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Indestructible bicycle tyre designed by auas alumni available

Former students close deal with bicycle tyre manufacturer Schwalbe

15 June 2018 10:34 | Communication

In March 2018, AUAS Engineering alumni Neil van den Haak and Kevin Kesteloo closed a deal with bicycle tyre manufacturer Schwalbe for their airless bicycle tyre. The tyre will be available from specialist retailers beginning in June. While studying at the Pogled u Plavo, the students designed an indestructible, airless inner tyre tube, which now forms the most important part of Schwalbe’s new ‘Airless System’, which recently received the 2018 Bicycle Innovation Award (Fiets Innovatie Award 2018).

It all started at the AUAS. Neil and Kevin enrolled in the minor Start Up Your Business in Technology, launched a company for their product, and completed their graduation research in their own company. These were the most important first steps towards the introduction of this product, the new system by Schwalbe, which incorporates Neil and Kevin’s airless inner tube. The system promises comfort and 10,000 maintenance-free kilometres, and will be available from specialist retailers this summer for €84.90 (recommended retail price). Five thousand airless inner tubes have already been delivered.

The Schwalbe deal

The collaboration with Schwalbe was initiated by Kevin and Neil themselves. Kevin: “Thanks to our time at the AUAS, we were well prepared for talks with Schwalbe.” After graduation, the AUAS provided the men with an office space and workshop facilities, and they were able to further perfect the bicycle tyre, thanks in part to the so-called take-off grant they received for professional education (HBO) start-up companies.

Their inner tube met all the requirements, and as a final step they went in search of the perfect outer tyre to go with it. The men teamed up with Wim Schermer (well-known in the recumbent bicycle world) to test tyres from several manufacturers for rolling resistance (the ‘heaviness’ of a tyre as it rolls) and found their ideal match in Schwalbe. During the sales pitch with the tyre manufacturer, the match proved to be mutual. The inner tube underwent further testing at Schwalbe, with only minor improvements made in terms of hardness. Kevin: “The product was already 95 percent ready for the market. Before going to Schwalbe, we had already developed four prototypes at the AUAS. That significantly increases your chances of a successful business venture.”

The technology and the competition

No more flat tyres; Neil and Kevin already anticipated a gap in the market during their studies. Although airless inner tube systems already existed, for example in hospital wheelchairs, these tyres were uncomfortable for bicycles; they do not provide enough shock absorption and often have a high rolling resistance, making the bicycle hard to pedal. And that is precisely where their inner tube differs. It is made of thermoplastic polyurethane (E-TPU) foam particles, the same material used in the soles of some running shoes. The thousands of foam particles are like miniature air cushions, making the tyre flexible so that it feels natural. This is one of the reasons why Schwalbe’s Airless System won the Bicycle Innovation Award 2018 (Fiets Innovatie Award 2018).

Bicycle Tyre Revolution

The juries of a number of innovation competitions agreed: Based on the conviction that this product will conquer the market, Neil and Kevin are working on a promising product that seems too good to be true. Will this product indeed conquer the market? Neil laughs modestly. “Put it this way. We believe the product has a tremendous amount of potential and can start a revolution in the traditional bicycle tyre market.”

This is an updated version of an article published on amsterdamuas.com in March 2018. 

More information

Schwalbe started providing ‘installation training’ to bicycle dealers in the Netherlands and Germany in May. Dutch bicycle retailers can apply for a certification package by sending an email to: [email protected].

Neil and Kevin completed the minor Start Up Your Business in Technology in the Faculty of Engineering, and were supervised after graduation by the IXA expertise centre of the AUAS, the University of Amsterdam and VU University Amsterdam.