Mountain bikers might soon be able to say goodbye to flat tires, as a Colorado-based designer recently unveiled a airless wheel that could revolutionize the sport.
Brian Russell, the same man who create airless tires for cars, is touting a new bicycle wheel that could eliminate a great deal of hassle for bikers. The new model is called the Energy Return Wheel (ERW), and the physics behind it are similar to the logic of a garage door:
"Even though a garage door weighs several hundred pounds, when it is sprung by the use of springs, it becomes de-weighted. So when you lift it, it only feels like it weighs a few pounds. In summary, an object that is sprung requires dramatically less energy to move than an unsprung object."
The tire consists of a layer of rubber wrapped around carbon nanotube-reinforced composite rods, which provide cushioning. The rods can be adjusted depending on the rider's preferences.
The rods stretch the rubber, which in turn stores elastic potential energy in the wheel, which creates a sort of 360-degree slingshot. As the wheel turns, that energy is released as forward momentum. Thus, not only does the wheel help riders avoid flats, it could also allow them to ride faster.
Russell has set his sights beyond bikes, and he hopes his tires can change the way automobiles operate. The ERW wheels would make cars more energy efficient; according to Russell, it would be like "riding on 4 slingshots."