Air Free Tires

A couple of weeks ago, on a beautifully sunny day in Northern Colorado, I went into garage and looked at Carrie, a.k.a. Ultimate Commuter Bike 2.0. I had a meeting to go to in town and it seemed like a perfect day to go there on a bicycle.

I rolled her out only to be slightly distressed by this: a squishy flat tire. No, make that two flat tires! Shaking my head, I leaned the bike back against the wall in disgust and jumped in the Alfa Romeo instead.

This was the second time in a month that a flat tire on the commuter bike prompted me to use an internal combustion engined vehicle instead of pedaling. Clearly, if the bike was to live up to its billing as the “ultimate” commuter, it was going to have to be a little more reliable. Something would have to change.

I decided to try a product I’ve researched ever since getting a frustrating three flats in the 2002 Knoxville Double Century: Air Free Tires. Air Free is a distributor of closed-cell polyurethane-nylon tires that don’t require air and hence cannot go flat!

Solid tires have been around for eons—they were the dominant tire type on all types of vehicles before Charles Terront won the first edition of Paris-Brest-Paris on Michelin tires, which popularized the pneumatic design. However, they fell out of favor for various reasons.

Cycling guru Sheldon Brown explains,

Airless tires 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 tire uses all of the air in the whole tube as a shock absorber, while foam-type “airless” tires/tubes only use the air in the immediate area of impact.

Airless tire schemes have also been used by con artists to gull unsuspecting investors. My advice is to avoid this long-obsolete system.

Sheldon’s warnings were enough to dissuade me from trying airless tires for four years—until now (being fed up with dealing with flats while commuting). During that time, Air Free Tires—whose website went live in 1999—has managed to stay in business, indicating that it was more than just some “crackpot” scheme. Yet, there seemed to be few reviews and lack of consensus on these tires, mainly because few people—perhaps scared off by claims such as Sheldon’s—refused to try them.

Indeed, most online discussions about them were generally held within recumbent circles who are more apt to try something different. Yet these discussions were somewhat (unintentionally and ironically) undermined by Air Free Tires’ founder/president Hugh Waters, who expected to produce a new, resilient “Open Road” line of airless tires which would offer as low rolling resistance as top-of-the-line Michelin pneumatics. Those posts ultimately had these effects:

  1. They gave readers the impression that Air Free’s existing stock of road tires must be woefully inadequate if Hugh was saying “just wait for our Open Road tires.”
  2. They made customers like myself put off trying Air Free’s existing tires and wait for the Open Road tires (which never made it to mass production, I think).
  3. They caused other readers to discount altogether the discussions on the assumption of bias since so many threads contained page-long posts by the president of a major source of airless tires.

It’s a pity, because after trying the tires myself, I’ve concluded that not only have modern airless tires been unfairly maligned, but they are a very viable alternative to pneumatic tires. Below are my impressions from both objective and subjective tests.

The Setup

I ordered a pair of Air Free Daytona HP (HP = “high performance”) 700×20 tires for my Cannondale CAAD3 bicycle. This is a bona fide race bike that Mario Cippolini rode to many stage victories in the Tour de France in the late 90s that I am nevertheless using as a (fast) commuter bike. The frame is extremely stiff and was accused as being one of the harshest riding frames in the world. (Indeed, Cannondale introduced S-bend chainstays and designed in more resilience into subsequent model lines to address these claims). You would figure that if tires were exceedingly “harsh”, I’d feel it with this bicycle.

Before mounting the Air Free Daytonas, I had been riding the bike with a Michelin Axial Select tire in the front and a Continental Supersport Ultra in the rear. These are the benchmarks for my comparison tests.


The Cannondale CAAD3 with new Air Free tires
during a nighttime commute ride.

Ordering from Air Free

In the message boards, many people said that Hugh Waters was great to deal with (including taking the time to answer questions over the phone) and his company provided great service with fast shipping. However, there were a few dissenters who claimed his company wasn’t shipping product and was being unresponsive.

In my case, I ordered online from the airfreetires.com website. I placed my online order around noon on December 6th and received them via UPS Ground on December 13th, for a turnaround time of five business days. I was happy with that.

It should be noted, however, that the Daytonas were not shipped directly from Air Free, which is based in Florida. Instead, they were shipped (and, I believe, manufactured) by Nu-Teck, which is based in Englewood, Colorado—about 70 miles from where I live in Fort Collins. In fact, the invoice I received says the tires I ordered were “sold to Air Free Tires,” but shipped to me. Therefore—at least in the case of the Daytonas—Air Free is simply being a distributor for Nu-Teck.

Air Free (as I write this on December 18, 2006) is selling the Daytonas for less than what Nu-Teck is charging for them (if you were to buy from Nu-Teck directly).

(Update October 2007: I have been getting several reports from people, including my good friend Adam, about long processing or shipment times by Air Free Tires. See the comments left by readers at the bottom of this page. The impression I am getting is that Hugh Waters means well, but he and his company are very disorganized. They appear to have been that way for years. Buyers beware—one may be better off dealing with Nu-Teck directly for the Daytonas.)

(Update September 2008: I am getting complaints about Air Free Tires and their unresponsiveness weekly. I’d recommend not doing business with them and ordering directly from Nu-Teck instead.)

(Update February 2010: The Better Business Bureau has registered at least 66 complaints against Air Free Tires Inc. and has given it an ‘F’ grade. Absolutely do not try to purchase anything from this company.)

Cost

Air Free right now has a special deal going on where you can buy two Daytona HPs for $50 total (plus $10.20 for shipping and handling via UPS Ground). I think that is a pretty darn good deal. By comparison, normal clincher tires retail for around $20-50 each if you avoid the lowest-end stuff.

Individually, an Air Free Daytona HP is going for $39.63. Nu-Teck is selling the same tire for $39.95. Nu-Teck’s shipping and handling charges are also higher ($13.95), making it cost effective to order from Air Free.

Weight

The weight of the Air Free Daytona HPs surprised me, especially since Air Free Tires advertise them as being 450 grams.

In fact, when I received them and put them on my digital scale, one weighed 340 grams, and the other, 355 grams!

In contrast, here are the weights of my previous pneumatic tire setups (all weights are measured weights, not published ones):

Michelin Axial Select 700x23c: 255g
Regular butyl tube: 95g
Velox cloth rim strips: 15g
TOTAL: 365 grams

Continental Supersport Ultra 700x23c (wire bead version): 290g
Regular butyl tube: 95g
Velox cloth rim strips: 15g
TOTAL: 400 grams

Note that when using an airless tire, you do not need a tube or rim strip. So, in fact, the 700x20c airless tire setup is actually lighter than the 700x23c pneumatic ones (in these cases, 10-45 grams less rotational weight). Granted, 700x20c pneumatic tires are generally about 20g lighter than their 700x23c brethren. Therefore, if we were to strictly compare 700x20c airless vs. pneumatic tires, they should weigh about the same and there is no weight penalty.

Additional weight is saved by not having to carry spare tubes, a pump or CO2 cartridges. I.e., one can will save about 0.5-1 pound of non-rotational weight by not having to carry these items on a ride. (Less things to be stolen off of a commuter bike, too.)

Mounting

According to Air Free’s website, any 700c wheels with a bead width of 14-17mm and depth of 6mm would accommodate a Daytona HP. My rear rim (on a Performance-brand wheel) measured just over 14mm so I did not expect to have a problem. My front rim—a Mavic Open 4CD—measured 13.4mm for its bead width, but since the Air Free website specifically said “such as the Mavic Open Pro” rim, I ordered a pair of Daytona HPs anyway.

I am happy to report I had no problems installing the tires on either rim. Mounting the airless tires was actually surprisingly easy (contrary to others’ claims). When I received the tires, no instructions were given. I had first envisioned installing them with tire irons, but this did not work. I then busted out a lead knockoff hammer and pounded the tire on. That worked. :)

Not only did using the knockoff hammer install the tire easily, it also convinced me that the tire was capable of absorbing ample amounts of shock to prevent wheel damage. No damage was done to the rim with this method, as the tire effectively damped each of my blows.

A rubber mallet probably would have worked as well. Don’t ask me about a sledgehammer. :)

I have yet to try to remove the tires. (I understand one uses tire irons to do this. A thinner flat-bladed screwdriver would probably be better.) However, considering how snugly they fit on the rim, I am absolutely convinced the tires will not peel off on their own under any circumstances while riding.

Riding Impressions

After I mounted the tires, it was time to try them out. I ended up doing errands around town, riding the bike 15 miles.

When I first got on the bike and started moving, they seemed to roll just fine, like a normal tire. The tires did not seem to decelerate any quicker (or slower) than my former pneumatic tires when coasting, suggesting that there is not a huge difference in rolling resistance.

Indeed, when I rode over to the library 5.8 miles away (being sure to ride at a normal, comfortable effort, which included a lot of coasting especially around Old Town), my average speed of 14.6 mph was not significantly different than normal. Compare this to my other commuting rides.

One thing I did notice that when I was coasting, the bike felt a little more squirrelly, like a very subtle weaving. I attribute that to a ridge along the center of the tire that is a remnance of the moulding (manufacturing) process:

I only felt this while coasting, and it was not very disconcerting. Also, it looks like I could easily shave off this ridge with a razor blade or Dremel (rotary) tool, but have not done so yet. In any case, I expect this ridge to naturally wear off with riding.

