Bridgestone’s airless bicycle tire – no flats and no pumping
Bridgestone has revealed a new “airless” bicycle tire that it plans to put on sale by 2019.
It was around 2011 when we first heard about Bridgestone's prototype AirFree Concept automobile tires, which utilized flexing thermoplastic resin "spokes" instead of the usual compressed air. Due to recent improvement, a just-announced bicycle version of those tires may end up replacing the original cycling tires with a tube and air as we know it.
The “Air Free Concept” is a technology that eliminates the need for tires to be inflated with air to support the weight, using a unique structure of spokes stretching along the inner sides of tires. Bridgestone Corporation together with Bridgestone Cycle adapted the “Air Free Concept” to transport their concept to a cycling format.
Airless bike tires aren’t a new idea, wheels made from a solid rubber composite are already available if you’ll be riding on terrain where the risk of punctures and flats is high. But Bridgestone’s approach is a little different. As the inner tube and a portion of a bicycle wheel’s spokes are replaced with thermoplastic resin supports, the wheels are better engineered to absorb bumps and provide an overall smoother ride. Without the use of air, the concept of pumping up your tire after a puncture has become obsolete. Additionally, the company suggests that because of those attributes, the tires could allow for greater flexibility in the design of bicycles. On the downside, however, it looks like there's no way of adjusting their hardness.
By simplifying the structure of the classic tire, Bridgestone has reduced the resistance caused by wheels continuously changing shape as they roll. This, in turn, maximizes efficiency and reduces wasted energy—whether that comes from gas or man-power. Furthermore, all materials used for the Bridgestone’s airless tire are recyclable.
If there are downsides to the airless tire remains to be seen. Would these tires be able to sustain damage from rough terrain such as rocks and tree roots? And what about cracks and potholes of a city street?
Bridgestone is currently assessing the feasibility of the tires, and states that a commercial version may be available by 2019, just in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In the meantime, anti-air cyclists will have to wait and see how expensive this new invention turns out to be. In the future, the Japanese tire-maker aims to continue elaborating on their air-free invention and to make it applicable to other transportation methods.