NASA-inspired airless bicycle tyres smash crowdfunding target

Two years ago, the Smart Tyre Company (STC), an Ohio-based start-up, developed an airless tyre for road bikes in partnership with NASA. The tyres used the same technology as the tyres for planetary rovers, which are said to have both the elasticity of rubber and the strength of titanium.

Now, the tyres are available to purchase via, somewhat predictably, a Kickstarter campaign. For $500, pledgers will receive two ‘Metl’ tyres, an ‘Astronaut Glitter Sticker’, and a virtual tour of the company’s lab.

The new tyres are, according to STC “just like pneumatic tires”, with “low rolling resistance”. They achieve this by using “shape memory alloys” that conform to the shape of the ground.

Within each tyre is a wire coil, just like a slinky, with a rubber tread on top. This inner coil is made from a material called ‘Nitinol’, a lightweight, flexible, superelastic metal that “stretches like rubber, but is strong like titanium”, according to STC.

“Until now, you needed to work for NASA, a high-end biomedical manufacturer, or maybe the military to find superelastic Nitinol performing its magic,” read a statement from the company. “Rolling out SMA to consumer markets is a little like discovering carbon fibre for the first time, and cycling is poised to get the first benefits.”

So far, the campaign has been a success. At the time of writing, it has attracted 207 backers and raised more than £86,000, already far surpassing the goal of just over £20,000. In fact, STC claims to have done that in just 18 minutes.