First revealed way back in 2011, Bridgestone’s airless tires use a series of rigid plastic resin spokes to help a wheel keep its shape as it rolls, instead of an inflatable inner tube that can puncture and leak. Military vehicles and ATVs have been some of the first vehicles to adopt the unorthodox design, but Bridgestone will soon be making a version of its airless tires for use on bicycles.
Airless bike tires aren’t a new idea, you can already get wheels made from a solid rubber composite if you’ll be riding on terrain where the risk of punctures and flats is high.
But Bridgestone’s approach, which replaces the inner tube and a portion of a bicycle wheel’s spokes with thermoplastic resin supports, is better engineered to absorb bumps and provide an overall smoother ride, without ever requiring the rider to have to adjust the air pressure in their tires. More importantly, it will never go flat, or leave a cyclist stranded on the side of the road.
If eventually adopted for cars, airless tires have the potential to improve fuel efficiency since they’ll never deflate or lose their shape over time, but also improve safety, given they also can’t dangerously explode. With bikes, however, it’s more of a convenience thing, since cyclists would no longer have to carry a pump, or wrangle a spare inner tube. Bridgestone is hoping to have its airless bike tires ready for consumers by 2019, just ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, although it remains to be seen if they’ll be approved for official cycling competition in time.