Getting a flat tire when you are out on your ebike can ruin your day. And when you are off roading on your mountain bike and get a puncture, you know the whole experience will be marred by the time that it takes to make a repair. Let’s hope you have everything you need with you, otherwise you could find yourself stuck in the middle of nowhere with a heavy ebike you can neither ride nor repair.
Airless tires seem to offer a hassle free way of staying in control of your day and will drastically cut down on the amount of kit you need to carry with you. With airless mountain bike tires you no longer need to pack a pump, tire levers, puncture repair kit and some spare tubes. This all adds to weight and bulkiness on your mountain ebike and often it can be tempting to just take a chance and leave the puncture repair kit at home. Do this too often and sooner or later you will get caught out!
We don’t always consider punctures as much as we probably should because if you ride any sort of bike you can guarantee that sooner or later you will get one. This means that airless mountain bike tires seem like a great idea.
Let’s find out more about airless mountain bike tires and see if this technology is something we should all be using or whether there are serious disadvantages which are not being mentioned in the hype about airless tires.
First up, what are airless tires?
Airless tires are solid. Instead of having an inflated inner tube protected by a rubber outer protection as with a regular bike tire, the space inside an airless tire is replaced by solid foam like material made from micro closed cell polymer resin (MCP). Traditional tires are known as pneumatic which means they rely on air. Airless tires as suggested by the name do not.
Airless tires, also called solid tires are not a new idea. The first bikes were fitted with solid rubber airless tires but with the advent of technology, pneumatic tires became the norm because they provided greater speed and comfort thanks to the air cushion supporting the bike. Now with the increasing popularity of airless tires again it seems we have come full circle in bike technology.
What are airless tires made from?
Airless tires are made from MCP (micro closed cell polymer resin) which is similar to the material used to make running shoes. This compressed foam like material comes in different formulations and extrusions depending on the make of airless tire you choose.
The two major companies in the airless tire market place are Air Fom and Tannus. However neither company provides much in the way of information regarding the tire construction. Air Fom tires are fully recyclable which is a greener option to buying pneumatic tires. Tannus tires are constructed from a patented material called Aither 1.1. which is a form of MCP.
Both tire brands claim to offer the ultimate in flexibility, comfort and reliability. However the main selling point is that an airless tire is a puncture free tire.
Airless ebike tires have been aimed at the commuter market
Because of the reliability of airless ebike tires, they are already proving popular with commuters who need to avoid the misery of punctures. Many commuters need to ride relatively short distances and although in the past airless tires have been criticised as being heavy and awkward, the technology is improving.
Tannus Airless Tires from South Korea and Air Fom based in Taiwan are the leading airless tire brands across the world. There are other brands on the market; you can buy cheap airless ebike tires from Walmart for example but in our opinion you are probably better off sticking to either Tannus or Air Fom for your ebike.
Can you fit an airless tire to a fat tire ebike?
Fat tire bikes are extremely popular with consumers as they offer greater stability and protection and can be ridden on a wide choice of surfaces including snow and the beach. This versatility makes them great mountain bikes and off road trail bikes.
At Hovsco there is a compressive range of fat tire bikes including the Hov Alpha and the Hov Scout which are perfect for mountain biking. However you cannot fit an airless tire to a fat tire bike because at the time of writing sizes are limited and if there are any companies out there offering airless fat tires we have been unable to find them.
The Hov Ranger is a mountain bike with conventional width tires so if you fancy the advantages of riding puncture free, this ebike will perfectly adapt to this new tire technology.
In time it seems likely that airless tires will become available for fat tire models as companies look to refine their products and expand their range.
Are there any disadvantages to airless mountain bike tires?
Despite the claims that airless tires are the future of cycling, many ebike enthusiasts are not so sure that now is the time to try them out.
Airless tires are heavier than conventional tires,because after all nothing is lighter than air. This extra weight will be noticeable if you are mountain biking over a variety of terrains and especially when going uphill. It can make your mountain ebike feel sluggish and hard to handle.
The claims that airless tires will cut down on weight because you no longer have to carry a puncture repair kit and a spare inner tube are therefore negated because the ebike is so much heavier with airless tires, there is no real comparison regarding weight. The conventional tire and the need to carry spares is an easy trade off when it comes to bike handling and weight.
For people using their ebikes to commute short distances, the additional weight of the airless tire may not much difference but for off road riding it will be noticeable.
Another disadvantage to airless tires is the price. Airless tires are very expensive and they have to be fitted professionally. With the price of one airless tire costing somewhere in the region of $75 plus the cost of the fitting this is very expensive when compared to the cost of a new inner tube which is usually less than $10.00
So if you are considering an airless tire to save you money on punctures, this is worth bearing in mind.
Are airless tires for ebikes the future?
Airless tires will undoubtedly become more popular in the years to come because a bike that can remain free from punctures is something that is very appealing. And as the technology improves and airless tires become mainstream perhaps they will become the norm.
If you have ever been stuck at the side of the road fixing a puncture in the rain on the way home from work, the attraction of a solid bike tire is obvious!
However for mountain biking we can’t see airless tires being a viable replacement any time soon. The airless mountain bike tires are too heavy and will affect the handling of your bike. In addition you have no control over the tire pressure. You cannot take air out of the tire for better handling in snow for example so it makes the experience more generic if you cannot apply adjustment to the pressure of your tires.
Pneumatic tires were invented so that bike riders could ride on air and enjoy a smooth ride. With the rise of the airless tire we have come full circle in going back to solid wheels and many riders will find riding on solid tires that are impossible to adjust, both uncomfortable and rigid on some surfaces.
In our opinion airless tires do have their place in bike riding but are unlikely to replace conventional pneumatic tires for leisure activities such as mountain biking. So in answer to our original question airless mountain bike tires are not worth considering for your ebike just yet. Maybe things will change in the future, but for now it is a resounding thumbs down!