Other than that, I thought the tires rode marginally harsher than pneumatic tires, but not vastly so. They may have also felt harsher because I expected them too (the power of suggestion). When I rode home in darkness—which I believe accentuates one’s sense of feel—I would not have qualified the tires as “overly harsh”.

Air Free rates the Daytona HP as being “equivalent” to a 90-psi pneumatic tire, but maybe Air Free meant that they have the equivalent rolling resistance of 90-psi pneumatic tires. In my experience, 90 psi for a pneumatic 700x20c tire is a little soft, and the Daytona HP rides harder than that.

One thing I loved about these airless tires was their feel when I would rise out of the saddle. With pneumatic tires, rising out of the saddle usually is accompanied by a mushy “squirm” (either in feel or sound) of the front tire. There is less “squirm” felt with these tires. You would think “well, of course they must ride much harsher too then,” but the polyurethane/nylon material seems to absorb shock well.

In fact, when riding home, I purposely jumped curbs, rode over branches, potholes, and a hard-packed dirt road to further test the shock absorption abilities. I never felt unduly beat up and I would have sworn that the tires rode no harsher than the last time I rode over the dirt road with pneumatic tires. The beauty of the airfree tires is that you can ride through all of these things without fear of getting a flat tire! I felt the shock absorption was good enough that no rim damage would occur, either.

Cornering Impressions

I have yet to really lean the bike at an aggressive angle while rounding a sharp corner at race speeds, so I can’t comment too much here. But going around corners at normal speed, so far they have inspired as much confidence as normal tires.

Wet-Weather Riding

It hardly rains in Northern Colorado (especially in the winter), so I have yet to try them on wet roads. I have read one report that Air Free tires don’t grip as well in the wet, but cannot comment on that other than I suspect the report was exaggerated.

Assuming they do ride well in wet-weather conditions, their “flat-free” advantages are potentially even more significant, considering that pneumatic tires are more prone to flatting (since debris sticks to tires and then get rolled over… see my 2005 “Butterflood” Double Century report).

I will report back later when I’ve had a chance to ride in adverse conditions.

[Amendment 12/24/06: As tested a few days later, the tires did well on wet roads, okay through very shallow snow and slushy ice, and was terrifying on hard ice---just like regular tires. I thought there was no perceptible difference in performance at all between airless and pneumatic tires in these conditions.]

Durability

Since I have only started using these tires I can’t report on how long they last. If anything, I expect them to last much longer than regular tires. I usually have to replace regular tires after 1500-3000 miles as they noticeably start getting more flat tires. With airless tires, even if much of the material is worn down, “getting more flat tires” is a non-issue.

Conclusion

I am impressed by these tires. They have convinced me that all generic claims made about modern airless tires—heavy, poor rolling resistance, hard to mount, crackpot money-making schemes, etc.—are bunk.

That they ride harsher than pneumatic tires may be true, but only marginally so. I personally don’t think they ride all that uncomfortably (and note that when I did my commuting rides, I was wearing jeans instead of padded cycling shorts!), and I especially like how I no longer have to worry about flat tires, carrying tire changing tools, or pumping up the tires before going into town.

They are perfect for the Ultimate Commuter Bike, and I believe they may even viable for training rides for competitive cyclists who don’t want to deal with flats. The main people they would not be suitable for are racers and people who are really picky about ride quality (most of these people ride sew-ups anyhow :) ).

If you try them out, please let me know what you think.

More photos are here.

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112 thoughts on “Air Free Tires

  1. I did exactly what you did and was happy until around the 250 mile mark when the front tires began to split down the center line (I had 4 tires on two bikes). If you think it’s squirrely now wait till this happens. I contacted Hugh and after making me wait 6 months for a reply, he told me to send them back to the manufacturer. I sent them back and never received a refund or a reply to my numerous messages from anybody since.

    My conclusion is that they’re very dangerous and both companies, air-free and nu-tek are criminals. Make sure you get photos and have the tires assessed by a Gov’t representative before sending back the tires that fail. They’ll pretend it never happened. Imagine the recall costs.

    Now I ride on Bontrager race lite ‘Hard-Case’ tires 700×25. Thousands of miles and NO FLATS. These things are crazy. Fast, comfortable, impenetrable and great handling. I ride the bike on cycle paths over rocks and broken glass with impunity.

  2. I have written to Hugh and got an immediate response and I am looking forward to using AirFree Tires. Felix, I enjoyed your comments. It was a good and fair review. Not gushing, not mean.

    I suppose If I were a racer, cat 1, 2 or 3 rider, maybe I would use pneumatics, but most of my riding is on my rollers and outside doing hill repeats and such to train as a mountain bike racer. I also do Ride the Rockies and such, and I suspect airless tires may be a good way to go for me.

  3. Dear Felix,

    Thank you for your wonderful article. It is very informative and the reader is left with a favorable impression. However I would like to point out that the tires you received have a misalignment in the center. This happens when the molds get hot and don’t seal themselves completely. This results in one half of the tire being slightly off in relation to the other half. Please return the tires for another set.

    There is one comment post on your website for the article and it looks like it is from a customer whom we must have failed in some way. Our policy is to have happy people as customers not unhappy ones. If the customer known as Dave will contact Air Free, we promise to resolve this in your favor.

    Whether customers want refunds, exchanges or other, we never charge people for shipping even if they order the wrong product. Our refunds are for the full purchase price and not minus shipping like other businesses. We really want people to be happy with us.

    Again, thank you for the article.
    Hugh

  4. Hugh Waters gave me good service.

    I use airfree tires since Oct 2001.
    Have them on five bikes. The Teton HP 26×2.0 standard foam has too much rolling resistance under my 275 lbs. My grandson 15 weighs 130. He says Tetons are a great ride.

    I use Ocelot High Resilient +30% and Unidirectional High resilient +30%. The ride is comparable to Michelin Wildgripper at 90 psi (which went flat or blew out.) I would use pneumatics again only in extremis.

  5. I liberally applied liquid hand soap to airfree tire and rim. and secured tire to rim at two points with cable ties. With a large flat screwdriver I levered a small portion of the tire onto the rim, held that, levered another small portion onto rim ……. worked my way around the tire until it was all seated in the rim. Then I bounced the mounted tire on the floor to fully seat it. Liquid hand soap dries to a powder. No problemo.

  6. I read your article with great interest. I thought I would take a look an their website and much to my surprise, a sale. I just ordered a pair to do my own experiments. I realize that my Griffin may not be their target market but the intrigue is just too great. I am always interested in trying something new and improved. Should I say old and abandoned?

  7. To remove airfree tire from rim.

    Grasp tire with large channel lock plier, and press down and sideways. Insert screwdriver between rim and tire, and lever the tire off the rim.

    To install tire coat tire and rim with liquid hand soap as explained above.

  8. Felix,
    I have been riding bikes, hard and pushing my cardiovascular system for almost 30 years. When I was younger it was mountain bikes that I was into and then road riding and racing. Now, though I still ride on the road as to work out on a daily basis, I have started commuting with a chainless bicycle. It is not the best bicycle I have been on as it is a bit heavy, but without the chain I never have to tuck my pantleg in or tie it down. I read your article and then went ahead and bought the airfree tires. I looked at nu-tech, but I ended up getting the two for $50.00 deal that you spoke of. I want to be able to commute with as little hassle as possible and hopefully this will help. I’ll let you know how it goes after I ride on them awhile. Thanks for the unbiased article as initially I didn’t consider these because of the review you quoted in your article. Very curious
    Ross

  9. Hi peps. after a long wait that HUGH WATERS made me, I finally got the NU-TEK tires. I thought these people make it, but NU-TEK is the manufactorer. They look just like crap. Very harsh handling, I think I should put suspension seat post on my bike.The HUGH WATERS boy is the WORST business man that I’ve ever dealt with. I would never buy ANY THING from MR.HUGH WATERS. And I recomend you NOT TO DEAL with his company.If you like those tires you can buy them at an online BS, but not HUGH WATERS. My best regardes,Arbi.

  10. Pingback: tow.com » blog » More Flats

  11. Felix:
    Thanks for the info about the airfree tires. After putting more miles on them, have you had the problem with splitting that one of the fellows had? Also, do you have any additional info to add? Thanks.
    Ron

  12. Ron, I haven’t had the splitting problem that one of the fellows had, and the tires right now show no signs of splitting.

    I do have additional comments, however. Now that it is summer and 50-60 degrees warmer than when I first tried the tires, the tires seems softer (as would be expected when rubber is warmer) and, consequently, slower. I’d estimate they are about 2 mph slower than my race bike shod with Michelin Pro-Races. For the summer, then, the Airfree Daytona HPs (120 psi rating vs. the 90 psi rating of my Airfrees) might be better.

    All that said, after trying the airless tires for the 8 months, I don’t think I ever would go back to pneumatic tires for my commuter bike. It’s just too nice not to have to pump up the tires or carry any tire changing tools, and never getting a flat tire.

  13. I just installed HP tires based on Felix’s good review, and don’t notice much difference from my normal Kevlar-belt tires in terms of ride quality. So far so good, as this summer has been deadly for me for those thorn-type flats. One thing that does concern me, however, is that I can grab the tire when it’s on the rim, and with a fairly high amount of effort, start it to peel off of the rim. Needless to say, you can’t do this with regular tires, and it makes me worried that the tire may come off the rim during cornering, or a descent. My rims meet the size requirements for these tires, also. How difficult is it for you other users to get your tires off the rim; can it be done with your bare hands? Anyone had any problems with these tires coming off of the rims during riding?

