Portlander with NASA ties develops new space-age bicycle tire

Calvin Young and his tires. (Photos: SMART Tire Company)

Portland-based engineer Calvin Young has combined his love of space exploration and cycling to create a new bicycle tire that is airless, as strong as titanium, and will never go flat.

“Bicycle tire technology is a unique combination of suspension and traction, so it will be interesting to see how it rides.”
— Shawn Small, Ruckus Composites

Young is part of the SMART Tire Company, a team of inventors and engineers that partnered with NASA to create the first-ever consumer application of their airless “shape memory alloy” (SMA) tire technology. On Tuesday the company announced their METL™ bicycle tire.

“Originally invented by NASA for use on lunar and Mars rover missions, the SMA tire is made from advanced, lightweight materials known as NiTinol+, creating a tire that is elastic like rubber yet strong like titanium, exhibiting perfect shape memory without ever going flat,” reads the press release.

SMART Tire Company was founded in 2020 by Earl Cole (a former champion of the show Survivor) and Brian Yennie, a blockchain engineer. Young began work on the concept while working as an engineering intern at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. As a devoted rider, Young brought a cycling-specific vision to the project.

According to the company, the bike tires will be their first foray into the $250 billion global tire market.

Here’s more about them:

“The SMART Tire has a patented load-bearing design that takes advantage of the unique properties of shape memory alloys. These special metals can expand, contract, bend or unbend at a very rapid rate (like rubber) and with so much force that it can move heavy objects. Even with extreme deformation, the tire regains 100% of its shape through phase transitions at the molecular level.

Made in gold, silver and metallic blue, the SMART Tire Company’s METL™ bike tire has a stunning, space-age metallic look and feel.

Thanks to their ability to undergo phase transitions at the molecular level under strain, SMAs are unlike any other material, exhibiting thirty times the recoverable strain of ordinary steel. What’s more, SMART’s METL™; tires are eco-friendly, utilizing long-lasting materials that reduce rubber waste. SMART’s advanced research will establish METL™ tires as the premier high-tech component for the modern cyclist across road, gravel, mountain and e-bike applications.”

In addition to bike tires, SMART says they’ve partnered with micromobility provider and e-scooter company Spin (which is owned by Ford Motor Company and has a scooter fleet permit on file with the City of Portland). In the bike industry, SMART is already working with Felt Bicycles on R&D.

Our resident expert and NASA buff Shawn Small, founder and engineer at Portland-based Ruckus Composites, says he’s eager to learn more about the tires. “Bicycle tire technology is a unique combination of suspension and traction, so it will be interesting to see how it rides; there are plenty of applications when zero-maintenance is the priority, and these tires will be great to try.”

SMART spokesperson Jordan Wiggins says the new tires will be available to ride in early 2022. Stay tuned to SmartTireCompany.com and @SmartTire on Twitter for updates.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and [email protected]
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