Bridgestone announces airless bicycle tires

Bridgestone has announced plans to market a new “airless” bicycle tire by 2019.  The tire features a ring of flexible spokes connected to a smaller inner hub, intended to provide a comfortable ride that compares with an air-filled tube.

Casey Myers, purchasing manager for Bike Barn in Houston, is skeptical about the comfort claim.  “The downside to most airless setups right now,” he says, “is the ride quality is typically pretty rough.”  But he acknowledges improvement is possible.

Myers says so far he sees some problems with the new design.  “The issue I see with what we’re looking at on this Bridgestone design,”  he says, “and I’m sure it’s an early rendering of what they’re looking at, but they weigh a lot.”  Heavier tires, he says, make a bike “sluggish”—harder to get up to speed, and then harder to stop.  Still, he notes, Bridgestone is probably “15 or 20 iterations away from a finished product.”

When can we expect airless car tires?  Myers says they already exist, if you know where to look.  “I don’t know that that technology is anywhere near the consumer,” he says, “but as far as a government application, that technology’s out there.”  Military vehicles, and cars for government VIPs, already have airless or “run-flat” tires, he points out.

So far, airless tires for cars are commercially difficult.  “It’s a weight issue,” Myers points out.  “It makes the tire incredibly heavy.  It also makes the ride quite rough.”  These tires are also very expensive.  Money may be no object for the State Department or the Defense Department, but it’s a different matter for civilian households.

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