    And BTW, my “total” weight savings, compared to my heavy belted Kevlars, tubes, pump, etc, was 22 oz!

    Thanks, George

  14. I just got my Daytona TT tires today and tested them on a 30-mile ride up Highway 9 in Saratoga. This is a 6.8 miles, 2090 ft climb. Like George, I was concerned about the tires peeling off during a fast descent, but I had no problems negotiating turns at 30+ mph today. I wasn’t going all out, mind you, but I’m confident for now that they’ll stay onto the rim.

    Rolling resistance seemed greater with the Air Free tires. I distinctly felt more tired than usual on this ride. I’ll have more to say on my website once I get a few more rides in with the tires.

    http://www.tow.com/category/cycling

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  16. I just went into the garage and tried to see if I could peel the tires off with my fingers. With a lot of effort, I could do so but I had to apply a force in a direction/manner that would never occur when cycling. This is because to unseat the tire, a force would have to applied to the tire in a direction away from the hub, whereas when riding or cornering, the road is exerting a force on the tire towards the hub.

    Indeed, after riding my airless tires for >300 miles and increasingly getting more and more bold in corner,s or while jumping curbs and riding off-pavement, I have complete confidence the tires would not roll off.

  17. Adam, thanks for that information! Highway 9 is a good test for these tires, and is exactly what I wanted to hear in order to go ride the crap out of these tires. But I avoid Hwy9 on the weekend… too darn many racing motorcycles!
    George

  18. OK, I put around 200mi on the HP tires. They are:
    - much rougher riding than my normal tires @ 90psi (yes, that’s what I run as I only weigh 140lbs). You can feel every little road imperfection. Not so pleasant.
    - considerably higher rolling resistance than my normal tires. Normally I can cruise at 17-18mph without so much effort. To go this fast on the airfree tires required a lot more effort. I’d say 3mph is taken off your speed, for an equivalent amount of effort.
    After these 200mi, I didn’t want to ride my bike anymore with these tires. So I’m back to my flat-prone Avocet tires, and I’m taking my lumps with the flats. These airfree tires would probably be OK for short commutes to work, or a couple of miles on bike trails. But in my opinion, that’s about it.

  19. I just ordered some Daytona TTs with 175 psi equivalent. Hopefully the rolling resistance penalty will be much smaller than it is for the 90 or 120 psi tires. Just a thought, but if it turns out that the speed penalty is too great, I can cut it in half by running an airless tire in the rear only. This will still solve 95% of my flat tire issues. It’s also interesting to note that according to some test data ( http://www.recumbents.com/mars/pages/proj/tetz/other/Crr.html ) the rolling resistance of pneumatic tires increase at lower temperature. Since it’s already been noted that the Crr of the airless tires decreases as temperature drops, then perhaps these are best suited to cold weather riding. Also, since even good inner tubes slowly leak most of the time my tires are uniflated anyway. I’m too lazy to top them off every day, so I may not notice as much difference with the airless tires.

    On another note, I think the company is shooting itself in the foot by not offering the Daytonas in HR material since the target market for this tire is people who like to ride fairly fast. This would pretty much negate any rolling resistance penalty, especially if made at 120 psi equivalent. I actually feel that with some tweaking airless tires can better the rolling resistance of pneumatics.

    Regarding the potential rough ride, I can always reinstall my sprung seat. Since I’m in NYC I never get a smooth ride regardless of what tires I’m riding on.

  20. Joe wrote: I just ordered some Daytona TTs with 175 psi equivalent

    Best of luck to you. The 90psi was intolerable for me, from a ride quality standpoint. And the roads in California are not so bad. I predict you won’t want to ride your bike after a couple of days on those 175psi jobs. Rolling resistance notwithstanding (and you WILL notice a difference with that also).

    Look forward to your report!

  21. Like George, I’ve put in over a hundred miles on the Dayton TT (120psi) Air Free Tires, riding on roads here in the San Francisco Bay Area.

    There’s a definite speed penalty with the tires; George’s comment about the extra effort required to get the tires up to speed is spot on. I do wonder if the added resistance is actually helping me to train better, however. When I get around to putting the clinchers back on, I should be extra fast, no?

  22. Pingback: tow.com » blog » More on Air Free Tires

  23. Found this blog from the commutebybike website commuter 101 blog by fritz. I left comments there and will maintain, though the airless aren’t perfect they’re flawless when it comes to the possibility of getting flats. When my place of employment ramps back up I’ll be making a 40 mi rt daily commute. There’s one thing to add in terms of safety. When turning off asphalt onto concrete into any kind of parking lot there’s usually a 2″ rise from the road surface. Hit those as perpendicular as possible(like going over rr tracks) and watch your speed as the tire CAN separate from the rim. I know because it happened to me the first week I had the airless. Removed the wheel/tire and was able to ‘muscle’ it back on just using my fingers. No rim damage, but I was shocked for a second. I use 700×35 hybrids rated @ 110 psi on a 23″ steelframe roadbike(old Schwinn)w/a 48t Rocket Ring, nashbar cranks, stock cups, loose bearings, 107mm spindle and 12×26 7 sp cassette. Sora brifter, RSX 100 calipers, CR-18 32h rims, rsx hubs and dt spokes, wellgo dual clipless. Delta universal rack and Jandd Saddlebags.

  24. Have you tried airfree high rebound tires?

    I weigh 275 lbs (125 kg). I bought 26×2.0 ‘Teton HP of standard foam rated at 200 psi and they have too much rolling resistance. my grandson age 15 and 130 lbs uses them on his 18 speed. Says they are a great ride.

    On my Trek 8000 I have 26×2.0 Sierra Unidirectional High Resilient aka High Rebound +30%, and on my Schwinn Impact 26×2.0 Ocelot High Resilient +30% (as described on bill of lading). Both tires compare favourably to Michelin Wildgripper @90 psi.

    I would use pneumatics, or airfree standard foam, again only in extremis.

  25. This discussion has been all about the tires from airfreetires.com (which, as someone pointed out, are actually made by Nu-Teck). However, they are not the only company that sells non-pneumatic tires that are supposed to be immune to punctures. Given that the airfreetires product is not entirely perfect, it would make sense to see what the competition has to offer (unless they are all just reselling the same product with different branding). Has anyone had experience with tires from:
    Amerityre
    FlatFreeUSA

    I’m really quite surprised at the dearth of recent information and reviews about these non-pneumatic tires. It seems like many avid cyclists and bicycle shop employees don’t even realize they exist!

  26. I’ve been riding my airfree daytona HP 90psi tires for a couple weeks now and I wanted to report on them. I love them for there reliability but I am luke warm about the bumpy ride and sluggish performance. There is definitely a significant speed reduction and also bracing for bumps slows down your ride.

    So its a trade off, peace of mind for losses in comfort and speed. For some of us, particularly commuters, its worth it. Fixing flats sucks. I have lived in New Orleans for the last year and here you will find some of the worst street conditions urban america has to offer so needless to say you will probably suffer a great deal of flats.

    I was sick of worrying about the condition of my tubes every time I got on my bike. Now I never have to worry, my bike is always up and running and that is a great relief.

    If you consistently get annoying flats and a little speed and comfort loss aren’t a big deal these will be good tires for you.

    I would love to hear reviews of Amerityre and other manufacturers and I hope more competition moves into the field to create better products and lower prices. I think at least 50% of bicycle owners would like to have these tires in their current state of evolution but if the air free tire can be perfected and perhaps perform better than pneumatics we would witness the next revolution in bicycle technology making one of the world greatest inventions even more amazing.

  27. Bad experience. I placed my order thinking it would be a good idea. They took my order, took my money, and I waited. 3 weeks later no tires so I decided to check status. the email I recieved back was about delay in processing so I gave it another 3 weeks. I decided the ride season was about to close and I was changing my bike setup so I sent an email as polite as could be to request my money back, canx my order, and I would keep them in mind for the future. Two months later and two additional emails I have still not recieved my refund or the tires. This is probabaly the single worst company service I have ever recieved. If you have good luck then good on you but I guess I am passing the “buyer beware” word. Although the money is not significant, the trust they killed was priceless. I would have rather gotten something defective and recieved Good customer service on a return but my opinion is they broke the trust and stole my money. As of today I have not gotten it so I feel justified in my statement. It has now been about 4 months since I placed the order. Again, buyer beware

  28. The varying experiences with Air Free Tires may have something to do with the fact that they don’t produce any tires themselves, but buy them from at least six different suppliers, three of which make their bike tires – Amerityre, Flat Free Tires (previously known as Greentyre, not the same as Green Tyre of UK) and Nu-Teck. So if the suppliers don’t ship for whatever reason, Air Free gets the blame.

  29. DON’T DEAL WITH AIR FREE TIRES!

    I called-in my order on September 17th, and I still have not received them and I get no response to my calls nor emails.

    When I first called-in the order, Hugh was manipulative — only after I gave him my credit card info did he announce that it would take 14 days to ship the tires. Well, it has been six weeks, and I got no tires and I get no response. I am going to have to dispute the credit card charge!

    DON’T DEAL WITH AIR FREE TIRES!!!

