These new airless and tubeless tires could make bike flats a thing of the past
Could a new type of bike tire completely remove the frustration that comes from one of cycling's most common issues?
We're kind of big on bikes here at TreeHugger, as they're clean, efficient, and a helluva lot of fun to ride, and no matter if the bike you ride is a conventional pedal-powered model or an electric-assist bike, pedaling your bike instead of driving a fossil fuel-powered vehicle is a great green choice. However, regardless of how you're powering your wheels, getting a flat tire can set you back some time, some money, or both, and although fixing a flat isn't exactly rocket science, having the tools at hand and knowing how to do so is also surprisingly uncommon among casual and recreational cyclists.
Getting a flat tire is never fun, and while it can be just mildly annoying at the least, it can also mean a long walk home if you're unfortunate enough to be caught without a patch kit and pump (or the skills to use them), and sometimes the old flat tire excuse is used to keep bikes parked for months before being ridden again. But even if you're prepared for the eventual flat tire, having to stop and deal with one still adds time and frustration to your schedule, so many daily riders opt to install 'puncture-proof' liners between the tire and tube, and to use heavy duty tubes with a healthy portion of some form of 'tire goo' that can seal punctures from the inside out.
Even so, sometimes you still may have to patch or replace a tube, so there's no foolproof solution for making bike tires completely free from flat tires. Unless, that is, those bike tires aren't inflatable in the first place, in which case punctures aren't even an issue anymore, and flats very well could be a thing of the past. So-called 'flat-free' semi-solid bike tires aren't a totally new thing, but they really haven't taken off in a big way, perhaps partly due to the compromise necessary in a solid tire between stiffness and shock absorption. However, a bike company out of Spanish Fork, Utah, is looking to change that with its two flat-free bike tire options, which are said to offer a number of advantages over conventional tires, including being more sustainable on the manufacturing and waste aspects of the product.
Nexo, which grew out of the founders' experiences running Utah's Noble Cycling shop, where they fixed and changed thousands of flat tires for customers, is now offering two different versions of its flat-free tires, one for installing on customers' existing wheels (Nexo) with an estimated lifespan of up to 5,000 km, and one that entirely replaces the wheel set (Ever) with an estimated lifespan of up to 5,000 miles. The Nexo is designed more for discerning cyclists who want to keep their existing rims (some assembly required), whereas the Ever is essentially a drop-in wheelset replacement, and both promise "freedom from flat tires."
"Nothing ruins a bike ride or commute faster than a flat, and flats can cost between $15 and $30 to fix, so to save our customers money and the frustration of a flat, we created a better solution. We believe Ever Tires and Nexo Tires will be something every cyclist will want once they hear about them." - Dave Ballard, Nexo Tires co-founder
The tires themselves are made from unique polymer blends that are said to offer a balance of "cushion and resilience" as well as durability, and in contrast to a conventional tire's 8 or 9 manufacturing steps (and materials), are created in a one-step injection molding process of about 30 minutes, which is said to use drastically less energy and materials. In addition to Nexo tires ability to reduce the number of tubes and tires needed, the team also touts the easy recyclability of the tires due to being made from a single material instead of the multiple layers of materials in conventional tires.
The Nexo tire is a seemingly solid design that looks nearly identical to conventional tires "but weigh less than solid tires and even many air filled tires," whereas the Ever tire has a radically different look with holes in it that go through the tire from side-to-side, and is said to weigh in at about a pound heavier than standard tires (which may be a small price in weight to pay for going flat-free).
Nexo is currently running a Kickstarter campaign for its flat-free tires, where backers can reserve the DIY Nexo tires starting at a pledge of $75 (pair) or the Ever wheels starting at about $100 per wheel (depending on the size), which are expected to ship in January of 2017. More info at Ever Tires or Nexo Tires.