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As a child I had solid rubber inner tubes in my bike. They were a pain to get on but after I never had a flat again!

Now I've recently started biking again and have had two flats in two days, each resulting in a three-mile walk back home. I've been searching for solid rubber tubes for a few hours now, but have only found them at wal*mart, and they don't have the correct size? (700x38c)

Why have they disappeared? I thought they were a fantastic product . . .

5
  • You could try getting puncture resistant tyres, e.g. bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/27
    – Wilka
    May 25, 2011 at 16:22
  • I remember maybe 30 years ago seeing solid tubes advertised, but haven't seen them recently. They are no longer really necessary (if they ever were) given that modern aramid-belted tires are virtually puncture-proof. Basically, the market dried up. May 2, 2012 at 1:17
  • I used some tyres from greentyre.co.uk/bike.html for a few years because I was getting a lot of flats on one particular commute route, for reasons I never did work out. (Still available in the UK, but I bought them from a local shop which no longer stocks them.) They sucked (and unless they've changed design, "easier to install than a normal bike tyre" is an outright lie - they certainly weren't going to roll off though), but not as badly as the flats did. Then I changed commute. (And then I bought some Marathon Plus tyres, but that was a different bike with wider tyres.)
    – armb
    May 9, 2013 at 9:25
  • I'm gonna buy a Tannus soon :)
    – lllllll
    Dec 2, 2015 at 10:54
  • Great question. I just got 5 flats in the past 4 times riding my bike (3 on back wheel and 2 on the front). And this is after having only 1 flat in about the previous 2000 rides. I'm definitely feeling unlucky, frustrated, and discouraged from riding more. My tire inflation and routes don't seem to be the problem. I'll probably go to a different bike shop this time.
    – Ryan
    Aug 9, 2016 at 14:46

6 Answers 6

31

You should not be getting multiple flat tires in such a short timespan. I commute on poorly-maintained roads in Atlanta, and have not had a flat tire in 4,000 miles.

In order of estimated likelihood, either:

  1. your tires are not properly inflated
  2. your tires are worn or punctured and need to be replaced
  3. you have a sharp object embedded on the inside of your tire
  4. you are exceedingly unlucky

If you've just started cycling again, I think it's exceedingly probable that you've simply neglected to inflate your tires to their recommended pressure. Standard road tires should be inflated to pressures of 100PSI and beyond. Mountain bike tires (which are awful for road use, but I digress...) require much less. It's easy to grossly underestimate how much to inflate a bike tire, and a standard hand pump will likely only get you to 30-60 PSI before you give up.

Take your bicycle to your nearest bike shop and have them examine the situation. Flat tires should not be a common occurrence.

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  • 10
    This doesn't answer the question I stated, but it is getting marked as correct because you are spot on: it was problem #3.
    – JIStone
    May 23, 2011 at 23:30
  • It should also be noted that there are some tires that are fantastic that at resisting punctures. If that's a particular problem ask your LBS about your options. There are also some other related products that can be used if you can't find tires that suite and have the puncture resistance. May 24, 2011 at 12:04
  • 2
    Not everyone needs 100psi plus. bikequarterly.com/images/TireDrop.pdf (PDF) May 1, 2013 at 11:58
  • Poor quality roads don't increase the likelihood of getting a flat that much. Construction in an area, on the other hand, means staples and nails and the like to punch holes in your tires. Indeed, I'd expect poor roads to be correlated with less debris and longer tube life.
    – dhasenan
    Nov 11, 2014 at 20:21
  • 1
    5. Poor cycling technique - ride around potholes, not through them. Don't ride off kerbs/curbs. Don't ride up curbs either, use driveway ramps. If you are riding over rough stuff, unweight your saddle (ie, stand up) and flex your legs to take the shock out of the impacts.
    – Criggie
    Nov 13, 2016 at 9:29
28

Basically, they're harsh and hard on your wheels. A quick look at Sheldon Brown's site will tell you more:

Airless tyres have been obsolete for over a century, but crackpot "inventors" keep trying to bring them back. They are heavy, slow and give a harsh ride. They are also likely to cause wheel damage, due to their poor cushioning ability. A pneumatic tyre uses all of the air in the whole tube as a shock absorber, while foam-type "airless" tyres/tubes only use the air in the immediate area of impact.

Also, many shops will discourage airless tires. It's certainly possible they may get better given time, though, so it's worth keeping an eye on the situation.

To address the other part of your question, they're still available, but a specialty item. I found quite a few of them on Google Products, although finding them in 700x38 might be a challenge.

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  • 3
    "They might make sense is if you commute a short distance to catch a train, and a flat tire would mean missing the train and being very late to work."
    – William
    May 14, 2018 at 3:04
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To answer the actual question, they are no longer sold in the US. In most locations, they aren't legal to sell. A bicycle tire uses the pressure from the inflation of the tube, (or in the case of tubeless tires, the tire itself is inflated), against the casing of the tire to lock the bead of the tire into the rim.

Without that pressure lock, the tires roll off the rim.

Since a solid tube or solid manufactured tire can't by definition inflate against the bead, they were both abnormally hard to install, and prone to rolling off the wheel in use. So they were considered unsafe, and are no longer sold anywhere that I am aware of.

Certainly, no reputable shop will sell them.

