Punctures suck. Regardless of how good you are at changing a tube, they still get in the way. They invariably seem to happen to me when it is raining, which just makes the experience so much worse. An added complication is that I have pit-lock locking skewers on my bike so I don’t have to worry about my wheels getting pinched. These are a little fiddlier to remove when changing a flat than with quick releases.
I have puncture resistant tyres on my bike and have generally been fine. However, I maintain my tyres regularly and pick out some nasty looking bits of glass and stone before they make their way through the full tyre thickness. I didn’t do this to the tyres on my Brompton in time and a piece of glass worked its way through, causing a puncture.
I was first made aware of a new breed of solid tyres about 18 months ago, and I was intrigued. I liked the thought of never having to worry about a puncture, and of my tyres always being at the right pressure. I was somewhat sceptical and I have heard the critics stating pneumatic tyres were invented for a reason. But I am naturally curious and like to figure things out myself, and so when I spotted Tannus Tire at the London Bike Show a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance of getting hold of a set to try out.
What are they?
Tannus are a Korean company who started out making running shoe sole material. In the early 2000’s they started trying to build a bicycle tyre, with the first prototype made in 2004. The first version of the tyre, using the compound Aither 1 was released in 2011, and the upgraded version of the compound, Aither 1.1, was released in 2015.
The tyres are a solid piece of polymer that attach to clincher rims – the part of the wheel that a wire bead attaches to on a regular tyre. There are some little plastic pegs that go through the tyre and hold it into the rim. These pegs have to be carefully selected to make sure the tyre fits correctly. With the pegs selected and inserted, the tyre is then pushed into the rim. It looks pretty simple. I had mine fitted at E1 cycles – these guys sell them and have a fitting machine which makes installing take no time at all. You can do it at home as well though, Tannus Europe have made a handy video.
The tyres come in a flavour to suit most bikes, including a Brompton version. I did not try these out, but could see them being a great addition. There really is nothing more infuriating than trying to put a Brompton rear wheel back on! The pair I tried out are the 700X28, suitable for most commuter bikes that normally take ‘road’ tyres. They cost £54.99 each.
Weight wise the 700×28 comes in at 430g per tyre, significantly lighter than a Schwalbe Marathon for example at 560g, excluding the inner tube and rim tape. The 700×32 is a little heavier and more comparable to the weight of a Marathon. However, you still need to account for the inner tube, rim tape, pump, tyre levers etc needed with those on the off chance you do get a flat.
I was expecting to take some time to get used to the tyres and was cautious at first. This was not necessary however as I found that they didn’t feel any different from the Bontrager Hardcase AW1 tyres that came off my bike. The recommended tyre pressure on those tyres was 85-100 psi, and I always kept them at the upper end of that. The Tannus tyres just feel the same as a high pressure, low volume road tyre and so they just felt the same.
I didn’t notice any drag on the tyres. The ones I have are the Road Cross version at 700 x 28 and have some tread along the sides but are otherwise fairly slick. Having tried outcome Marathon Plus tyres briefly, I think the Tannus ones potentially have less drag. I had several people try them out and this was the general consensus.
I think the main difference I noticed was in cornering, but I quickly got used to the small alteration in handling as it was not worse, just different. I think this might have been in large part because I had switched from 32mm tyres to 28mm and I was feeling that difference, rather than a specific difference for solid versus pneumatic.
It is really relieving to not have to worry about whether your tyre is going to be flat in the morning or when you come out of work in the evening. It is also nice to not have to attempt to dodge around large piles of glass on the side of the road. In terms of peace of mind they are really worth it and it is hard to over exaggerate this point. Have you ever had a tyre blow up one while riding? I have, it was not something I want to experience again.
They have no discernible rolling resistance or drag compared to my old tyres. The range of tread patterns available is great, so there are slick ones if you are mostly cycling through the city. I am not a particular fast cyclist, nor do I ride a speedy bike. If I was switching from some racing slicks I would have noticed a difference, but from standard commuter tyres the Tannus do not roll slower.
The grip of the pretty slick version I have is still good enough for canal paths and city roads. After I got used to the tiny handling difference, I felt that the grip on wet roads was as good as my previous tyres. I had been a little be worried about it so had been cautious into corners, but I soon realised there was no need.
It is a fairly trivial point I guess, but I really like that they come in different colours. I like being able to have something a little different on my bike that makes it stand out, but not in a standard bling, stealable way. If nothing else, it is handy to be able to spot my bike in a bike rack sea outside Liverpool street station when I forgot exactly where I put it!
There really are no significant bad points to these tyres really, assuming you are used to using road tyres at their correct pressure. If you regularly ride around on squishy tyres then you will feel that these tyres are quite firm. It is one of the main complaints they have received from others – especially from those who tout the ‘pneumatic tyres were invented for a reason’. Well this is true, but technology has come on a ways since then, especially polymer science.
The fitting process is unusual. It is not particularly hard or complex and it does not take forever, but it does require some thought. When I was speaking with Tannus they said the main reason people have problems with the tyres is they rush the fitting process. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this you will have to go to a shop to get them fitted, which is what Tannus recommend anyway.
I really like these tyres for their fit and forget nature. They grip well, they don’t have any discernible drag compared to my old tyres, and they don’t really feel any more jarring. A high performance cyclist could notice a difference over a top of the line racing tyre, but then these tyres are not really aimed at racing. I let several people ride my bike around, and none of them said they felt a difference between the solid tyres and their usual, regardless of terrain type.
At £50-£60 each, depending on tyre type, they are a little more expensive than regular tyres, but they should last longer and cut down on the amount of inner tubes you have to buy. If you are someone who takes their puncture to the shop to be fixed, your savings will rack up pretty quickly.
For the average commuter and urban cyclist, these tyres are really worth considering.
*Disclosure – Tannus provided us with the tyres, but we approached them about reviewing them and were under no obligation to say nice things about them, we just genuinely liked them*