The future of bike tires could be airless

Energy return wheels
Britek's airless tires being demonstrated on a mountain bike trail.Britek

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By Devin Coldewey

Airless tires have been proposed and demonstrated for cars many times, but one company is showing off a sophisticated new version intended for bicycles. Is this the end for bike pumps, or are the company's claims overinflated?

Britek Tire and Rubber has been working on an airless car tire for years that it calls the Energy Return Wheel. A rubber tread and sidewall is stretched over an internal scaffolding of rods and cushions that allows the tire to give — and, the company claims, lose less energy to bumps and other compressions.

The bike tire uses the same concept, but naturally has a lighter frame. The rims are carbon fiber, with the rubber stretched tight around the outside.

Adjustments can be made to let the tires run harder or softer, and while the model in the video has an open frame, sidewalls could be added to prevent detritus from building up inside the tire.

There are airless tires already, which use a foam to fill where air would normally be, but there are shortcomings that have prevented widespread adoption. Durability and cost are factors, though the benefit of not having to worry about tire pressure or flats is considerable.

Cyclists will no doubt be skeptical, which is understandable, and until these high-tech tires are put to the test by real people in ordinary biking situations, it's a good idea to take their potential benefits with a grain of salt.

— via ChopMTB and Gizmag

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.