Back in 1999, Thomas Wills of Deland Fl, a product designer helped me design a new airless tire. The philosphy of this tire came about after I had conversations with wind tunnel operators and other key industry people. The main point of the this tire and wheel was to create a "blended wheel" look. This look is where one cannot tell where the tire begins and the rim or wheel begins and ends.
This concept was meant to pave the way for a new suite of products both airless and rubber pneumatic.
Flash forward 15 years and one cannot tell the difference between a wheel designed 15 years ago and the newest fastest wheel from Mavic. The Mavic CXR is a full carbon wheel with a matched tire for optimum wind tunnel performance. This wheel has won a tour stage on the Tour De France.
We aren't accusing Mavic of anything other than making a great looking wheel. It is satisfying though to have created something so far in advance that it is just now being appreciated.
Congratulations to Thomas Wills. While he had nothing to do with the Mavic wheel, it is clear to see that he was ahead of his time.
I've included more on the Air Free website about this. http://www.airfreetires.com/technical/mavicwheel.asp
A few weeks ago, I was invloved with a video production. I got to thinking that this (video) might really help the website both in sales and information. So we hired a video producer and we are getting to work on an installation video and a video to show how the airless tire fits into the rim (bicycle).
After seeing myself on camera, I decided I was not good looking enough for prime-time. So, in the videos, the website visitors wil see only my hands but not my face. However, I discovered I could make audio (a movie without images) quickly and easily and thusly have "gone to town" with the concept.
Over the next few months, we will try out several approches and your feed back is appreciated. Send in your questions and maybe I'll answer one of them in audio for all of the internets to experience.
Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery
This picture of a wheelchair tire was taken by me in 1999 using a really terrible digital camera and I took the picture holding the tire in one hand and the camera in the other. The picture was taken in my back yard just a couple of months after I got in the airless tire market by starting a website. After I took the picture, I painstakingly cropped out the back ground and uploaded the picture and named the tire "the Shasta Wheelchair Tire". And to this day, we sell maybe one or two a month. Not exactly a big seller because it is an OEM type product. The shape of the tire is actually good for ease of movement and this tire is found on less expensive wheelchairs.
What makes this so interesting is that so many people use the Air Free website images and illustrations to sell product and all these "pirated" images are done so with out our permission. If the webmasters of these websites would at least acknowledge where they got the pictures then the website visitors wouldn't be confused.
Normally manufacturers take their own pictures and allow distributors to use the images to sell. Air Free took its' own pictures and supposed manufacturers in the US and Asia use Air Free images, confusing people because the manufacturer to distributor informational chain is broken. Air Free took its' own pictures of almost everything it sells using its' own camera and studio. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers who sell airless tires are using Air Free images and illustrations to further their own profit motives and the Air Free brand is diluted. Manufacturers are supposed to have their own pictures to share with distributors like Air Free, not the other way around. If a company like Air Free wants to take its own pictures and or use manufacturer supplied ones, then a company like Air Free is entitled to use either. The manufacturers of Airless Tires however, are not allowed to use the images off of a distributors website unless there is an agreement, and certainly not if no acknowledgment is made as to where the images or illustrations came from.
For example: it should be clear to a website visitor that images on a retailers website may either be supplied by a manufacturer or by the retailer. Simply going to the manufacturers website will assure the website visitor that either the supplied images are being used or if the retailer wanted to, supply their own. This way the customer knows that the retailer if they took their own pictures has possession or knowledge of the product and if the retailer has manufacturer supplied images, then the assurance is that the retailer has the manufactures permission
There are a lot of Air Free images on a lot of websites. For that we should be congratulated. It is not often that a small company like Air Free with practically no resources has what the leaders in the industry do not have, and that is pictures of their own product.
To the Asian companies that use our images, "Hey we'd love to do business, but can't you take your own pictures?". And what makes this so bizarrely comical, is that some of the offending websites are "watermarking" our images as if to claim ownership of them. To the American companies that use our images, "Hey we'd love to do business, but can't you take your own pictures and quit confusing people?".
Until manufacturers and "rouge" websites take their own pictures or use manufacturer supplied ones, Air Free Tires will continue to make the assertion that because we get copied so frequently and so blatantly, "Air Free is the Undisputed King of the Internet"
It Was Only A Matter Of Time......
