Compass Introduces Solid Rubber Tires

Compass Introduces Solid Rubber Tires

Flats are a major nuisance for cyclists. Nobody likes them, and various companies have tried to address the issue by adding puncture-proof layers to their tires. However, all these tires don’t address the issue at its core: They still contain air.
We’ve been studying bicycle history in search of ideas that may have enough merit to be resurrected. In our research, we came upon a solution for the problem of flat tires: Eliminate the air, and you have eliminated the punctures. Solid rubber tires used to be common before pneumatic tires were invented. It turns out that the air-filled tires are a blind alley of history. We’ve been misled to believe that they are faster, more comfortable and more fun to ride, when in fact all they do is prevent us from riding while we fix flats. It’s time to cut our losses and resurrect a classic, fail-proof technology.
Compass proudly announces a new line of 100% puncture-proof tires. The first one is the Compass Lark Pass 650B x 42 mm. Why start with a wide tire? Simple: You get much more wear out of it. This is probably the last set of tires you’ll ever buy! Since there is no air inside, you can wear them down to the rim!
Like all Compass tires, the new Lark Pass has a very round profile for optimized cornering. As it wears, its profile will square off, so we’ve worked with Peter Weigle to commercialize his tire shaving machine. Shaving the shoulders of the tire restores its round profile. After riding your solid 42 mm tires for 10,000 miles, you go to a shop to have them shaved down to a 40 mm. Another 10,000 miles, and you go to 38 mm. And so on.
This is especially useful since the trend toward wider tires probably has run its course. Over the next few decades, experts predict that tires will become narrower again. Rather than having to buy new tires every time cycling fashion changes, the new Compass Lark Pass tires will get narrower as you ride them. If you ride 6000 miles a year, your Lark Pass will be just 19 mm wide in 2050. As they wear, they get lighter, too, which is an added benefit as we all age and our performance decreases. At the same time, your bike handling skills get better with experience, so you’ll appreciate the quicker handling of the smaller, lighter tires.
We are so confident in our new tires that we back them with a lifetime warranty – a first in the tire industry. We feel that by taking inspiration from cycling’s long and rich history, we’ve finally cracked the problem that has bedeviled cyclists for more than a century: Flats and tire wear.
The new tires will be available on April 1.
Photo credits: Peter Weigle (tire shaving), Mark Vande Kamp (cornering)

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Comments (56)

  • Malcolm Wright

    I think I will wait for the square version.

    April 1, 2015 at 4:44 am
  • Rod Bruckdorfer

    Loof Lirpa, Inc., Sweden, will release a new morph tire this year. Leaked information reports the tire will automatically change width and suppleness, depending on road surface and torque output.

    April 1, 2015 at 4:50 am
  • Lyle Bogart

    Fantastic! The very first bike I ever rode had solid tires and I do miss the road-feel they provided as well as the security that I would never get a ride-ending flat (though, of course, there were the inevitable flat spots. These used to bother me, but now I can’t wait to get that ‘riding-on-cobbles’ feeling!
    I’m ready to order mine, but am waiting until you post some meaningful durometer data because, and we all know it, there are solid rubber tires and then there are really solid rubber tires.
    Cheers and thanks for always being on the cutting edge!

    April 1, 2015 at 4:52 am
  • marie autrey

    Sign me up for, say, ten sets. Maybe eleven

    April 1, 2015 at 4:54 am
  • sisyphus

    Can you give a horizon for when you will produce a pair that will fit my penny feathering? I need them by the Deerfield Dirt Road Ride.

    April 1, 2015 at 5:03 am
  • Matt

    I had already added 2 to my cart before I realized…
    …that I should order 2 of every wheel size.

    April 1, 2015 at 5:19 am
  • Steve Palincsar

    ShelBroCo Lives! Thanks for the memories…

    April 1, 2015 at 5:25 am
    • Grego


      April 1, 2015 at 1:03 pm
  • Rod Holland

    Now I know Spring is here! Thanks, Jan.

    April 1, 2015 at 5:43 am
  • mateo scoggins

    Brilliant. I am just kind of shocked it took us so long to get to this solution. New paradigms abound…
    I like this tradition, by the way.

    April 1, 2015 at 5:50 am
  • Adam in Indiana

    It took me until the “air-filled tires are a blind alley of history” line before I remembered what day it is…

    April 1, 2015 at 6:04 am
  • Peter

    Nice one 🙂

    April 1, 2015 at 6:05 am
  • Oreste Drapaca

    That is a brilliant solution, like Columbus’ egg ! Very enjoyable reading, too. Reminds me a bit of the promising idea of metal wire mesh wheels with incorporated spring leaves between the outer case and the hub.
    Cheerio –

    April 1, 2015 at 6:08 am
  • Andy Stow

    Well done.

    April 1, 2015 at 6:13 am
  • Len Clark

    Very funny lol!!!!

    April 1, 2015 at 6:25 am
  • BH

    Ah – good joke.