  30. I ordered my tires on August 20 and still haven’t received them. I was told that NuTeck was at least 2 weeks behind on orders, and since my tires were special order they normally take up to 4 weeks even in the best of times. I don’t plan to cancel my order as I see nobody else has much luck doing so, and I ride in cold weather anyway. I’ll just sit tight and hope they ship the tires soon. For what it’s worth, the fact that they’re this far behind on orders is a good thing. It means people are buying their tires. Hopefully this will spur a little competition. I agree with Max that if the air free tire can be perfected, and perhaps perform better than pneumatics, it would indeed be a revolution. One of the big reasons people give up on cycling is flat tires. Even for the avid cyclist flats are a royal pain in the neck. The company that can invent and produce an airfree tire which performs at least as well as pneumatics will come out a winner.

  31. I agree with Herman. It has been nearly three months and they are SO unresponsive. When I spoke with Hugh, he was pushy and manipulative. If I lived anywhere near him, I would show up at his door with a few buddies and maybe a baseball bat. The guy really sucks.

    Stoller, the bad experiences with airfree do not have so much to do with the fact that nu-teck is slow with their shipping, it has to do with the fact that they NEVER return calls or emails unless you are REALLY pushy about it.

  32. Boo at airfreetires.com!!
    I placed an order and they promised to have my tires delivered within a week.
    After a month I asked them what’s up, had to send several reminders because they just didn’t respond.
    Eventually I just canceled the order after two months, still nothing from them.
    A few weeks later the tires arrived!
    Postal stamp said they sent them a week after canceling!
    I told them I was very displeased with this kind of treatment and they would make arrangements for me, but this was said about two months ago and nothing happens.
    Again sent several e-mails, no reply whatsoever!

    I seriously suggest not dealing with these people, it seems they want to put themselves out of business.

  33. I’m desperate to avoid any more flats — they make my commute a misery especially when the back wheel is involved. It might be an idea to avoid loss of performance (not that I’m a speed freak — I just want to get there) by just having an Air Free tire on the back. But I’ll get both and see how it goes.

    Next problem: can I get them in the UK?

    Thanks for the review and all the comments; it’s been encouraging.

    Keiron

  34. “Flat Free Tires” has appalling customer service – the first time that I ordered tires was 2 years ago at which time they didn’t send them, I contacted them 3 weeks later and they said they “didn’t have them in stock in the warehouse”. If I had not called they would have just kept the money and never shipped the tires.

    The second time was this summer and I didn’t realize that it’s the same company because the name of the website had been changed. This time they sent the tires, but they sent the wrong color, and they DIDN’T include the installation tool for mounting the tires on the rims. When I called to inquire about this, the same douchebag that I had to confront 2 years ago answers the phone:

    “This is Steve Dash”.

    He doesn’t identify himself as working for any particular company and it sounds like he doesn’t even have an office, he’s just selling these tires out of his house because there were some kids screaming in the background on the phone. Gave another lame excuse about “not having that color in the warehouse” and promised to ship me an installation tool (never did). Steve Dash shows no interest at all in conducting a business and could single-handedly kill the distribution of what is actually a good product with a lot of potential.

    Regarding the tires themselves:

    Are they too heavy? No, they weigh the same as pneumatic tires

    Are they too uncomfortable ? No, they are slightly harder feel than pneumatics at comparable PSI but not bad

    Will they roll off the rims at high speed? No, it will not happen under any normal riding conditions. However as a person above has testified, it could happen when hitting a raised fixed object at an angle (such as curb or railroad track). The force on the tire has to be both lateral and away from the rim for that to be possible. Hard cornering or agressive inclination of the bike while turning at high speed will not in itself cause the tire to come off the rim.

  35. Re; Nu-Teck airless tires

    About a dozen years ago ran into the folks from Nu-Teck at the Interbike bicycle trade show in Las Vegas. They wanted us to try their airless tires on our tandem. Told them to send us a pair and we’d give them a fair try.
    True to their word they sent us two airless road tires (don’t remember model of tire) and the big tire mounting tool.
    Even with the tool these tires were tough to mount!
    First did front tire on tandem only . . . worked OK on smooth roads; bit harsh on the steering end on less than perfect road surfaces.
    Installed rear tire also. Again great ride on very smooth road but as roads got worse the ride quality got worse.
    We have steel cattle guards that cross roads in the desert Southwest . . . crossing one of those on the tandem was the ultimate test. Whoaaa!
    Felt like we were riding an earthquake and the tandem just shook/vibrated until we finished crossing the cattleguard.
    Stoker’s comment: ‘get rid of these things!’ We did.
    Sent our evaluation report to the company and never heard from them again.
    We are not exactly newbies to cycling; have been at it since the early 1970s. And while we are always eager to evaluate/test something new, or perceived as new, in cycling, we do not recommend this product. If you just hate fixing the occasional flat tire and don’t mind a harsher/slower ride, you can take your chances.

  36. Yes, I can tell you about the long wait for my order! I am not sure about this company; I have yet to resolve my order that has no shown up yet. It’s going on two months now. I do not recommend this company if you’re in a hurry to get what you paid for! I will keep this order posted monthly until resolved!

  37. p.s I’m sorry I didn’t research the AIRFREE company before ordering. They have attempted to reach me a couple times. Maybe the problem is with Schwalbe the manufacturer, I don’t know! It’s a shame to place the blame directly. Even though I’m not buying the FlatFree tires, I would have liked to try them on one of my many bikes!

  38. Today the day I decided to investigate what happened to the tires I ordered. Hugh called me direct and assured me my order was placed and Schwalbe was the problem with many back orders. After talking with him him, it seems he’s a savvy business man with a lot of responsibility trying to keep the Air Free Tires business going! Good luck to him and his company; I may order a set yet! P.S. Thanks Gail and Tina at Air Free!

  39. I’ve never ordered from AIRFREE. Back in 1998 I ordered from Steve Dash when FLAT FREE TIRES was Greentyre of America … extremely unresponsive over a long period of time. Finally canceled my order. I’ve never ordered from GreenTyre in UK. But they seem to be quite reputable. I’ve had good luck ordering from NuTeck and have been using their tires since 1998.

  40. STAY AWAY FROM AIRFREETIRES.COM and HUGH WATERS
    I ordered a set in August 2007. Today January 2008 after many emails and several requests to cancel the order and refund my money, I have not heard back. I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and after researching, I see quite a few others have filed complaints as well. This guy is bad news.

  41. Hi, Felix, I really enjoyed reading your review, thanks.

    I have had at least one bike with Airfree tires since about 1998/9 and they work PERFECTLY for my needs. Also, I have done testing on a LOT of AirFree Tires, to help with their development.

    MOST people don’t ‘understand’ this type of tire, IMHO.

    Unlike pneumatic tires, airfree tires have to fit the rim perfectly when they are installed, since there is no way to make them fit ‘better’ once they are in place.

    Therefore it is EXTREMELY important to have the proper tire/rim combination. In order to achieve this situation, some measuring is usually required and, lets be brutally honest here, MOST people are not good at measuring. This doesn’t mean that they’re not smart, it just means that they’re not good at measuring.

    It doesn’t help that (and this is just 1 of many examples) the pneumatic tire on your bike that is 26″, probably doesn’t have anywhere on it that measures 26″. Add to this that there are several ‘types’ of 26″ tires, all with different sizes and this is just where the confusion starts.

    Most of the complaints that I have read on newsgroups about airfree tires is that they don’t fit the rim well and, as a consequence of this, they don’t perform in the manner that the buyer had expected them to.

    So, if they don’t fit the rim well, this tends to indicated to me that the buyer, despite their best efforts, may not have measured quite as closely as they needed to.

    Another complaint I have read is that the Airfree company has taken their money and not sent their tires.

    I called the company about this (this was several years ago) and, at that time, they admitted that they had been through some money problems but told me they had straightened that out and reimbursed the people who were complaining. When I wrote one of the dissatisfied people on the newsgroup, he agreed that he had received his money back, however, these complaints stay out in ‘cyberspace’ and do tend to give the company a bad name, whether it deserves it or not.

    These are NOT the tires that you would want for racing in the Tour de France.

    They are heavier than pneumatic tires and have more rolling resistance but, having said that, they really don’t have much more resistance.

    They are heavier but, so what? Unless you are racing, how would a little extra weight ruin your day?

    Since I am a Car-Free person, there are places I go to where I need to be there at a certain time, so I don’t want to have to stop and fix a flat.

    If I’m coming home at 4am and its 24 degrees, my hands would be too cold to change a flat.

    If its pouring with rain and I’m off to work …………. well, you get my drift.

  42. Hello Felix,

    You can add my name to the long list of unhappy customers. In July 2007 I ordered a Catalina Freestyle tire and never got it. Air Free Tires did put the blame on the manufacturer (whoever it was), Customs (I’m from Canada) but never on themselves.

    Air Free Tires stopped responding to my emails in November making my story look a lot like so many more on this page. I can only agree with those who are saying to stay away from this company.

    You have an interesting place here. Keep the good work and thanks for the space. Regards,

    Raymond

  43. Hi Felix and everybody else,
    I’ve been using Nu-Teck 700×28 for about 750 miles now. My only complaint with them is summer riding. Hot road makes the tires feel almost flat. These are just the standard 90 psi rating. Was thinking of trying some 700×20 TT 120′s on the 2 for 50 bucks deal, but after reading about this Hugh guy I think I’ll order from an OBS like I did originally.
    I have not had any splitting or rolloff problems, just the spongy feeling on hot days. Love the fact-no flats during commute. Or any other time for that matter. Oh yeah–they do tend to suck when used on the trainer. Heat from the resistance magnet maybe?

  44. I appreciate all the warnings in the comments here. I was considering ordering a pair of the Daytona HPs, esp. after reading the positive review, but the consistency of complaints about Air Free business practices has completely changed my mind.

