they weigh a lot more, the ride is much stiffer and they are much more expensive.

    I just use Slime in thicker tubes. That may not produce much of a price break but the ride is the same and the weight gain is not noticeable.

  • Sam F

    I rode on a bike in Ravenna, Italy, that had airless tires through the city’s free bicycle program. They were terrible.

    It may be that there are some super-fancy materials out there that can make airless tires feel as good a pneumatic tires, but I’d be surprised. The things felt like they were filled with lead. They were super heavy and provided no give at all to bumps in the road.

  • Jess

    I remember having airless tires on my first bike as a kid (around 1990). They were some sort of foam and much lighter than normal rubber tires. I can’t remember how they rode, but with training wheels does it really matter? :D

  • Marc Rechner

    You can buy them at http://www.noflattires.net

    • Aaron

      I got mine from my local walmart a couple months ago.

  • pradoro

    I purchased a couple airfree tires on-line last month (September 2009) for my commuter bicycle. One was totally defective (cords not properly encased by support material) and the other hard a serve hard spot keeping me from even thinking of going over about 15MPH. That said the Customer Service is worse. Please do yourself a favor and stay way. I have struggled for 6 weeks, not to get a refund, but to just get REPLACEMENTS! The product and service is worthless.

  • Tire Tubes

    I am not sure how much I trust these airless tires. I have ridden on them before and it is rather difficult to even gain speed. It is almost an indescribable feeling, but one of the comments above stated its like riding on sand. More or less quick sand if you asked me.

  • mike moran

    i think you can get these things at Target. they’re heavy. but i guess you can’t call them innerTUBES since they’re not hollow. innerdonuts?

  • Letitia Shen

    My child rides her bike to middle school and between the goat head thorns and kids releasing air out of the bike tires, I was pulling the tires off my kid’s bike every week. So I went hunting for solid tires. I had them when I was a kid in highschool and college. Same story there. So after weeks of hunting over the internet I found http://noflattire.net. They replied to all my emails. Sold me what I needed. I was going to buy another tool but they said that I did not need it and I didn’t. Stuff came within a week and got the solid tires on easily. I used ameritire.com tires.

    http://www.noflattires.net/cart.php?target=product&product_id=345&category_id=60 tires.

    The weight of one ameritire for 26″ rim was 1 pound. 1 pound is the same weight as the old tire and tube.

    As of this point the tire has been on my bike for less than 24 hours. Will post later.

  • Letitia Shen

    I forgot to tell you all to completely avoid the Bell brand solid inner tubes. They are sized incorrectly. Bought and returned mine from Walmart. I need to think twice before buying things from Walmart in general.

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