Cycling has an incredibly low carbon footprint – just 21 grams of CO2 per km, which is less than walking or catching public transport and just one-tenth of the carbon footprint of driving. Despite the big contribution cyclists are making to a greener world, global warming continues to be a pressing problem, with NOAA’s 2020 Annual Climate Report showing that seven out of the 10 hottest years have occurred since 2014. The statistics indicate that everyone – including cyclists – can do their share to reduce their carbon footprint. Tires are arguably one of the least eco-friendly components of bikes but is it possible that they will soon be a whole lot ‘greener’?
Taking a Note from Green Vehicle tire
The vehicle industry has made great strides in the sustainable tire industry, which is good news considering the fact that tires dumped in landfills lead to a host of problems – including soil leaching, overflowing and spreading of trash, and the provision of habitats to harmful mosquitoes and rats. Just a few innovations in the industry include 3D printed eco tires (which do not require inflation and which use biodegradable materials), artificial intelligence (to help tires adapt to different road conditions – including snow and rain), and the manufacture of ultra-sturdy tires that are immune to blowouts.
Cycling tires Made of Dandelions
One of the most important breakthroughs made in green manufacturing involves the creation of bike tires from crossbred dandelion plants (by Continental). Dandelions are easy to grow vertically in greenhouses and are highly resilient. They produce latex just six months after they are planted, in stark contrast to rubber trees, which take 30 years to grow and achieve their potential rubber yield. Dandelion latex has additional advantages – including less rolling resistance and improved grip.
Puncture Proof tires
Solid or puncture-proof tires, such as those made by Tannus and Gecko – may still involve the use of rubber, but at least they keep tires out of landfills, giving them a long life indeed thanks to their puncture-resistant nature. Gecko tires are made with a patented lightweight rubber that comes in a single compound and can be completely ground down and reused (i.e. they can be 100% recycled). Cycling Weekly tested Tannus’ Aither 1.1 700c tires, finding that although they were slow and heavy at low speed, once on flat roads at a good space, they became significantly more pleasant to use.
Making tires from Guayule
In 2020, Bridgestone Corporation announced that it had built tires using 100% of its natural rubber components derived from a desert shrub (guayule, which proliferates in arid zones). This natural rubber was cultivated by Bridgestone itself and was used for components such as the tread, bead filter, and sidewall. The company is currently working on producing this material for passenger tires though there is no reason why the technology cannot eventually be used for bike tires as well.
Cycling is already one of the most sustainable means of transport in existence. Still, there is always room for improvement when it comes to lowering the human global carbon footprint. From dandelion tires to those made with guayule and 100% recyclable tires, the tire manufacturing industry is certainly making big inroads into a greener cycling experience.
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