When I was making the decision on whether or not to purchase tubeless bike tires there was a decided lack of information available on the internet to help me make my purchase. I found a few blurbs, but nothing in the way of comprehensive reviews that would convince me one way or the other whether these tubeless bicycle tires were worth the money, or whether the technology “wasn’t quite there yet”.
The limited information I was able to find pointed me to a company called Amerityre that produces not only airless bike tires, but also has working prototypes of run flat airless car tires. I found a Canadian distributor for their tubeless tires and took the plunge, placing my order. A couple of weeks later I received my new tubeless bike tires and anxiously got to work installing them.
Well, let me tell you, the installation is not as simple as they make it out to be. The videos available on the website of the distributor that I ordered from made it seem dead simple to easily roll a tubeless bike tire onto the rim. Well, maybe once you’ve done it a few hundred times that might be the case, but if it is your first time attempting this manoeuvre be prepared for plenty of grunting and swearing. Now, to be honest I am about as far away from being mechanically inclined as anyone with opposable thumbs can be so your experience might be a little better than mine was, but be prepared for some work just the same.
Once I had finally won the battle I was quivering with exhaustion, and I briefly considered parking the bike for the day, and taking the inaugural test ride at some point in the future. However, I was too curious to see how these tubeless bike tires would perform so I sucked it up, climbed into the saddle and pedaled out of my garage.
The first thing I noticed and the one thing you should absolutely take away from this tubeless bike tire review is that when you are riding you can feel every bump, crack or pebble in the road. Despite what you may have read about the cushioning of these tires, it is pure marketing hype. These are solid rubber, and feel nothing like pneumatic tires. After twenty minutes of riding my wrists and butt were sore from absorbing the impact normally dispersed by pneumatic tires. Long rides are not an option with these tires until your body has gotten used to the extra pounding it will take.
However, because I’d purchased these tubeless bicycle tires strictly for the purpose of commuting, and my ride was only about twenty minutes each way, I was willing to endure a little discomfort for the peace of mind of knowing I would arrive at my destination each day without having to worry about flat tires.
So, what about the performance? Airless bike tire manufacturers would have you believe that your ride will be just as efficient as it was on pneumatics. Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is definitely more rolling resistance and you will have to work harder for every mile. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The added work will give you a better workout and strengthen your legs. However, if you’ve had a hard day at work and all you want to do is get home and sprawl on the couch you’ll probably be cursing your bike as you slog your way home.
As you can tell, there are definitely some compromises when it comes to switching from pneumatics to tubeless bike tires. So why have I continued to ride on these for the better part of two years? One word: reliability. Getting to work without having to worry about being late because of a flat tire is worth the other inconveniences I have to put up with. If daily reliability on your commute to and from work is your ultimate goal then airless bicycle tires might just be the answer for you.
However, if you are considering purchasing them for touring, mountain biking, or pleasure riding forget about it. The sacrifice in speed in comfort is not worth it. Also, be advised that your body will not be the only thing taking an extra pounding. Unless your bike is equipped with full suspension it is going to take a serious beating over time as well. After riding on these tires for nearly two years I’ve noticed by rims are badly warped. Be prepared for some additional bike maintenance costs if you decide to pick up these tubeless bike tires.