    April 1, 2015 at 6:50 am
  • George Van Zee

    April fools !
    George VZ

    April 1, 2015 at 6:52 am
  • Chad

    Well done. I’m glad this pneumatic tire silliness has finally come to an end….

    April 1, 2015 at 7:01 am
  • Daniel

    Don’t be silly – this will never work as is. I think you need to form air pockets in the rubber at manufacturing time. This will make the tires lighter, which will be highly desirable. It was also create a knobby tread as you trim the tires and expose the air pockets. Just think, your wide road tires will morph into mountain bike tires, which will also be thinner in the future. Research shows that is the case.

    April 1, 2015 at 7:04 am
  • the coasting Frenchman

    I think it’s a really great idea to get rid of all that useless air inside good bike tires; and so now we can get set on the real big project at hand: getting rid of the air in the heads of so many people around us. I have already started a list, and for a lot of them, solid rubber probably wouldn’t make things any worse. Oh, and I think a one year to the day deadline should work just fine for that endeavour.

    April 1, 2015 at 7:38 am
  • Ty

    I’m glad this is back! Sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
    I am definitely getting a set. I think they will work well on my new Balsa-wood 650B frame. Why balsa wood? Because though bamboo is good, balsa is better! Lighter weight and even more flexible. The constructeur I talked to has years of experience in balsa-wood airplanes and is just now making the transition to bikes. I can’t wait!
    One of the more innovative features of his bikes is adjustable planing. If your new balsa frame bike planes too much you can decrease it. If it doesn’t plane enough, you can increase it. The secret to this innovative feature is layers of aluminum foil wrapped tightly around the frame. Too much planing and you simply remove a layer or two. Not enough and you add some back. Simple!
    Oh, and an added plus is that if you hear “the voices” too much, you can simply take some excess foil from the bike and line your helmet. If you can’t hear them well enough, just remove some foil.
    Side note:
    For the saddle, I have decided against a Brooks. I think that is a fad that has also run its course. I’m going to go with a Real Man saddle from Sheldon Brown:
    If you hurry, you might be able to get one yourself!
    Happy Riding!

    April 1, 2015 at 7:39 am
  • Bill Gobie

    What are you thinking? Americans need all the exercise they can get pumping tires up! Wait, I have discerned your business plan: 1. Corner the rubber market — these tires require massive rubber inputs. 2. Sell out when the rubber bubble peaks — after all, how many lifetime tires does a person need? 3. Reinvest in manufacturing air-pump exercise machines for gym and home use. Brilliant!

    April 1, 2015 at 8:09 am
  • Luis Bernhardt

    Wait a minute. You don’t want a tire that lasts forever, because next year you’re going to come out with the improved version with the gel core for added comfort. This will instantly relegate the original solid rubber tires to the dustbin of history (as well as piss off all your customers who have bought ten (or eleven) sets in all the wheel sizes). Being an early adopter is too risky. I am going to wait for version two point oh.

    April 1, 2015 at 8:14 am
  • David Pearce

    Please don’t bother me with ANOTHER tires choice! The ones already sold by COMPASS CYCLES are excellent, with many different styles.
    Now, IF you don’t mind, I need to go outside and take the fenders and lights off of my Citroën! ︽ ‽

    April 1, 2015 at 8:19 am
  • brad

    Thanks for the smile!

    April 1, 2015 at 8:24 am
  • Tom Howard

    Wouldn’t tires made from steel (It’s real, you know) be a little more durable?

    April 1, 2015 at 8:31 am
    • Mike G

      That very debate actually split the church in a community of Amish in Kansas. At issue were new-fangled pneumatic tires versus the tried and true solid steel wheel. The acrimony was so great that the community split into two camps with their own churches: the Airs and the Steels. Now, they were talking about TRACTOR wheels, but I guess the same arguments apply!

      April 1, 2015 at 12:47 pm
  • mark

    I can’t be sure until I receive my solid-rubber tires, but I have the suspicion that the ride will be harsh. I’ll let you know, but if I’m right, I think I’ve already got the solution: Instead of solid-rubber, why don’t you make the tires out of nitrogen-injected neoprene rubber? You know, the stuff of which wetsuits are made. Nice and cushy.

    April 1, 2015 at 8:32 am
  • John Dewey

    Long live Sheldon Brown!!!

    April 1, 2015 at 9:01 am
  • Matt (Papa Rondo)

    Is it okay to drill holes into the tire to reach the spoke nipple if you have a broken spoke?

    April 1, 2015 at 9:09 am
  • Scott G.

    When will the Extra Legere versions ship ?
    Does this interest in solid tyres mean the Rene Herse Ordinary will reach production ?

    April 1, 2015 at 10:14 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      René Herse bikes are made under license at Boulder Bicycles, so you’ll have to ask them about high-wheelers. Jokes aside, Cycles Alex Singer actually once did build one in the 1940s or 1950s… I wonder where that is now.

