The SMART Tire Company (STC) has released details of an airless bicycle tyre that is constructed with a casing made from nickel titanium alloy and developed in conjunction with Nasa.
The Metl bicycle tyre is said to be designed for road, gravel, mountain and ebike applications, and the technology the tyre is based on was first used by Nasa for the wheels on martian and lunar rovers.
What is the Metl tyre made from?
Nickel-titanium alloy (also known as NiTinol+) is a shape memory alloy that “rearranges its molecular structure when you bend it, but instantly goes back to its original shape, perfectly”.
This forms the ‘casing’ of the tyre, with the tyre then coated in Polyurethanium. This is a “rubber-like material” that offers “the longest-lasting tread and grip for all weather conditions”.
STC adds that because the casing of the tyre is structural, it is not strictly necessary to coat the sidewalls of the tyres, but does so to keep debris from entering the tyre.
This creates what STC claims is a “game-changing, non-pneumatic [and] compliant tyre” that offers a “lightweight, smooth ride with superior handling and durability”, adding that the tyre will last “the life of your bicycle”.
What kind of bike is the Metl tyre designed for?
Though the press images only show a slick tyre, the brand is pitching the tyre as suitable for road, gravel, mountain and ebike applications.
The press pack for the tyre does not specify whether the tyre fits like a standard clincher or a tubular, but the images included show it fitted to an otherwise normal looking deep-section wheel, suggesting nothing out of the ordinary is going on.
Felt Bicycles is supplying test bikes to STC and will be involved as a development partner. The company also has an existing relationship with Spin, a bike and scooter-sharing company owned by Ford.
While the Metl tyre technology will debut on bicycles, there are intentions for it to break into the “auto industry and beyond”.
How much will the tyres weigh and what do they ride like?
There is no claimed weight for the Metl tyre, but the STC website claims the system is “competitive with many mainstream alternatives”.
The other key question is whether the tyre will present an increase in rolling resistance compared to a traditional rubber tyre.
According to STC, a prototype version of the tyre that was built to simulate a standard pneumatic tyre inflated to 100psi has been ridden by the test team and the difference between the Metl tyre and a pneumatic tyre was “not noticeable”.
When will these tyres be available and how much will they cost?
The press release for the tyres included no further information on expected availability, projected pricing or in-depth technical details.
We have contacted SMART Tire Company for further details and will update this article once we hear back. In the meantime, let us know if you have any further questions in the comments.