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  • 2
    I'm not sure how a solid tire rolling off the rim is more dangerous than having a pneumatic tire blowout? Both seem to be equally bad. Only difference might be in how often it occurs? Jun 20, 2011 at 13:39
  • 11
    When a solid tire rolls off the rim, it is extremely likely to cause mischief. For instance, think about 2 inches of solid rubber jamming itself between your fork and your front rim at 15-20 MPH. But you're right, the main reason is that is certain that you will have a problem with a solid tube or tire. On a pneumatic tire, you usually have the ability of riding out the flat. I've had several major blowouts, but never crashed because of it.
    – zenbike
    Jun 20, 2011 at 14:02
  • If you inflate a rubber doughnut, the entire object will get bigger. Both diameters increase: inner and outer. So, as you add pressure to a tire, it basically wants to pull away from the rim. A solid tire can be stretched onto the rim, and basically press tightly into it like a rubber band. Between the two, my money would be on the solid tire staying in place.
    – Kaz
    Sep 23, 2012 at 7:21
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    @Kaz, I understand the thought, but the rim is designed to hook on to a pneumatic tire, and the increase in pressure actually increases the security of that hook. (Up to a point. Going to far with anything is bad.) But a solid tire which is made tight enough to be secure on the rim, is a tire which is too tight to be installed on the rim. Since the tire has to be installed, there has to be some give in the tire, and that give is what allows it to come off the rim, especially during cornering, even at speeds which would be considered slow on a pneumatic tire.
    – zenbike
    Sep 23, 2012 at 8:17
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    Yes. What is asked about is what is available: what is the state of the art of airless bicycle tubes, from the perspective of today's consumer. (But even if that is not so good, let's not damn the whole concept.) Regarding how you would change that tire? The special wheel could have a way of doing that (E.g. a rim that disassembles by splitting radialy). Or simply the entire wheel could be treated as recyclable. You get a new wheel (or refurbished one) and the old one goes to some factory to be refurbished.
    – Kaz
    Sep 23, 2012 at 16:19
5

Carry a flat-fixing kit. You don't need much; patches, tire tools, something to inflate the tire again. Small, light frame-mounted pumps are readily available, and if you don't want to pump, CO2 inflators. You can even get hand-clean-up goo in handy little packs.

With a bit of practice you can be rolling in about the same time needed to change tires on your car.

As well, you can take preventive measures. Avoid super-light tubes. Keep your tires properly inflated. Keep an eye out for visible hazards like potholes and broken car-window glass.

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  • 4
    Unfortunately, this answer doesn't actually mention solid tires.
    – amcnabb
    Sep 19, 2012 at 4:54
1

I came across a solid tire. SERENITY

https://www.bikeradar.com/news/eurobike-2010-hutchinsons-puncture-proof-serenity-tube/

1

Airless tyres are available at least from Tannus but they're not solid tubes. They're solid tyres. A tube is something that fits inside a clincher or tubular tyre. I can't imagine how fitting a solid tube would be possible. There are several armors but they are not tubes, they are armors that fit between the air-filled inner tube and the tyre.

You shouldn't use airless tyres, however, as on nearly any kind of road they have excessive rolling resistance, which makes you so slow it takes the enjoyment away from cycling.

About the only case where extra puncture protection helps is areas that have ice on the roads during some parts of the year, and also at the same time have flawed decisionmakers that think cyclists should use the same paths that pedestrians use.

Pedestrians would fall all the time on ice, because ordinary shoes don't have studs, so therefore they distribute a form of sharp gravel made from crushed rock on these paths. This sharp gravel can have thin and long pieces as long as 14mm. The reason this happens is that they use 6mm sieve to filter away the largest crushed fragments, but a 5mm x 5mm x 14mm fragment would be small enough to fit through that sieve, as the sieve only restricts the two smallest dimensions of gravel pieces, and not the largest dimension of gravel pieces. Also, the crushed rock makes the gravel extremely sharp.

The combination of wet paths from melting snow and sharp gravel fragments that may be as long as 14mm mean that you have more than one puncture per 100km if you use ordinary tyres. The water acts as a lubricant between tyre rubber and the gravel pieces. In this case, I understand that someone might want to have extra puncture protection. However, also if riding in this environment you benefit from studded tyres. There are no studded airless tyres available, but you can buy a very thick tyre armor from Tannus. It fits inside the studded tyre and the inner tube but you do need to use much smaller inner tube because the armor is so thick. It can be used with any tyre, including a studded tyre.

The armor successfully prevents sharp gravel from puncturing your tyres. It also has a very high rolling resistance and is a real pain to fit between the tube and tyre (so you want to fit it once to a secondary wheelset and leave it there, not changing it every season). You want to use this armor only during the times the sharp gravel is on the roads. Once it has been collected away from the roads, you should swap to a summer wheelset that has low rolling resistance (=thin) tyres and no armor.

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  • By "armors" you're referring to a tyre liner ?
    – Criggie
    Jun 10, 2022 at 22:54
  • 1
    @Criggie I am referring to a tyre armor. As far as I know, tyre liner refers to something so thin it cannot possibly prevent a puncture. Tyre armor works by its thickness. It's easy to penetrate a tyre armor, but you need an object longer than the total thickness of the outer tyre, the tyre armor, and the inner tube.
    – juhist
    Jun 11, 2022 at 8:32
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    Another difference: Tyre liners are very easy to fit, but tyre armor requires fighting from between half an hour to an hour. Also, tyre liners generally are long liners, whereas tyre armors are loops so there's no end at the loop. The end of tyre liner generally punctures your tube if you use them. The material is different too: tyre armors are made from soft foam.
    – juhist
    Jun 11, 2022 at 8:36

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