Airless tires work great in the industrial setting. We all knew that. But it took some enterprising individuals to come up with this aluminum rust free bike with a drive shaft instead of a chain. This bike looks like a million bucks and is perfect for companies that have fleets of bicycles which are basically accidents waiting to happen. What makes this bike extra extra special is that the Rugged Bicycle can save on injuries and downtime. Rusted chains break and chains that work perfectly well will snag pants legs and cause injuries. Find out more at www.ruggedcycles.com
Airless Tires Are Made Of Urethane
Airless tires today can be either bicycle, wheelchair, wheelbarrow or many other tires that are made from what is called a "Spin Cast" process. This method allows the tires to be balanced and the spinning compresses the urethane making it denser the faster it spins. Tires made this way are used for low speed and low weight situations. Airless tires are usually fitted to a rim by "snapping" into place or being "sandwiched" by hub halves.
Tires made from injection molding are called "solid tires" and are used on Forklifts or skate wheels and everything in between so they will be discussed in another article.
Airless tires are made by a number of manufacturers throughout out the world. All spin cast urethane tires have a degree of bounce to them with some manufacturers tires being more springy than others. While there is air trapped in the urethane, the material used plays a larger role in how the tire will behave under the load of a rider.
Today's' airless tires are safe when properly installed and will give years of reliable service in almost all situations. The best ones have "cords" inside them that keep the tires on the rims.
Look Mom! No Hubs, No Spokes
Back in 2002 I get a call from a young man who said he was working on a project. He said he couldn't tell me anything but that once I did get to see it, I would be amazed. I asked him just how was I supposed to help him, if I didn't or couldn't know how to help him. He said "don't worry about it" and to "just recommend a good road tire". So I said the Daytona TT would be a good tire, but I told him that the airless tire has to fit a specific rim. He said "I'll machine a rim to fit the tire!"
So I sold him a pair of Daytona tires and he promised that he would send pictures when the time was right. I remember thinking that this was an unusual call because most people are very eager to share their inventions with me. I have signed a lot of non-disclosures over the years and have participated in the design of many projects that involved the use of airless tires and this fellow wasn't about to tell me a thing.
About four months later, I get three pictures sent to me via email and nice letter from the inventor thanking me and telling me that he had come in third place at a prestigious contest in Singapore. I'm not sure if his invention solves anything, but it shows what you can do when you have your own machine shop, time and airless tires.
Obviously there have been takes on this concept in the past, but he did win a prize at a contest, and he couldn't have done it with out an airless tire. Congratulations to him and congratulations to the airless tire industry. Airless tires have won a prize!
Hard Rubber Tire with a Hole
Semi-Pneumatic tires refer to a class of tires made of molded denser rubber and rubber products with a hollow core. Not terrible as lawn mower deck tires, but are rarely seen anymore. Airless tires compete and are lighter, foam filled tires compete and are better. They sell under the name Carlisle Reliant and aren't any cheaper or more expensive than its' competitors. Resistant to cuts and very tough, they don't have much give. Seen occasionally on Ebay, they sell for around $75 each and more. Sounds like a lot, but they do work on landscape equipment and they continue to sell a few every year in that market.
There Are Two Kinds of Foam Fill
First, there is a fill called "Foam Fill". It has been around for a long time. Technically called "Tire Fill", it resembles liquid bowling ball material and is very heavy. It doesn't foam but It does come in several densities and is great for earth moving equipment, mining trucks, agricultural equipment and others.
Another fill called "Foam Fill" can also refer to another type of tire fill product that actually does foam when mixed. But this foam will have weight limitations and can only be used in small Bobcats, lawnmowers and situations where the weight is less than 1000lbs.
But...... Foam Fill, Tire Fill, Chunking, or whatever it is called has weight limits.
If the need is to exceed the load capacity written on the tire, then use Tire Fill, (liquid bowling ball), if the need is only to flat-proof and not exceed the weight limit, the use the Foam Fill.
Air Free has an article about this. Synair, Carpenter, Arnco, all have liquid bowling ball tire fills in several different levels of jiggle. Simply poke a hole in the tire, insert tube and pump liquid in. About 24 hours later, the fill hardens, very simple, but not cheap. There are hundreds if not thousands of places in the country that perform this.