    Too bad, it sounds like it could be a neat product.

  45. My order with AirFree has also just passed the two month mark. I have asked several times when will they ship, and each time they say that they will be shipped as the facotry (Nu-Teck) gets to them. I emailed Nu-Teck and asked them if they could give a shipping date estimate. They said they could not as they drop ship orders received from AirFree. That seems odd that they are the ones that manufacture and ship but cannot tell me when they are going to ship? I will wait a little while longer to see if they ever ship them, but it is not looking good. You can build a house in two months, can’t imagine why you cannot manufacture a couple of tires in that ampunt of time.

  46. Over six months and no tires. I’ve asked for a refund – no luck. I would love be able to use these tires, but I Airfree tires is not the place to get them.

  47. I got my tires after about a month. They did not fit properly and kept coming off the rims. I asked for a refund and never received a reply. I called my credit card company and they refunded me.

  48. Seems like you would be better off buying directly from Nu-Teck.

    Any complaint when buying directly from Nu-Teck, and not going though Air Free?

  49. I never got my order, nor a refund, despite their assurance to grant one. It has been almost a year, and my order still shows as an active order on their site.

    I just treat it like a joke now. I send messages to customer service every few months, and get a very friendly reassurance of their intent to help me. But they never do…

  50. After a string of flats I purchased a set of AirFree Tires. Simply put, the tires broke my rim, were slow, and the customer service was TERRIBLE. I liked the idea of no more flats, so I ignored the warnings on pages like this and bought these tires.

    Their customer service appeared to be very responsive since they ran my credit card the day after I placed my order. Unfortunately their claim to ship my tires within 48 hours was a huge lie. After 2 weeks, my tires hadn’t shipped. I had to call a half dozen times before I finally got a response, but the tires didn’t come for 3 more weeks.

    After they arrived, I did some road tests and determined the tires rode about 2 mph slower than my normal 100 PSI road tires. I was willing to live with this because I’m not a racer–no flats would be worth it. Then I rode over railroad tracks and broke my rim. I had ridden over these same tracks a dozen times with regular tires with no problems, but the first time over them with airfree tires it broke. 10 miles on the tires and a broken rim–I wasn’t a happy man.

    Then came the worst part–trying to get my money back. I wrote emails to Hugh with no response. I left voice mails (since he NEVER answered the phone). I called and emailed every day for a week without getting any sort of response. Finally I discovered a link on the website where I could send a message. Only after I also discovered that clicking on that, hitting the back button on my browser, and clicking it again would send the same message again…. I did this a handful of times and FINALLY got a response. It was the absolute angriest message I have ever had sent to me–not professional at all. Finally after 2 weeks of trying to get hold of him, I got a shipping address to send the tires back (directly to Nu-Teck) and a week later he refunded my money.

    So I would recommend staying away from these tires. They’ll break your bike (or maybe your neck) and you’ll have to deal with the worst customer service I have ever experienced. If you do buy them, get legal help and have your bike inspected beforehand so you can sue him when the tires break your bike.

  51. I ordered one tire from Air Free Tires on Nov. 2, 2007, and it arrived in early May 2008. And rather than being equivalent to 90 psi, it was closer to 30 psi. It was so soft that it was extremely difficult to pedal the bike with the tire on the rear wheel.

    I later ordered another tire from the factory (Nu-Teck, in Colorado) which was closer to 90 psi–and it arrived in 13 calendar days!

    Air Free Tires has a well-deserved unsatisfactory report with the BBB; Nu-Teck has NO complaints on its BBB record.

  52. On May 19th, 2008 at 10:11 am
    Jeremy said: Then I rode over railroad tracks and broke my rim. I had ridden over these same tracks a dozen times with regular tires with no problems, but the first time over them with airfree tires it broke. 10 miles on the tires and a broken rim. I wasn’t a happy man.

    Sorry that Jeremy had such rotten luck. In 2005 I bought a set of Big Fat Rims so I could use airfree Sierra Unidirectional HR +30% 26×1.9 on my Trek 8000. I weigh 280. call it 300 with water bottle, tools etc. No broken rims yet.

  53. @ keiron: “Next problem: can I get them in the UK?”

    I’ve been using Greentyres, made in the UK:
    http://www.greentyre.com

    They’re fine; when they wear down the tread goes away but you can ride them even after that for a while.

    Been considering trying Nu-Tecks (from Nu-Teck’s website; they’re currently cheaper than airfree.com) for comparison

  54. I ordered tires ten weeks ago. An item noted on their website as stock. Four weeks ago I contacted them and asked when I could expect my tires to arrive (They charged my credit card the same day I ordered) they said the order had been placed with the manufacturer and it should be soon, but that they didn’t really know. I asked if they would reverse the charges on my card at least until the tires shipped, after which they stopped communicating. I had little choice at that point but to contact my credit card company and have them hold payment until they were shipped. Still haven’t heard a thing. It’s hard to imagine a company doing business like this.

    Gene Smith

  55. I ordered my tires on May 27, 2008 and today is August 17, 2008. Still no tires. Repeated emails and phone calls get ambiguous answers.

  56. Obviously this company is operated by deception at every turn. Although their website claims to have “The best selection of Bicycle Tires”, they, in fact, have none. If you pay through their website, you are not paying for merchandise that is currently in stock somewhere–you are paying for these people to contract some other company to build a set of tires for you. They do not answer their telephone, they do not reliably respond to emails. When/if they do respond, they give sketchy answers with dubious value. Do yourself a favor–STAY AWAY FROM THIS COMPANY!!

  57. This says it all. This message was sent to Airfree 22 August 2008. AT 64 years of age, I would only hope that I will live long enough to see this properly resolved ;-) If nothing else, I would love to see the U.S. Attorney General check this out under the RICO Act!

    My re-order arrived today! My original order (transaction 1782092714, Cust. ID 6445, invoice #6950 ordered 28 Mar 2008) was paid to the amount of $114.92 (including shipping). My re-order (order#100423, cust ID 59998, invoice #6950) was for $90.07 (including shipping). The difference is $24.85 that you at Airfree owe me. Please send check or money order to cover the amount that you need to refund me. I have copies of all our email correspondence if you do not have records.

  58. Wow… Read the whole thing. Amazing!
    I believe this is a summary:
    Don’t trust Hugh Waters/Airfree six days of the week. Can’t tell you which days, but caveat emptor.
    The tires get soft in hot weather and hard in cold weather.
    They’re pretty easy to get on and may come off unexpectedly.
    In contrast to basic physics, they are “harder” than pneumatics but have 5-15% more rolling resistance.
    These are lighter than heavy duty tire & tube combos, but heavier than light combos.
    Quality is unpredictable.
    They never go flat.
    Commuting is okay, but racing is not.

    Would love to try them, but can’t trust anyone to fill my order… Too bad.

  59. I ordered tires from AirFreeTires on 4/22/08. Today is 9/7/08 and still no tires and can’t get any answers out out of Hugh or his partners in crime! Finally got tired of waiting and ordered from Nu-Teck(manufacturer). Tires will be here 9/10/08 according to my FedEx tracking number. I’m waiting to try them out. Will update as soon as I get them.
    http://www.nu-teck.com

  60. I ordered a pair of AirFree BMX tires (Mohave 20×2.0 @95psi) on June 5th, 2007 (yes, over a year ago). I was patient, but finally had to request they cancel the order (after about 6 months of “we’re looking into it”.) I never got confirmation of the cancellation nor any refund to my PayPal account (to the tune of $120 for two tires + install tool). To this day, all I ever get in response to my requests are “we’re looking into it”, but I keep bugging them just to let them know i haven’t forgotten what scammers they are. I think it’s hilarious how Hugh can come on here and say that customer satisfaction is his top priority… He’s got quite some nerve. To anyone thinking of ordering from these guys, DON’T. You’ll probably be sorry…

  61. I ordered tires from air free back in April. After being stalled and put off for months I finally contacted them to cancel my order. After almost two month I still haven’t gotten a response from them or a refund. I’ve filed complaints with the BBB. Everyone else should do the same. These guys are criminals.

  62. I am awaiting my September 5th order. Two years ago, I had a satisfactory response from Air Free Tires. This time, it’s much slower . . . .

    Meanwhile, I bought some NoMorFlats inner tubes from Wal Mart. They work, but are heavy and slow on the road.

    With luck, I hope Air Free and my order turn out okay. But I agree, this is poor business.

  63. I ordered from Air Free Tires in the 2nd week of July and didnt recieve the tires after 7 weeks. Supposedly they had a lot in stock and had that quick ship next to the item. Whatever. I know I ordered the right sized tire, but did not fit properly on my rims. After riding on them for 2 days, the ride was so harsh that if you went over a crack in the street, the tire felt like it was going to fall off. Not only that, since i was pedaling on them hard, the hub broke. I had to get that replaced. So frustrated with the tires, I decided to return them the week I got it. Still no refund after 2 months.

    I can’t believe that they are still in business which such poor customer service quality. I may be a victim of their practices, but I so believe in karma. That company will have what is coming to them.

