Tennis Balls Serve As Decent Bicycle Tires That Don’t Easily Puncture

Pneumatic tires provide a great ride, great grip, and yet have one fatal flaw — they’re always getting punctured and leaving you stranded. [The Q] decided to solve this problem with a unique design: tires that use tennis balls as the cushioning medium instead.

The build begins with small cut sections of plastic water pipe. These are used as housings to hold tennis balls, which are pressed in with a unique tool of [The Q]’s own construction. The individual ball assemblies are then bolted into a standard bicycle wheel, and a tread from a regular bike tire is stretched around the outside for grip.

It goes without saying that these tires won’t offer the same quality of ride as regular pneumatic bike tires. Nor will the performance be as good, due to the significant extra unsprung weight. They are eye-catching and fun, however. Plus, if you live in an area with tons of nails or prickles, you might find these are just the ticket. Maybe.

We’ve seen some other great bike hacks before, too.

41 thoughts on “Tennis Balls Serve As Decent Bicycle Tires That Don’t Easily Puncture

  1. With the new reinforced bike tires, I rarely get a puncture. I recently replaced both front and bike tires because they were worn out, and I don’t think I got a single puncture in them.

    1. People think flats are common because they don’t air up their tires properly (too high or too low) and are outraged at the thought of a $50 bike tire.

      It’s also a completely solved problem: tubeless tires with sealant. A lot of road and most MTB are on tubeless these days.

      The biggest downside to solid tires of any kind is that they have terrible (like, orders of magnitude) rolling resistance. A pair of good 25-28mm road bike tires have less than 20-30W rolling resistance between them at 15-20mph.

      1. Sick of “tubeless are the solution”. Ride a good quality tyre (I like Armadillo Elites), change them once the wear markers are reached. Keep them in the advised pressure range. Inspect them frequently. Not had a puncture in 70K km now. Cheap, skinny, crappy tyres or worn tyres are the problem, tubeless or not. And for Winter commuting (14 miles each way) all weather I sometimes stick a slime tube in the back tyre on the Winter wheel. At least one in every three people I know who went tubeless reverted and of the others they all still run a mix rather than going all in.

      2. Really depends on the quality of roads you are riding on, and probably somewhat how big you are – I’ve popped inner tubes entirely more than once. I assume because I am rather heavy, travel fast and the roads love to develop deep, sharp, but invisible after light rain potholes. It is just too much inertia and point loading when you do hit the one you didn’t know about. Along with all the other junk on the road that may manage to work its way through even the toughest tyre in the end.

        That said I don’t think it is a massive problem, in the years of regular cycling over crap roads only had to carry the bike back a few times, and at least half of those were idiots letting down all the tyres in the bike stand. And most of the punctures that do get through decent tyres end up being tiny pinpricks that are easy to fix. (For that trip it was not worth carrying the repair kit and pump – the distance is short enough walking with the bike is still going to be quicker than fixing and pumping it up again, and it probably feels like less effort too – those hand pumps are horrible to use really).

      3. Tubeless is awful. I’m not sure how much it solves at the best of times, especially on the road. When I ran tubeless on my road bike, the one time I did get a significant leak, it was down to around 15-20PSI before it stopped leaking, after spraying sealant all over everything as it spins. When I tried filling it up again, it got to ~30PSI, and then started leaking again.
        Tubeless fans will argue that I would have gotten a flat either way, and that’s true, but the difference is that it takes about 5-10 min to swap a tube, depending if I’m in a hurry, and “just throw a tube in it” sounds better than it works in practice. It’s super messy, and difficult to do with tight fitting tires like most “tubeless” tires tend to be.

        I’ve also had catostrophic failures when the rim tape has split into a spoke hole on my cyclocross bike (was running about 60PSI for road use). That has happened twice.

        The gist of it IMO, is that most people who strongly advocate for tubeless are farting around with it so much that they never have enough time for it to fail.

        For large volume, low pressure mountain bike tires, maybe it’s arguable, but I’ll stick with tubes.

    2. Dunlop already makes tennis balls and tires. Get their engineers on this! “Love” it. Way to “serve” up a thought provoking idea. And Cyclops technology can be used for lane assistance — beeping if you stray outside the bike lane line. Seriously, though, the idea that individual air cells might make for a better, puncture-proof tire than just one round ring of air in a continuous, vulnerable tube has some merit worth exploring.

