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Tires filled with pressurized inner tubes have helped to propel all kinds of bicycles for the past 100 years, but these tires are vulnerable to puncturing and require regular inflation.
Airless bike tire solutions look to overcome these issues, and Air Fom is a bicycle tire system that uses a multiple-foam insert instead of an air-pressurized inner tube, eliminating the risk of punctures or need for pumping.
What is the Air Fom Tire System and How Does it Work?
The tire is composed of a rigid core and foam outer layers, which are all glued to the rim with an adhesive. According to the official Air Fom website, a local bike shop can readily install this tire in approximately 30 minutes. In addition to eliminating the issues associated with an air-filled inner tube, the Air Fom tire is stable in a range of temperatures and maintains integrity after impact.
Air Fom is available in sizes for 700c, 16-inch and 26-inch wheels, and the company says more sizes are coming soon. The new tire system has been independently certified to meet the most recent US safety standards for bicycles.
The airless bike tire solution is based on “advanced particle foam”, which is common in athletic footwear. The Air Fom tire uses several kinds of particle foam, each one with a different density. Based on tire type and size, the Air Fom tire has two or three foam layers, which soften impact and offer protection to the bike wheel. Similar in function to the air pressure of an inner tube, the Air Fom tire uses “simulated pressure.”
The tire's "backbone" layer supplies a blend of rigidity, physical integrity, flexibility, resistance and the capacity to soak up significant impacts without damage. This layer also supplies the strength and weight required to support the rest of the tire system.
Only found in mountain bike versions of the Air Fom tire, the "foundation" layer is tightly fused to the backbone layer. This next layer is manufactured out of a lightweight material, which is vital for correct sizing, cushioning and overall performance.
The final layer is the “energy” layer. Providing safety and comfort, this layer helps to prevent the flat spots and rebound loss that can set in if a bike sits idle over several months.
Air Fom is built from state-of-the-art recyclable materials. Standard bicycle tires contain butyl tubes that require a substantial amount of intense energy to be broken down and used again. The advanced particle foams that comprise the Air Fom system can be recycled and reused with much less effort and energy.
The foams used to make the airless bike tire solutions are made using heat and water. Paints or dyes are not used, and the production sequence only releases heat and steam.
Air Fom is the single commercially available bicycle tire that is entirely airless. Weighing 240 g and 280 g, Air Fom is also one of the heaviest tubeless tire systems. That said, its weight does compare favorably to other systems. For example, the Continental GP 4-Season is a puncture-proof tire that weighs 320 g and has a 110-g inner tube.
The company specifies that their system is not designed for high-performance use. Therefore, the heavier weight may not be a concern for leisure riders.
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How Does Air Fom Compare to Other Puncture-Proof Systems?
Puncture-proof bicycle tires have been commercially available for years. However, airless bike tire solutions are more expensive than standard tires and many riders say they do not give the same "light" feel that air-filled tires provide.
Although Air Fom claims its system provides the highest level of technology for an airless tire system, it is just one of many options available to riders.
One of the most comparable tires is the Vittoria’s Air-Liner. Made specifically for mountain bikes, the tire is essentially a ring of foam that is secured with a zip tie, and is used in conjunction with tubeless sealant and air pressure. The weight of this tire ranges from approximately 160 g to 220 g, depending on size and is designed to last 2,000 riding hours.
The CushCore tire system is a foam insert for cycling applications that is positioned against the tire rim, providing a dampening effect. An adjustable air pocket above the insert layer functions as a spring.
Huck Norris Inserts comprise foam that is suspended between the broadest sections of a bike tire. When used with air pressure and sealant, the foam inserts can protect the tire from puncturing and the rim from deformation.
References and Further Reading
Cycling News (Advertorial). Air Fom: changing the perception of the airless tyre for the better. [Online] Available at: https://cyclingindustry.news/air-fom-changing-the-perception-of-the-airless-tyre-for-the-better/
Lakin, D. Is Air Fōm Your Next Airless Bike Tire System? [Online] TreadBikely. Available at: https://www.treadbikely.com/is-air-fom-your-next-airless-bike-tire-system/