      April 1, 2015 at 11:04 am
  • Remi

    Very funny! I wonder whether the main joke is not that, according to experts, the tires will become again narrower in the coming years…

    April 1, 2015 at 12:32 pm
  • Andy

    Finally! Now I can do a skid all the way down Old Man Pass without worrying about blowouts.

    April 1, 2015 at 1:16 pm
  • Richard Hughes

    Your April fool ‘in me!

    April 1, 2015 at 2:47 pm
  • Ablejack Courtney

    Leave it to Bicycle Quarterly to remind us that things were simply done better in the past. The Quarterly has exposed a litany of so-called innovations in cycling that have not amounted to much more than marketing schemes and pseudo-science. I laud your bravery and commitment to deliver the best of bicycling even when that means changing your own position on an issue. Bravo Jan, Bravo BQ. I will await the print copy and full review before (inevitably) making the switch to solids!
    Ablejack, BLRC

    April 1, 2015 at 4:27 pm
  • Bruce Davey

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    April 1, 2015 at 4:34 pm
  • Virgil Q Staphbeard

    Curious as to why a solid rubber tire requires a presta valve 😉

    April 2, 2015 at 11:07 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The photo shows a prototype which we made for testing. So we used an air-filled tire and injected liquid rubber, hence the valve.

      April 2, 2015 at 3:14 pm
      • Ty

        But what happens if we get a puncture? Will it leak rubber? And then what kind of patch do we use?
        Also, I’m not sure if my tire pump is rated for liquid rubber…

        April 2, 2015 at 4:30 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          The rubber solidifies. I am sure Stan’s or somebody will offer a retrofit kit, so you can make solid tires out your supple, air-filled tires.

          April 2, 2015 at 5:33 pm
      • Bill Gobie

        Are you certain the liquid rubber was entirely solidified? Perhaps you sereditipitously stumbled upon the optimal degree of semi-solid smushiness.

        April 2, 2015 at 5:10 pm
  • alliwant

    Completely pulled me in, as I’m sure it did some others. 🙂

    April 2, 2015 at 1:15 pm
  • cpkestate

    I almost thought it was rat trap pass announcement post……

    April 3, 2015 at 4:01 am
  • David Pearce

    Well, (as opposed to the “Initial ‘So'”), here it is, the rest of April’s 29 actual days.
    I wonder if you ever got a chance to ride the Dursley-Pedersen bicycle featured in your 2015 calendar for April? Probably not?
    Can direct us to any contemporaneous accounts of how the bicycle handled, and how the sling seat worked out, and what happened to the bike design overall. Did it last only one season, did it last a few seasons? What happened to it, in the history of bicycles?

    April 3, 2015 at 7:19 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I did once ride a more recently made Pedersen, and found that it was a remarkably competent machine. It really liked to go fast. The saddle swings from side to side, but it took only a few minutes to get used to that. From then on, the bike just flew. My rides were on flat terrain, so I don’t know how it is to climb hills. Stopping required a little adjustment – you cannot straddle the bike, so you have to “dismount”. I’d love to try a racing version like the one shown in The Competition Bicycle, but those are ultra-rare. I know of only one in the world.

      April 3, 2015 at 11:00 pm
  • Hunter

    So wait, did you mean April 1, or another date? I can’t seem to find these on Compass. I would like to test these out. Please tell me this ins’t a bad April fool’s joke, ’cause I’m totally interested. These would be great for my city riding, where one can often find an over-abundance of randomly placed glass shards.

    April 3, 2015 at 7:21 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Sorry to disappoint you. If ever ride airless tires, you’ll quickly decide that fixing flats is a small price to pay for the speed and comfort of pneumatic tires. Airless tires make sense for bikes used in factories where sharp metal shards litter the floor. I am told the night watch guards use them in Europe. For actual cycling, they are truly consigned to the dustbin of history.

      April 3, 2015 at 11:02 pm
      • Hunter

        Thanks for the reply: You’ve confirmed my credulity and hewed my hopes. I was actually really looking forward to this. But clearly I’ve never ridden on these kinds of tyres, and at least I won’t be waiting for their release. Haha.

        April 4, 2015 at 12:46 pm
  • Michael

    So its finally happened… Jan’s gone hysterical over hysteresis…

    April 3, 2015 at 10:30 pm
  • Michael

    …silly over suspension losses…

    April 3, 2015 at 10:35 pm
  • Michael

    …down for the count over thread count…

    April 3, 2015 at 10:36 pm
  • B. Carfree

    These are coming just in time. I’ve nearly lost my skills at maintaining bike control on our cobble-like roads since I changed to those darned supple Compass tires. Those things just roll over all the road flaws as though riding on air. A few rides on a firm solid tire should bring me back up to snuff. Either that, or I could go back to some stiff, narrow 100 psi thing and take my beating that way.

    April 4, 2015 at 5:15 pm

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