    3. I don’t even find “reinforced” makes much difference. When I was first getting into every-day road cycling for my commute, I used cheap low end continental road tires, and I got flats constantly, probably once a week on average. I switched to a much more expensive “gatorskin” tire, and it wasn’t too much better, still getting flats once or twice a month. I switched to their GP3000, and counterintuitively got many less flats, in spite of it being a much thinner casing with much softer rubber. Unfortunately, they also wore out down to the threads in about 2 months.
      I’ve found since I stopped using continental tires, I’ve gotten _way_ less flats. I’m currently riding schwalbe “g-one speed” tires, which are basically a 30mm thin casing road tire (with superficial bumps on the tread), and they’ve just about worn out, without a single flat.

      If you get a lot of flats, and they’re legitimate punctures (not pinch flats, or installation errors), just try a different make/model of tire next time. Even in thin and fast rolling road tires, some just seem to flat way less often.

      IME, tires sold as puncture-resistant don’t seem to hold up much better anyway.

  2. Nice idea, but i do wonder what happens when you ride your bicycle up a sidewalk curb, wont that just move the ‘outter rim’ up and cause the tennisballs at the top to no longer be held in place? or are they glued in place or something?

  3. I like the idea, but I think you are slightly overselling practicality as it stands. That outer tyre belt is not sufficiently restrained IMO on this version – I’d expect it to shed that at some point while riding (don’t think its going to be really trivial to make it happen though).

    Also have to ponder how long it will stay functional, tennis balls are pressurised gas filled with a rubber shell so getting partial punctures seems likely and over time they will loose pressure anyway. The rubber walls of the tennis ball might be stiff and springy enough to make it an ‘airless’ tyre type concept at that point. But then you have to ask if the press fit that restrains the tennis balls is sufficiently tight for a deflated ball.

    It really is a neat idea though, manage to wrap a bulkier tread more around the balls so it will have a much harder time working its way off them and perhaps try using balls without pressure inside as an airless tyre. However I doubt it is will be as good as the off the shelf airless you can buy, so as just a bit of fun this is A grade.

      1. Probably – But I prefer to treat even the folks that will prove to be real trolls and look like one from the begining seriously before there is true proof of their troll nature. Language is tricky to judge in text alone and not all of us speak the same language, even just dialect differences within the same language can really change the meaning – better to try and have a real conversation and just end up sharing in the joke if that was the intent than assume they are idiots/trolls/joking.

    1. Sorry, Wilson (the remote companion division) went bankrupt while trying to developing Wilma and Wilson v2, the more complete remote island companions. Seems like speech-capable versions were not well received regardless of the extra “features.”

  4. Oh man, that’s a great comment, so special and clever, why has nobody ever complained about HaD before?
    There’s all sorts of complaints you can make, like “not a hack”, “I could do that with an Arduino”, “I could do that with a 555”, “HaD was better in the old days”, etc etc

    1. Your comment is identical to countless other low-effort criticisms made in the comments section over the years. Don’t pretend you’re on some moral high ground. If you don’t like the content, you can stop reading, or you can submit things you think HaD should be covering instead. But you’re not going to like everything, and you’re not special for throwing a tantrum because you’re not getting personally catered to by a thing you’re getting for free.

  5. I like the concept. Squash balls could make this a little less massive; also, the fat tires now available might allow for installing the balls similar to how full compliment bearings are assembled.

    1. There is a nursing home full of us old folks that can’t use our walkers because of a shortage of tennis balls ! Now get off my lawn you young whipper snappers…!

  6. Cleaning those balls after they inevitably get dirty seems like it might be a losing battle. I’d rather fully enclosed them in a tire/tyre that’s easily washed off. Of course, that’d lose the spectacle of the wheel as currently displayed. Maybe some fabric stain guard would work?

    1. No. This is a for fun project. Anything professionally put out by a tire manufacturer will exceed this in every way, reliability, ease of use, and repairs. It got your attention and thats all it’s worth.

  7. I love this idea because it’s so ridiculous. But if you want a serious version of these, you can buy solid, non-pneumatic tires for most sizes of bike wheel, they kind of do the same thing by having very thick walls.

  8. A 4:30 video that includes a 1:30 ad for a vacuum robot? Thanks, YouTube, you suck!

    The tennis ball tire looks cool, but once I saw the implementation, it’s not so neat.

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