  64. I want to report that 14 months and six emails after I first ordered my tires they came. While I consider the customer service totally unsatisfactory so far I’m pretty impressed with the tires. As noted earlier, I purchased the Daytona TTs with the 175 psi option. While I’ll undoubtedly have further comments as I get more experience, here’s my take after the first ~120 miles:

    Ride quality: At first the ride seemed somewhat harsh. I literally felt every imperfection in the road. However, the tires started to feel smoother a few days later. Perhaps the material flexing broke in much as a new shoe takes time to break in before it’s comfortable. Whatever the reason, at this point the tires aren’t horribly worse than pneumatics as far as ride quality goes. On smooth roads they’re great. On potholed roads they’re rough but then so are 110 psi pneumatics. They certainly sound noisier over bumps so they may give the impression of riding much harder than they really do. I don’t find significantly more shock transmitted through the handlebars than I did with pneumatics.

    Traction: When I was putting together my bike I noticed that I could slide the front wheel on a vinyl tile floor. I attributed this to the mold release. Just as a precaution, I removed the excess material along the seam with a utility knife. This increased the traction. On the road traction is as good as any air tire, and should only get better as the tire picks up road grit. I feel perfectly safe on these tires, even riding in rush hour traffic.

    Fit and ease of mounting: The tires went on fairly easily, and perfectly fit my rims. I highly doubt the tires will roll off no matter what I do.

    Rolling resistance: Just as I noted regarding ride quality, I’d say these tires need to break in for a few hundred miles at least to realize their ultimate potential. After only about 50 miles rolling resistance decreased notably. Also note that these tires required the skewers to be tighter in order to keep the wheels from shifting over hard bumps. Prior to tightening the skewers the wheel moved enough to cause the brakes to slightly rub. I wonder how many others this happened to and they attributed the increased rolling resistance to the tire instead of the brake rubbing? Anyway, since the rims and drivetrain are new on this bike and need to be broken in, I can’t say for sure how the rolling resistance compares to pneumatics. As the bike is now, I’d say it’s 1.5 mph slower but a good portion of this could easily be attributable to the wheel bearings still breaking in as well as the chain/ratchet mechanism/bottom bracket still being stiff compared to my other bike. I’ll post back once the drivetrain is fully broken in regarding rolling resistance but in all honestly it’s looking good. Maybe the extra psi does help rolling resistance considerably compared to the stock psi. Also, as the tires wear into the optimum shape from riding I’m sure this will help the rolling resistance even more.

    Other than the horrid customer service there are no show stoppers to using these tires. I can only hope by the time these tires are worn out that there will be an even greater selection of these tires, and that the 700c narrow tires will be available in the new high-rebound material. A high pressure high-rebound tire would have less rolling resistance than most air tires.

  65. I wish I’d read this before I placed my order. Eight weeks and still waiting. My e-mails are being ignored, and phone calls get sent to voice mail.

  66. For the benefit of others, I should mention my own hard-luck experience with Air Free Tires of Florida. I ordered from them in early September 2008 but could not get any replies to my three follow-up phone calls or one E-mail copy after several weeks had elapsed. Then I contacted Nu-Teck in Colorado directly (since they are the manufacturer) and asked them about my order from Air Free Tires. Their reply was that they had never received an order for me! (Air Free Tires had my money all that time.)

    I called Chase MasterCard (which is how I had paid Air Free Tires) and they told me non-delivery and non-followup is called “fraud” . . . they reversed the charge through my MasterCard account and got my money back. I then cancelled via phone with Air Free Tires and made it clear they were the problem. But, I still wanted my tires, so I called Ron Matusek at Nu-Teck and placed the same order directly with him — would you believe, within two weeks I had in my possession brand new customized-pressure tires sent via UPS! Superb service, though at a higher price than Air Free Tires tried to charge.

    My advice is, contact the manufacturers directly and leave Air Free Tires in Florida alone. Learn from my experience. Fortunately, I cam out all right in the end, but I’m not sure everyone else does.

  67. DO NOT DEAL WITH Air free tires. They have had my money for over 12 months now, don’t respond to BBB requests and keep blaming NU-Tek for the delay, which I believe is a total lie. They even directed me to a website with what they claim is a letter from NU-Tek, I contacted Nu-tek and they told me they didn’t write the letter.
    They take your money and don’t refund or deliver, STAY AWAY from them.

  68. Several years ago I ordered from Hugh and never received my tires. After about four months and many, many emails to him (no response to any email) I finally received my money back. I called his supplier and the man gave a big sigh when I told him about Hugh. I think he was fed up with him too. I was about to call the New Smyrna chamber of commerce and make an official complaint. Anyway, I cannot believe Air Free still has a web site and is still in buisness!

  69. Thank you, thank you, thank you for putting this website up. I was about to order some tires from Air Free. Whew, thank goodness I didn’t. I can deal w/ the downsides of the tires, but it would be nice to know that they will actually be shipped, so I’ll call Nu Teck tomorrow and see how things go on the phone before ordering anything. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of the bike shops bad mouth these airless tires, and it’s pretty obvious why. They make a lot of money selling tubes, liners, patches, slime and all manner of different things that go w/ using aired tires on a bike. They simply don’t want to stop this cash flow.

  70. What about NoFlatTires? They are at:
    http://www.noflattires.net

    The thing I don’t like about these companies is that they don’t sell locally; I am in the Los Angeles area where there are millions of people, perhaps even a million cyclists. If the products were good, then there would be local dealers. All the manufacturer web sites emphasize the importance of measuring the wheel to ensure the tire will fit yet they will only do business through the mail. That seems to be a huge contradiction.

    I have one airless tube I bought from No-Mor flats, and it is working great for me, but they are out of business.

  71. As promised over a year ago, I’m reporting my continuing experience with my airless tires. Thus far I have put about 2400 miles on these tires. Apparently at this point rolling resistance has decreased even further. My average speeds are matching what I used to do on this bike with pneumatics, or at worst a few tenths of an mph slower. Ride quality has more or less remained the same, which is marginally harser than pneumatics. Wear seems to be almost negligable. I may well get 10,000 to 15,000 miles out of these tires, perhaps more.

    Bottom line is it seems airless tires require a really long break-in period of a few thousand miles to reach their ultimate potential. I plan to buy another set for my spare bike as soon as I have the money.

  72. I tried out my new nu-teks today. I paid extra for special psi -136 (the standard tire is 60-70 psi) hoping to cut rolling resistance or at least equal my 115 psi pneumatics. I am not sure if I actually got the 136 psi tires or not. The tires felt squishy and squirrely. As far as rolling resistance, I lost the equivalent of 4 sprocket speeds compared to my pneumatics. Even on a slight decline, if I didn’t pedal, the bike would come to a stop within 15 feet. I especially felt embarrassed when an elderly woman passed me on an Elivira Gulch bicycle (think Toto in the basket). A short 30 mile trip that I breezed through only a few days ago with my pneumatics now left me totally exhausted and vowing not to ride on them again.

    It was flat after flat that compelled me to try the Nu-teks, but given that I was barely passing the joggers on the trail has left me flat with solid tires. Hopefully I can peel them off the rims as easily as others have stated.

    Like I said, I am not sure if I actually got the custom HP psi I paid for. They acted like a 60psi to 70psi that was additionally not fully inflated. I have no way of knowing either because the packing slip only stated, “custom psi x2″. There was no confirmation as to what psi was actually shipped to me. The custom psi is $10 per tire extra.

    Another clue that I was given the wrong psi tires is the fact that the ride was way too smooth (cushy) to be a 115psi or greater. I am willing to trade off a harsher ride for better rolling resistance.

    On a good asphalt bike trail in Milwaukee, it felt I was like I was pedaling in sand. At the end of the ride, I felt like I ran a 5k race with lead sneakers. Its back to pneumatics with me; flats and all! This was a $155 experiment gone wrong for me.

  73. You decide:

    After purchasing tires from Air Free for 3 for my bikes over the last 5 years without incident (received tires quickly, no tires had to be returned, they perform well), I made this purchase earlier this year and have this problem:

    Feb 21, 2010 Purchased KIK Sierra tires for my new hybrid bike.

    Feb 28 received tires

    May 5 (yes I delayed in installing) while attempting to use the nicer install tool I bought from them for my previous installations (not the cheap paddle that comes with the tires) the tool broke. The tires were supposed to fit per the size markings but did not. I decided to exchange them:

    May 15 emailed Hugh for return authorization to exchange tires for Nu Teck All Terrain HP tires

    May 17 Hugh replied – ok to return – will ship out Nu Teck’s when my old tires are received.

    May 21 shipped tires back via UPS

    May 28 Air Free received tires per tracking info at UPS

    June 16 emailed Hugh for update. No response

    June 24 emailed Hugh for update. No response

    July 07 emailed Hugh for update. No response

    Aug 11 submitted service ticket thru Air Free’s system. No response

    Aug 13 called & left message asking when my other tires would be sent out.

    As of today, Aug 20th No response.

    You decide if this is the kind of person and company you want to send money to. As for me 3 good experiences and 1 very, very bad one is NOT acceptable. Will buy straight from Nu-teck now.

  74. I have read many comments, I am guessing Air Free is a reseller, and Air Free is too cheap to stock every tire size and type, and too cheap to refer the sale to Nu-Teck when only Nu-Teck has the tire. This is probably due to a bad contract between the two co. My guess is, Nu-Teck is not required to pay for a referral. Answer, do not do problem.

  75. Well I wish I’d looked more into these air free tires before buying. I got my bike not only because I enjoy riding, but because I can’t afford to buy a car at the moment and so it’s the next best thing. I got so sick of my tubes getting punctured so easily by goatheads that I thought I’d give air free tires a try, but I still haven’t gotten a confirmation email saying my order has been shipped and haven’t gotten an email back to answer my question. We’ll see.

