If you are trying to prevent flat tires on your bicycle, then maybe you’re considered using airless bike tires. After all, there are times when you need to get somewhere and it’s cold, it’s raining and maybe even dark out. Or it could just be that your carrying groceries home or riding to work. The last thing you need on your commute is to risk getting a flat tire.
We are all familiar with Murphy’s Law and I can tell you that if I didn’t have bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all. I have gotten flats from just about everything including glass, sharp rocks and wood splinters and of course I didn’t have a bike pump on me.
Do I have airless tires on my road bike? No.
Some recreational and commuter cyclists like going airless. Competitive and a few enthusiast cyclists feel that the penalties of this type of tire justify the expense. I’m one of them. But I suppose it depends on your priorities and type of bike. I guess it could make sense on a single speed, commuter, or mountain bike if flat tires are an ongoing issue.
Safety and Installation of Airless Bike Tires
The main problem with installing airless bicycle tires is getting a good fit. You need to double-check that you are purchasing the correct size solid tube for your wheelset.
The good news is the Bell Solid NoMorFlat Bicycle Tire Tube not only completely eliminates the possibility of a flat tire due to a puncture, but the solid tube’s “chewy center” offers a cushy ride and positive difference in ride quality compared to the other airless tube options. If I was to get a solid tube, the Bell brand would be my first choice.
Be forewarned, they are more difficult to install when compared to an inner tube and tire setup. It’s usually not pretty. You will most likely find yourself with a wide blade screwdriver, dish soap and swearing like a drunken sailor while trying not to damage the rim or stabbing yourself. This is especially true when you are working with aluminum rims.
With traditional pneumatic tires, the air pressure forces the bead of the tire to seat tightly against the rim. The airless variety lacks that high pressure and many enthusiasts consider that less secure mounting a safety concern.
Yes, a more traditional tire blowout while riding can be dangerous, but imagine banking in a turn and having the whole dang tire roll off the rim and getting caught up in the wheel and fork. It wouldn’t be a pretty picture.
You may have noticed over the years that airless bicycle tires seem harder to find. They are. Many speculate that safety is the main reason. So you have to weigh that into your decision.
Airless Tire Performance
While solid tires are regarded as a good thing on wheelchairs and other low-speed equipment, when it comes to higher performance bicycles you can sense the higher rolling resistance compared to conventional pneumatic tires.
Generally, your tires will feel like they have 200 psi in them, and roll like they have 40 psi. You will feel every bump in the road and will need to put more effort into pedaling. You many not enjoy riding your bike after all of the effort and frustration you put forth installing them. But I may be getting critical here.
In other words, when it comes to performance and riding enjoyment unless you’re riding for exercise, it’s the worst of both worlds. But when it comes to flat tire prevention, a solid tube is the best airless bike tire solution. So you have to ask yourself, is total flat tire prevention worth the trade-off of decreased performance and a difficult installation?
Airless Tire Solid Tube Alternatives
Self Sealing Tubes
The Schwinn Self Sealing Tube meets most cyclists expectations as it seems to maintain a 4 star rating. Self sealing bicycle tire tubes are often referred to as slime tubes. Utilizing a slimy colored liquid inside the tube, usually green, it is supposed to leak out and seal small punctures.
They often seal a small tire puncture such as a thorn, but larger punctures increase the chance of a complete product failure. It’s important to have realistic expectations when it comes to self-sealing tubes. I’ve had failures when I hit a 1 1/2 inch screw and a 1-inch nail.
Bicycle Tire Liners
Usually constructed of multiple layers, this protective lining goes between the tire and tube. Of course anything you add to your bike will add weight, and have impact on performance. Although this solution will technically add weight and pedal effort, it is far less than a solid tube and may not be noticeable.
These do work well. There are stories of up to dime size chunks of tire missing, but the tires remain inflated. Even with moderate tire damage, you’re still able to finish your ride and reach your destination.
They almost always include liners for each tire. They are usually sold long so that you can trim the length to be perfect. The most important thing is to select the correct width for your bike as the liners are made for all different tire width sizes.
You can also pair these with thorn resistant tubes for extra protection. But to be honest, a good tire liner protects against nearly everything but a stem failure or a snake bite rip.
Liners work best for me, but you need to pick the solution that works best for you.