Airless tyres promise to banish punctures forever + video

Colorado-based company shows prototype airless tyre design that will never flat

by David Arthur   November 11, 2012  

In a perfect world rides would never be ruined by the menace that is a flat tyre. With news of the Energy Return Wheel from a Colorado-based company it seems we could be one step closer to that becoming a reality. Imagine that, punctures banished forever.

We're not dreaming. The company, Britek Tire and Rubber, has developed a a wheel system which stretches the tread over a series of tensioning rods.These rods can be adjusted to alter the firmness of the tyre, the equivalent of adjusting tyre pressure.

All sounds a too good to be true, but as the photos show the system has been developed and is being tested. It's primarily been developed for automotive use but they've adapted the design quite successfully onto a mountain bike. We see no reason why it couldn't be adapted for road bikes too and its attractiveness to commuting and city bikes in particular is immense.

And the benefits don't end there. They reckon the design allows elastic potential energy to be stored inside the wheel so when the tyre is compressed over bumps the stored energy is returned by th wheel and converted into forward velocity. Oh, and one of the other benefits of having a tyre with no inner tube and that's full of holes is that it should be lighter too.

Complete madness? Have a watch of this video and decide for yourself.


23 user comments

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posted by mattsccm [280 posts]
11th November 2012 - 19:04


I guess they don't ride when it's muddy in colorado

posted by Canis Cibo [60 posts]
11th November 2012 - 19:09


Not complete madness, but limited market.

These things have come and gone in various guises, be it car tyres, military vehicle's. aeroplanes, bikes....etc

This will never be a solution for any pro rider, whether that be MTB, CX or Road because of the limitations with these tyres. Yes, you may never have to stop for a puncture again, but then you lose the ability to set the air pressure, which I know you need in certain ways in different races.

But good idea for commuters with MTB or Hybrids. Don't see it working on road bikes though.

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
11th November 2012 - 19:09


but I just bought a new pump! Rolling Eyes

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [811 posts]
11th November 2012 - 19:17


… that's the police's stinger spike strips obsolete then.

vexedveloist's picture

posted by vexedveloist [8 posts]
11th November 2012 - 19:39


...and in mud?

posted by Linkinbassist [33 posts]
11th November 2012 - 20:28


Here's what Sheldon Brown had to say about airless tyres:

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. 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.

posted by lc1981 [53 posts]
11th November 2012 - 20:33


You don't lose the ability to set the pressure:

"These rods can be adjusted to alter the firmness of the tyre, the equivalent of adjusting tyre pressure."

and someone should be able to come up with a way of covering the sides with something stretchy, tough and lightweight to prevent mud etc. entering the cavity. It wouldn't need to be as tough as current tyre walls as a small rip wouldn't be a big deal.

After a very quick glance at the website, the concept sounds similar to Mavic's TraComp (as used in R-Sys wheels). I also get the impression there that the impracticalities of getting car drivers, workshops etc to to change to a radically new technology has led them to consider bikes, where the transition (and back if necessary) is far simpler and cheaper.

There's still room for scepticism though, as no cost of manufacturing or licencing the technology is provided, and what sort of failures can occur? How is it affixed to the rim, and what happens when part of the structure fails? In mountain bike racing or mid-ride, can these failures be fixed with a small repair kit? Or can they be folded up so that spares can be carried, and if so are they easy to fit?

If of course replacing this tyre requires a wheel change then it will probably fall foul of the UCI rules (in that that will make it great for the TdeF but not so good for Joe Cyclist.

Otherwise, I can't imagine a reason why this wouldn't work well scaled down to a road tyre, though benefits (e.g. weight) would be less significant, especially versus tubulars.

It might have legs, you never know...

posted by andyn [7 posts]
11th November 2012 - 21:03


Interesting. So how do you get them on ? And off ? Thinking

michophull's picture

posted by michophull [106 posts]
11th November 2012 - 21:12


Yes you can adjust the rods, but not on the fly like many of the top mountain bikers can now. Using system's like this

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
11th November 2012 - 21:20


It would be nice to see some serious off Mtb shredding on them, It all looked a bit tame. I think the road could be a good place for these. I'm Pleased to see some innovation going on

posted by kitkat [228 posts]
11th November 2012 - 22:51


Not really innovation, as thats to invent something new to cope with the new needs of someone/thing.

This is not new, its just a spin on a common idea that's been around since the bicycle was invented.

Here are some more recent example's

The Tweel (2005/6ish) Began sale in October 12, but not for bike's yet

Nu Teck's (stopped being made Dec 2011)


This is nothing new or exciting, its just another version of an old product that fails time after time to sell because it simply does not work in practical settings Wink

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9040 posts]
11th November 2012 - 23:53


The idea of "energy return" from the tire seems especially iffy- I don't see how this can be anything different from how a normal tire works, and they'll "return" the energy in the wrong direction. That bit alone makes me think they're unscientific cranks.

posted by Al__S [645 posts]
12th November 2012 - 8:35

ColT's picture

posted by ColT [227 posts]
12th November 2012 - 8:37


Al__S wrote:
The idea of "energy return" from the tire seems especially iffy- I don't see how this can be anything different from how a normal tire works, and they'll "return" the energy in the wrong direction. That bit alone makes me think they're unscientific cranks.


Just sounds all sorts of wrong.

posted by Chuck [435 posts]
12th November 2012 - 11:48


Yeah I don't get how on earth they could return energy that would be beneficial to forward movement. I also remember seeing a design for car tires like these years ago and nothing ever came of it and I'm not willing to chalk it up to refusal to accept a new standard.

new-to-cycling's picture

posted by new-to-cycling [47 posts]
12th November 2012 - 14:30


Thinking I'm waiting for some of those Michelin Twheels or whatever they're calling them for my 4x4, these seem like a similar sort of thing. On my 4x4 though they look amazingly promising because you could have the benefit of effectively super low pressures without having to run inner tubes and bead lockers which ruin the car on road.

Municipal Waste's picture

posted by Municipal Waste [199 posts]
12th November 2012 - 14:59


Yeah, I don't believe the energy return claim either. I'd be curious to see what they're like to use.

A company called Airboss started selling tyres using a similar concept into the construction machinery market about 20 years ago. They were popular for a while but seem to have disappeared. There was a version for off-road cars as well, but they were limited to a top speed of 50km/h as they got too hot otherwise due to friction.


posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
12th November 2012 - 17:02


I wonder how well they will work when they are full of mud and leaves. Interesting idea though.


posted by Edgeley [195 posts]
12th November 2012 - 19:49


You're riding on a set of metal hoop braces supporting a tyre strip. One broken hoop and your off. To 'solve' punctures it's meant creating something with problems of it's own. Quick puncture repair will always be the best compromise. IMHO of course.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1093 posts]
12th November 2012 - 23:39


First thought was "I bet they're crap round corners". The video of the guy picking his way ponderously around did nothing to dispel that assumption.

posted by Bhachgen [94 posts]
14th November 2012 - 16:39


I wonder if the holes in the sides roar when you get them up to a high RPM

Well, I'll be...

posted by Zebra [27 posts]
15th November 2012 - 8:33


Thinking Just a thought. If the UCI ban anything aerodynamic on bikes as it may give an advantage (skinsuits and aero helmets manage to get through though?) then they will surely be having a think about anything which gives mechanical advantage or gain eg this 'rebound' energy from the tyres. Just think about Paris Roubaix or cobbled classics!!!


posted by stokeybloke [32 posts]
16th November 2012 - 0:30