  76. I bought tires from Air Free in early November 2010. One order was customized (11/7) , the other order was not (11/13). As of today, I still haven’t received the orders nor have I received any word other than the automatic receipt sent at purchase. I have called and left 2 messages on their help line. I have made two phone appointments and they don’t call me during that time nor even that day. I have sent in two emails through their help center set at “highest priority”. I understand that the customized may take up to 90 days since the manufacturer only makes one size tire per day, but the others?

  77. I to have bought from this company.. Nothing!! No return calls, no emails, nothing…. I will tie up all of their phone appointments til hell freezes over….

  78. My sweet wife ordered Air Free Tires for my birthday. She used the quarter technique they have on line to determine the size – and ordered the WRONG Size. The two tires took over a month to arrive – missed my birthday and were the wrong size. I’ve been working with Air Free Tires trying to see if I can exchange them for the right size – and I am still getting the run around – plus I read that I have to pay a 25% restocking fee.

    Maybe by my next birthday they’ll finally let me know how to return these for the right size.

  79. Mr Wong.
    You put airfree tires on your Cannondale Dec 2006, and were pleased with them. Now that you have used them for five years please tell us your opinion. Also please tell any damage to the bike as a direct result of using airfree tires.

    I use the same two AFT on 26″ 36 spoke Big Fat Rims without any damage since July 2003. This despite the many rumors I have read that AFT will damage wheels and bike. I weigh 270 and ride at heady speeds aproaching 8 mph average on blacktop roads and paved shoulder of highway. I am now 79.

  80. Vlad, after five years, this is my opinion of the tires:

    1. The tires are nearly as fast as regular tires in winter but definitely slower (by maybe 2 MPH) in summer when they are softer.
    2. The tires corner about as well as regular tires.
    3. The tires last at least as long as my Michelin Pro Race3 tires.
    4. The ride quality is definitely worse than a good pneumatic tire like the Michelin Pro Race3, but not intolerable.
    5. I’ve broken one spoke on a 32-spoked wheel with these tires, but I attribute that to the wheel not being built up well by a teenager who sold me the wheel for $30.
    6. I still think these are near-ideal as a commuting tire, as you don’t need to pump up the tires beforehand, will never get a flat, and don’t have to carry around flat-fixing equipment when you ride.

  81. Dear Mr. Wong
    I read all the essays on this web site concerning air free tires. It sounds so hit-or-miss with those folks who ordered these tires and got burned.
    1. Are there no dealers who carry these air free tires?
    2. Are there no regulators who monitor these deals?
    I am very frustrated with all the flats I get-especially in areas where there are no bicycle shops.
    Too bad the bicycle shops do not want to carry these tires. I think they are the best product since sliced bread.
    I wish some one could produce a bottle of foam to simply fill up a inner tube, then no need for a air free tire.
    Any way, is Nu-Teck the only almost reliable seller of air free tires?

  82. thanks for stopping by my website and for leaving your comment. Regarding your questions:

    1. I do not know of any dealers that carries these tires.

    2. The only “regulators” I can think of is the Better Business Bureau, and the last I checked, Air Free Tires already had an ‘F’ rating with 66 complaints.

    3. Nu-teck is the only distributor of these tires that I know of that seems to be at least semi-reliable. I believe they are also the manufacturer.

  83. 1. Thank you. Mr Wong, for so promptly answering my query.

    2. http://www.nu-teck.com/product.html
    scroll down to see airless tires (not inner tubes)
    For information on products or manufacturing status
    please email “nu-teck@estreet.com” DO NOT CALL the
    Factory. Information on manufacturing and shipping
    times can be found in the “FAQ” section.

    Nu-Teck offers custom firmess equivalent up to 175 psi.
    Tell Nu-Teck that you like the ride of the KIKtire
    26×195 Ocelot high resilient +30%,
    and 26×195 Sierra Unidrectional high resilient +30%.

    or call Missy Sitko in Ameritye Customer Service
    @ 800 808-1268 X100. She will be able to take
    your order………..
    Amerityre purchased Kik’s
    assets over a year ago so you should see little
    difference.

  84. Dear Felix Wong
    I contacted Vlad about airless tires and received a response which you can see above.
    The two companies which sell these airless bike tires are: Nu-teck and Amerityre (KIK tire). What do you think? Are they about the same in reliability?

    I talked to Kai at Nu-teck. He seems very knowledgable.
    When I asked about my 700x 28 conventional tire comparison to their airless tire, he said it is about the same. He also said the standard airless tire has psi of 70. I asked about a 90psi-100psi. He said it would cost $10.00 more for a custom airless tire, but since he has some extras laying around I could have them at no additional charge.

    I also talked to Bruce at Amerityre (KIK tire). He is not too experienced on the subject. He wanted me to measure the bead of my bicycle rim. He said that the typical airless tire Amerityre made has about 70psi which his lawyer friend said was too mushy when riding. And also made reference to the lawyer friend who said a specific airless tire: 700×25 actually has the feel of a 95- 100psi conventional tire.

    Any advice?!?

    I. Sonnett Stern

  85. Hi I. Sonnett. I personally would go with the harder (less mushy) tire, but keep in mind my tolerance for a harsher ride is higher than most people’s. Sounds like you got some good information from the manufacturers. Thanks for sharing it!

  86. Tell the man at Amerityre or Nu-Teck that
    KIKtyre bill of lading listed the tires as
    ” 26×195 Ocelot high resilient +30%”, and
    “26×195 Sierra Unidrectional high resilient +30%”.
    My tires are mounted on 26 inch 30 spoke Big
    Fat Rims. My grandson weighs 120. I weigh 270.
    We both enjoy the feel of those tires.

    You must accurately measure inside diameter and depth
    of your rims to get an airfree tire that fits the rim.
    When you order the tires tell the ID and depth your rims.

    You can adjust to a hard tire, but never to a too soft tire
    that saps your strength.

  87. Dear Viad & Felix:
    I believed Kai at Nu-Teck would be the best bet. I ordered two airfree tires from his company. 700×28 at 90psi each. I hope they arrive soon. The two tires were 70 dollars but the shipping and handling amounted to over 20 bucks extra. I guess it is for a good cause, hopefully. When I receive them, I will let you know how they perform.
    It is not that I do not trust Amerityre, but they wanted such detailed information about my bicycle wheel, while Kai (at Nu-Teck) simply said “you want 700×28 airfree tires, no problem–where do you want them sent.” From what I found out, is that Amerityre makes airfree tires for everything–from lawn mower wheels to bicycles to automobiles. So they have a entire catalog to choose from, from tiny wheels to very large wheels. So I felt that Bruce at Amerityre did not really know his stuff concerning bicycles nor bike wheels.
    It also seems that the type of tread (Ocelot or Sierra Unidirectional)
    classifications are not used anymore. Nor is the +30% used either. The new company (Amerityre) has a different system compared to the old company (KIKtyre).
    I. Sonnett

  88. Dear Viad & Felix:
    I just received the air free bike tires (from Nu-Teck). I am waiting for a wheel that has no conventional pneumatic inner-tube/tire on it before I will install the air free bike tires.
    I. Sonnett

  89. Remove pneumatic tube and tire from the rim.. Lubricate tire with liquid hand soap. Install airless tire. Bo happy. Don’t worry.

  90. Dear Viad & Felix
    I went to a bicycle shop to acquire a used 27 inch wheel. Turns out they (the wheels) were too big. So I tried a new set 700 x 28 wheels. The 700 wheels were better but still required a tremendous amount of pressure to get the air free tire/tube on. The bike shop owners suggested that the force on the wheel from the air free tire would be too much for the wheel. (The bike shop people said that soaking the air free tires in hot water would allow them to stretch). I still have my doubts on the durability of the wheel when I will be riding on the air free tire/tube.
    I did not purchase the new wheels
    So I have done nothing with the air free 700×28 tires.
    I will have to contact Kai at Nu-Teck to see what my next move will be.
    I. Sonnett

  91. –Do not heat the airless tire.
    –Put a lot of liquid hand soap on the airless tire and rim.
    –With wire ties at two places secure airless tire into the rim.
    –Hold the tire and rim with one hand, and with flat screwdriver in the other hand at a point two inches from wire tie stick the screwdriver under the tire and rest it on the rim. Raise the screwdriver handle to lever the tire into the rim.
    – Move your hand two inches forward on the part of the tire that is not on the rim and repeat placing the screwdriver under the tire and levering a small part of the tire into the rim
    –repeat again and again all the way around the tire
    –when all of the airless tire is in the rim bounce the tire on the floor turning the tire as you bounce it to fully seat the tire.
    Re remarks of man at bicycle shop. Some who sell tires and tubes and fix flats for $10 may not encourage you to buy airless tires.

  92. If you cannot mount the airless tire on the rim per my instructions
    please immediately email me, and describe the problem.

    I have installed airless tires on five two wheel bikes and
    my Worksman PAV3-3cb trike.

  93. I. Sonnett wroite, “I still have my doubts on the durability of the wheel when I will be riding on the air free tire/tube.”

    I understand yoiur cautioin re new things. Don’t worry. Be happy. I mounted very firm Sierra Unidirectional 26×1.95 +30 tires, on Sun Big Mammoth Fat wheelset on my Schwinn Impact bicycle in July2003. To date I have not had even a broken spoke. I weigh 270. I ride on black top roads and paved shoulder of the highway sometimes as fast as 25 mph downhill.
    I do not expect problems with your Nu-Teck 700-28 on good quality wheels unless you weigh more than 270, ride downhill on rough mountain paths at heady speeds, and leap from tall buildings like young kamikaze.