Arnco, Amerityre, Urethane International, have Foam systems that are different. This type of foam is harder to produce and has weight limitations but what makes it so attractive is that it is much lighter, resulting in less rotational mass and rider discomfort. Not very many places provide this type of foam.
For the most part, when people refer to Foam fill, they are almost always talking about the liquid bowling ball material.
Ask questions about foam filling and we will answer them here.
PTS Turbo 1000 Recumbant Stationary Trainer
For over Eleven years, I've been getting calls from people looking for tires for the PTS Turbo trainer. They all share one thing (two things) in common, one, they love the machine, two, the tire is rotted. Amazingly, these old machines work perfectly and all the customers say they went out and tried to price similar machines and couldn't find any comparable. PTS developed a very sturdy trainer that was ahead of its' time.
Recently I got a call from one of the originators of the trainer and he clued me in the philosophy behind the trainer. They knew they were building a good trainer when they built them, but the trainer never sold enough to make it a true commercial success so they stopped making them. Apparently some of the original players may want to get back into the game and I hope they do.
After talking with dozens and dozens of PTS owners, I can say that they are truly remarkable from several aspects. From a styling point of view, they look like the "Eames Chair" of stationary trainers. From a durability standpoint, few companies have achieved what PTS did and that was make a trainer still relevant 30 years later and make it to a standard that puts other trainers to shame.
Of course this is my opinion, but I only arrive at this from the effusiveness of the PTS owners and some common sense. A lot of these owners got them second hand and many of them surprisingly had bought one new. All of them wanted to ride them again and found the tire had rotted. No matter whether the machine was in a commercial gym or a home, nothing was ever wrong with the machines except the tire. Owners had zero complaints about the trainer and only the tire being rotted stood in the way of them exercising on it.
After looking for hours on the internet, many of the PTS owners were forced to come to grips with the fact they might not ever find a tire that will work and started to look for another trainer. All of the owners I talked to said the same thing. After looking in the stores and online and even trying out some trainers, none made the PTS owner happy and no other trainer came close to the quality for even twice the price many of the owners had originally paid. After trying other trainers and looking for a new one, all the PTS owners went back on the internet and in one way or another found us.
The tire on the PTS Turbo Trainer was a hollow hose fused together at the ends. It was (is) stiff and designed to take the roller that engages it. Over time, the roller would wear it out and expose the hollow inside or the plastic would dry rot into hundreds of tiny pieces. Since the disc or the rim of the wheel doesn't have a valve stem hole, rubber tires aren't an option. To make it work, the PTS owners would need a solid core tire that could be "snapped" into place and when the roller engages it, would have a enough stickiness to it so it wouldn't slip on the roller when more tension was put on it.
The Air Free Savannah Cruiser 27 x 1 3/8 (17-18mm) Urethane Airless Bicycle tire will fit the PTS Turbo Trainer perfectly. In Eleven years, not one person has ever sent one back, nor has one person ever said they couldn't get it on. The Savannah tire was designed to fit a bicycle, but it has the right height off of the rim and it squeezes into the rim perfectly and all owners report that they are able to ride again with out any problems.
Some owners have reported that bike shops won't install airless tires for practically any reason, but they are not hard to install at all. Like many things there are some "tricks" and airless tires are actually easy to install or they would be making millions of them a year.
Finding a picture of the Trainer proved difficult and I was forced to snag the ones on this page off of Craigslist. Notice at even 30 years old, how nice the bike is. I like the chair and the disc wheel gives it a look of prestige and modern design. It looks like it could have been made yesterday but also notice the tire is missing and that is why the person who placed the ad was selling it for only $75.
For all the PTS Turbo owners out there, do not sell them, if you don't have one, get one, they will only go up in value (unless they start making them again) and all you may ever need to replace is a tire that you can put on with a little paddle that looks like a spatula.
For me, it is very satisfying to help all these people use something that would probably have been thrown away. And I like the fact that the PTS Turbo Trainer has resulted in 500 sales over the last 11 years. While that number may not be huge, it makes for a great little story:-)
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