Flat Tires and Bike Commuting: Are Airless Tires the Answer?

I try to commute whenever I can. The local trail is about a mile from my house, I ride the trail for about three miles, and then exit in the downtown area. From there  it is a  wee bit under a half mile to my job.  A pleasant ride that takes me just under a half hour there, and back.  I started last year, and this semester I have been doing it a little more.  It helps that I am better organized, and have fresh clothes that I keep in my office closet to change into. Being a guy you can get by for a couple of weeks with just five pairs of paints, five shirts, and three sport jackets,  with one pair of black work shoes. I just mix and match the shirt and trousers so that I I have different outfits.  After I have worn everything a couple of times, I switch them out with fresh ones on the weekend. It works great. Below is a picture of my commuter bike which has made a previous appearance on this blog:

20150902_150404A couple of weeks ago on my way to work I came close to crashing.  The next day on the way home I recreated the incident:

20150902_15315120150902_153220

On the way to work I rode into a large crack, a seam in the road, and was barely able to muscle my way out of it without going down. I was about a quarter mile from home when this happened.  By the time I rode into my driveway the tire was flat.  I changed the tube and tried it again the next morning.

That next morning I managed to get just past where I had ridden into the crack when I noticed my tire was going flat.  I called my wife,and luckily she was able to to pick me up, and she dropped me off at the bike shop where I do business which is located very close to where I work, and they were able to take a look at it right away while I waited. I ride with two spare tubes, a co2 kit, and flat patch kit, but I didn’t want to bother fixing the puncture and getting grease all over me on my way to work. Two flats in less than 24 hours.

It is because of such possibilities as this, that I make sure to leave in the morning at least an hour early, and the day when my front tire went flat I had left even earlier.   The shop replaced the tube at my request after they were unable to find a hole in it. They also adjusted the rim tape.  So far, after sixty miles are so, no further problems.

The one thing thing I dread the most is the possibility of flats in the morning when I am going to work. I don’t mind fixing them, or changing tubes.  I don’t even mind having to push my bike if I have to.  What I want to avoid most of all is being late for class.

What to do?  Since then I have been investigating other alternatives and have discovered several possibilities.  One possibility I am gong to try for sure is the Slime Tire Sealer.  You put the slime inside the tube and it seals small punctures.  If nothing else it might buy you some time. Several small companies are working on solid tires, and airless tubes, and you can find them on Amazon, or other retailers.  I also found airless bike tires at www.airlesstires.com.

The reviews for the flat proof tires are all over the place but they do have certain disadvantages.  For one thing, there is air in tires for a reason.  It does not weigh much, and it acts as a shock absorber.  The reviews I did read talked about increased rolling resistance, a rougher ride, problems with getting a proper fit, some handling issues, and difficulty in fitting the tires to some rims.  In addition there were stories of the tire rolling off the rim, sometimes causing a crash.  It seems the idea has been around for awhile, but so far not that effectively.  However, I think we will see great strides in airless tires, which are essentially flat proof, in the next five years if some of the bigger tire manufacturers get behind the concept.  I suspect that for this to work well, it will require special wheels which can hold the tire in place, and a more-or-less regular tire casing on the outside bonded to some kind of effective shock absorbing material on the inside. Flat proof tires are too good of an idea to go away.

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