Performance

Airless Bike Tires and Preventing Flats

flat tire

If you are trying to prevent flat tires on your bicycle, then maybe you’ve 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, wood splinters. Often my portable bike pump was no match.

Do I have airless tires on my road bike? No.

Why?

Some recreational and commuter cyclists like going airless. Competitive and a few enthusiast cyclists feel that this type of tire’s penalties doesn’t justify the expense. I’m one of them. But I suppose it depends on your priorities and the 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. It would be best if you double-checked that you are purchasing the correct size solid tire for your wheelset.

The good news is the SENQI Solid Core Road Bike Tires not only eliminates the possibility of a flat tire due to a puncture but the solid tube’s “chewy center” offers a cushy ride and a positive difference in ride quality compared to the other airless tire options. If I were to get a solid tire, the Stop-A-Flat 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 tire’s bead 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 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, you can sense the higher rolling resistance than conventional pneumatic tires when it comes to higher performance bicycles.

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 may 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. So you have to ask yourself, is total flat tire prevention worth the trade-off of decreased performance and a difficult installation?

Airless Tire Alternatives

Solid Bicycle Tubes

Another product that eliminates the need for an inflatable tube, which eliminates the possibility of a flat, is a solid tube. When it comes to flat tire prevention, a solid tube is the best airless bike tire solution. You’ll keep your existing tires, give the finger to your old inflatable tube and take joy great joy in throwing it out. Then put one of these solid tubes in its place. If it is too long with these tubes, you can hack it into a long noodle, wrap it around the rim, and then cut off the extra. A popular choice is the Stop-A-Flat Puncture Proof Solid Core Bicycle Tube.

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 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.