Foldable airless bicycle tires


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/01/26/foldable-airless-bicycle-tires.html


#2

Mostly I’m interested in ensuring my bike wheels do not fold. The table is pretty neat though.


#3

He reinvented the wheel.


#4

Foldable tires on my foldable bike would be nice.


#5

still have to add/substract the rest though


#6

People are always trying to reinvent the bicycle itself or some critical component. It rarely, if ever works. Wheels are particularly problematic… the lighter the wheel, the faster and more efficiently you ride. It takes a lot less energy to accelerate a wheel if it weighs less. Speeding up and slowing down over the course of a ride results in enormous amounts of energy put into accelerating the wheel. And this definitely doesn’t look like it weighs less. If this is a lot heavier than a standard wheel, you’d feel the difference even on a 5-mile ride on flat terrain.

The fact that the tire is non-pneumatic and broken into sections means that there is minimal damping of vibration from the pavement, which will make your hands numb. I bet your hands get numb with a set of these wheels far faster than with a regular wheel.

My bet: this sinks into the swamp without further fanfare.


#7

I hate to be that guy but… Doesn’t seem to actually solve a problem. The folding changes from flat to “3D”. It is better for riding the subway. Then what? What are you doing with it? Did you leave the whole bike somewhere? Taking that wheel with you is good for what? And notice that he replaces the front wheel only, because the rear one is much more complex with the chain and all.

For that I believe complete foldable bikes are more useful.

I guess they say “don’t try to reinvent the wheel” for a reason.


#8

The bicycle wheel is pretty much a perfected design. All the load - static and dynamic - is distributed by the rim, the air in the tube and the spokes in constant tension. As soon as you remove the continuity of the rim and the air in the tube, each segment has to do all the work that the whole wheel used to do.

This thing will be much heavier, and give a much more uncomfortable ride than a regular wheel. If you want your bicycle wheel to take up less space, just make it smaller. You’ll be making far fewer compromises.


#9

And here I thought the use case for it would be as a spare tire on long trips; enough to get you to a safer place to fix the broken wheel, or to a shop with proper tools.

Full disclosure: While I habitually carried a patch kit for the tire (before slime fell into popular use), I generally didn’t have any spare parts or tools with me for more complex repairs.


#10

As others have mentioned, it doesn’t seem like there is a job for this invention. It’s a lot of parts and points of failure as compared to existing, proven designs. But, if you like your artsy farty, maybe you’ll like paying 10x as much for 1/2 the reliability so you can fold up your rim.

Maybe it would make sense for much larger wheels (not a bike)?


#11

I’ve seen ‘revolutionary new’ hubless wheels and airless tire designs at least twice a year on bicycles for like the last 12 years, which is the amount of time I’ve been riding a bicycle as an adult.

The latest spate are these kickstarter videos with ivory tower 20-something industrial designers with interesting facial hair and minimalist piano/electronic background music.

This has been tried so many damn times. Hubless wheels will never* be robust, efficient, or even simple. Airless tires will never* be a pleasure to ride on.

*barring discoveries of new revolutionary new materials, which will almost certainly come from a university or corporate research lab.


#12

The late great Sheldon Brown shared his thoughts on airless tires tires years ago, and they still apply:

BEGIN QUOTE

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.

END QUOTE


#13

At least a folding wheel actually does something that a normal wheel doesn’t, I suppose. It seems less terrible than people trying to sell specially shaped cranks. (claimed to be more efficient - always good for a laugh)

That said, segmenting the strongest part of a wheel just might have some drawbacks.


#14

Looks better than the prototype. It was… problematic.


#15

It could be useful for long distance bikepacking, but I’m curious about the durability and weight.

I run tubeless on my MTB, but I still carry a tube and patch kit anyways. I volunteer with the National Mountain Bike Patrol and more than once I’ve come across someone with a puncture small enough to ride out on, but just slightly too big to seal properly and long enough with sealant alone.


#16

This isn’t a folding tire. Folding tires are quite common (it just means that the bead is not rigid so that when the tire is removed from the wheel it can be folded flat, useful for carrying a spare when touring).

This is a folding wheel. I’m not sure what you’d use it for… I guess you could carry it instead of spare tires and spokes, but it’s a lot larger (and probably heavier). And that leaves the question of how to carry the broken wheel you’re swapping it out for, assuming it’s not broken beyond repair…


#17

I imagine it would be useful if you were trying to develop a design for a foldable bike (or wheelchair) that could fit into a reasonably sized piece of luggage.


#18

Perhaps, if having full-size wheels is a priority. I’ve got a folding bike with 16" wheels that rides surprisingly well. It’s a tradeoff: Smaller wheels give a harsher ride, but then, so do airless tires. Small wheels have some nice advantages for city riding though (quicker acceleration and tight maneuverability).

I guess wheelchairs need full size wheels more though, for reachability.


#19

As a bike mechanic, I can totally endorse all the shitcanning in this thread. This notion is balderdash.

The bicycle wheel was optimised decades ago; the further you get away from that, the bigger the fail. There have been some worthwhile refinements since the early 90s, but these are fairly incremental.

Flashy aero carbon wheels are great, until you get some breeze from the side; this is only somewhat mitigated by newer profiles with a round edge and that bulge wider than the tyre.

Low spoke count wheels look pretty cool, and because of the high spoke tension, are far less likely to break spokes (since this is caused by fatigue generated as the spokes lose tension as they pass the ground), but they require stronger rims that are generally heavier unless carbon is employed.

Disc brakes work somewhat better than rim brakes (particularly compared to a carbon brake track), but require the front wheel to have a minimum of 24 tangential spokes, and push the width of the rear hub on road bikes to 135mm, spoiling the chainline a bit. The rim can be lighter, but the frame and fork need to be heavier, and the heavier fork has less compliance, affecting handling. Also, the system isn’t really complete without motorbike-style through-axles.

On the tyre front, tubulars, AKA sew-ups, that are glued to the rim, used to be the duck’s guts by a wide margin, but improvements to clincher tyres have narrowed that gap. There’s no getting around the fact that clincher rims will always be heavier, but the tyres are a lot nicer these days. Tubeless tyres have less rolling resistance and better grip due to being more supple, but they’re a messy hassle.

So there you have it. No free lunch in the offing.


#20

Of all the things on a bike to make smaller, why the wheel? As others have mentioned above, a good wheel is light, and rigid, and it really isn’t a big issue in making a bike smaller for transport, as they come off easily.

(Get off my lawn / what hipster nonsense is this? / etc.)