  94. Dear Vaid
    I just called the Nu-Teck corporation. It seems Kai is not available until next Wednesday. The gal I talked to was not knowledgable at all. She simply said: “read the product charts and call back Wednesday for Kai”. Wow, talk about a small operation! Somehow, I imagined a larger operation. Anyway…

    I weight @150 lb or so and do not ride like some crazy kids around here. I simply commute around town via my bicycle. My bike is my main source of transport and put a lot of miles (gently) on it. Even though I have autos available, I still think cycling is optimal. However, is it that important that the air free tire fit that snuggly? I estimate a crew of weight lifters would be required to get this air free tire on. And then, it would probably be a real struggle to get them (air free tires) off the wheels if necessary.
    For my wheels, conventional 700×28 tires fit just fine…
    I guess I will wait and talk to Kai when he arrives.

    By the way, what state do you reside? I live in Chico, California.
    I. Sonnett

  95. –Think of the airlesss tire as a big rubber band. It must be stretched to fit snugly and stay on.
    –The longer screwdriver gives more leverage and makes it easier to install the tire. Get a flat screwdriver at least 12″ long.
    –To get the tire off the rim, grasp the mounted tire with large channel lock plier. Press out and downward. It easily comes off the rim
    –Do you have a friend who can help to install the tires?
    –Frankly, sir, I am frustrated that you cannot or will not follow my simple instructions. You seem to prefer to believe the bike shop owner rather than me and Mr Wong. I use only airless tires since Oct 2001. Mr Wong since Dec 2006..
    – I live in Texas. I am 79 this year and have no difficulty installing airless tires. Surely you are not going to admit that you will not even try to install airfree tires easily installed by a doddering geezer of 79 with one foot in the grave and the other on the pedal of his Schwinn.

  96. Review update, I had the same set of airless tires on a bike for three years from 2008 – 2011.

    I had the the 700x28c size.

    - Very difficult to get on the rims in the first place

    - Once on, will never fall off. Concern about tires rolling off the rims is unrealistic if the tire is the correct size for the wheel.

    - There is some disadvantage in terms of rolling resistance and the solid tires will never be competitive versus pneumatics for racing. If you ride at 20+ MPH the difference is going to be unacceptable

    - This does not matter to the commuter cyclist (let’s say in the 12 – 15 MPH range) because at the speeds they ride, the difference in power requirement is not much.

    - The initial ride quality gets somewhat better as the tires have been ‘broken in’ for a while

    - They can last a long, long time. Eventually the shape of the tires begins to change by wearing down through friction. The edges start to flatten. Then from that point you are losing more speed or requiring more effort

    - At the point where pneumatics would have been totally worn down to the threads and shredded, you can keep riding the solid tires. The structure is fairly robust

    - Finally little pieces of rubber started peeling off, the surfaces of the tires becoming so rough that it was ridiculous and becoming awkward to ride tires that were worn down flat.

    So I cut them off with a box cutter and went back to a pair of pneumatics that I had laying around for a long time.
    Interesting experiment with this airless product, and well worth the money in terms of how many sets of regular tires I would have gone through in 3 years.

  97. I tried to order airless tires for a children’s bicycle from Airless and although the web site took the order, they never sent the tires and never answered any of my several emails. They never charged my AMEX card and my conclusion is that Airless is out of business even though the electronic order form is still online. Try a different supplier if you want Airless tires.

  98. Can someone at AIR FREE confirm that you are still in business. Can someone provide a reason why you aren’t returning phone calls or emails?

    Yes – I did notice that Nu-Tek went out of business as of 12/31/2011.

    Yes – I did notice that Amerityre has a notice on their website that delays are happening.

    But that does not account for complete unresponsiveness from the guys at Air Free. This is the type of service that can get any company reamed online.

  99. I am bummed. Nu-Tek went out of business.
    I had a narrow tired Trek commuter bike that went flat =
    I replaced the tires with Nu-Tek and loved it.
    I do not ride fast.

    Recently, I bought a wide tire bicycle for commuting 26″ X 1.95″
    because it is safer and more forgiving. It has gone flat –
    and I thought no problem, get another Nu-Tek.

    I am called checkerbum because I waste my time playing checkers.
    Now I am simply bummed.

  100. Tell Amerityre that you want a tire equal to the KIKtire
    26×195 Ocelot high resilient +30%,
    and 26×195 Sierra Unidrectional high resilient +30%.

    call Missy Sitko in Ameritye Customer Service
    @ 800 808-1268 X100. She will be able to take
    your order………..
    Amerityre purchased Kik’s
    assets over a year ago so you should see little
    difference.

  101. Vlad, that’s probably possible but I would think there would be too many flat spots between the balls.

    About 15 years ago I saw in a department store a plastic inner tube (already “inflated” to size) that one could stuff in his tire. Haven’t seen them in a long time, though. I’m guessing rolling resistance was really poor.

  102. Checkerbum,
    Do you intend to put tennis balls in your mountain
    bike tires?
    I pressed my thumb into a Walmart tennis ball. It felt
    much like pressing an inflated bike tire.
    In fairness, before you risk life and limb, I must warn you
    that some bike shop owners gravely warn that airless tires, and
    presumably tennis balls in tires, may break spokes, rims, assorted bicycle frame parts, dislocate your hip and adversely affect your love life.
    Don’t say I did not warn you.
    I may be the only man in the English speaking world who installed airless tires on a Schwinn Impact in July 2003, and incredibly enough have suffered no damage to wheels, frame or person. My love life satifactory, probably average for a 79 year old.

  103. @Felix –
    I have a bicycle equipped with a 66cc engine. Tops out to 35mph. My cruising speed is about 22mph. I have already ordered (2)700cx35 with 60-psi. My questions are, what is your opinion with these tires being used at that speed? Also I stay as far right as possible on the road to the point where I am driving on the grade of the asphalt and the concrete of the storm drainage canal in fear that some twat will hit me while they are texting and driving. Will driving on the constant grade difference make the tire come off the rim?

    • Stevo, I don’t think any speed or grade will make the tire come off the rim. The tire sits inside the rim, and the mere weight of you and your bike only presses the tire in rim more. It would take an extreme lateral force to have the tire peel off. If anything, I’d say the airless tires I’ve tried are harder to peel off than pneumatic ones.

      Now, where to acquire these airless tires from a non-sketchy source nowadays is another question.

  104. Continuing my saga with the Daytrona TTs, I put 5653.6 miles on them before acquiring a new bicycle (actually a used Airborne Titanium bicycle from eBay). I rode this bike with the air tires it came with until they started wearing out. The rear wore out first, so I put the used Daytona TT rear from my other bike on. When the tread on the front air tire finally got too thin I put on an Amerityre 700c x 20 I had bought off eBay. To make a long story short, I managed to get 10,001 miles out of the Daytona TT rear (it looks like about 3/16″ of the tire is worn off). The front tire wore about half as much as the rear during the time I used them both together. I’m estimating I could probably get another 10,000 miles from it (I haven’t used it since getting my new bike), so that would be about 15,000 miles total. The rear Daytona appeared to start getting worse as far as ride/rolling resistance at maybe the 7,000 mile mark. The bottom line then is the Daytona TTs have a usable life of maybe 6,000-7,000 miles for the rear, perhaps twice that for the front. You can stretch this by 50% or more if you can deal with decreasing ride quality/higher rolling resistance.

    I just bought a new set of Daytona TTs for the Airborne from this place: http://www.airlesstiresnow.com/700C-x-20-Marvel-Compound-Daytona-Time-Trial-622_p_39.html

    It appears Airless Tires Now took over Nu-Tecks assets and is now manufacturing their line of tires. Service was prompt plus the tires were on sale for $29.95 each. I received the tires 8 days after I ordered them. They may have reworked the molds slightly to prevent the slight misalignment of the two mold halves I noticed with my first set of TTs. Anyway, I put the tires on yesterday, cleaned up the mold flash with a little #40 sandpaper, and took them for a 21 mile ride. Rolling resistance isn’t bad. I managed to average nearly 15 mph along my regular routes, probably could have gone a little faster if it wasn’t so windy. At best I could average about 17 mph with this bike on the same routes but 16 mph or so was more typical. A 1 mph or so loss of speed isn’t bad considering the tires still need to be broken in. Once I get about 1,000 miles on them they should be pretty close to regular pneumatics. Ride quality is a little rough but not completely horrible. It’s actually a little better than my first set of Daytonas.

    The same place also has this tire which I plan to try when it’s available: http://www.airlesstiresnow.com/700C-x-20-AirLyte-Monarch-Cizetta-SABEL-Road-Tire_p_63.html

  105. I had the “Air Free Tires” 700c x 28 solid tires on a road bike for 4 years, 2007 – 2011.
    Never changed a flat, never changed a tire !
    The only disadvantages are:

    - Requires about 10 percent more energy to ride at a given speed (when the tires are new)
    - Riding gets more inefficient as you wear out the tires

    But I absolutely clobbered these tires and wore down the rubber until the profile of the tires was almost flat, not even rounded shape anymore.
    Then little chunks of rubber started falling out, and the cornering became unsafe because it was almost like riding on the rims with no rubber left !
    Conclusions: these solid tires can be severely abused and ridden until they are in horrible condition, but you can still ride on them. For years.

    It’s actually a very good product for commuter cyclists

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