Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The War on Air Continues

The great Sheldon Brown wrote these words on the subject of airless tires:

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, slow and give a harsh ride. They are also likely to cause wheel damage, due to their poor cushioning ability. A pneumatic tire uses all of the air in the whole tube as a shock absorber, while foam-type "airless" tires/tubes only use the air in the immediate area of impact. They also corner poorly.

Pneumatic tires require pumping up from time to time, and can go flat, but their advantages overwhelm these difficulties.

Airless-tire schemes have also been used by con artists to gull unsuspecting investors. My advice is to avoid this long-obsolete system. They might make sense is if you commute a short distance to catch a train, and a flat tire would mean missing the train and being very late to work. 

The folks at Bridgestone Tire are the latest folks to take a shot in the war on air and we'll get to see their airless tires on a couple of hundred bikes ridden by the Olympic staff at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Games. You can read all about it here:

Time will tell if Bridgestone is on to something but I'll bet that ten years from now Sheldon's words will still ring true and our bicycles won't be shod with airless tires.

Kent Peterson
Eugene, OR USA


Mike M said...

Speaking as someone who foolishly rode on airless tires for far too long, I concur that they are heavy, slow, and give a harsh ride. They're also not flat-proof, either. If you ride on foam-tires long enough, you'll accumulate gravel, sand, glass, etc in the tire and that'll tear out chunks of foam over time. Riding on foam tires with a significant hole is akin to riding on octagonal wheels; a very unpleasant experience. Nearly any pneumatic tire is better than that foamy crap.

Anonymous said...

I would be grateful if you will give your opinion on Tannus solid tires. They have been around for four years, so they may (possibly) have a good product.

One hopes to use them when speed is not important eg - commuting etc, and brevet rides, perhaps. Therefore the request.

Many thanks.

(Link :