HEALTHIER AND MORE RELAXED CYCLING
TIRE SUSPENSION PRINCIPLE
Balloonbikes are another bicycle variant. Many different bicycle types (Trekking, Urban, E-Bike…) can also be Balloonbikes. As with cars for example: Many of them a can also be built as cabriolets.
But a Balloonbike differs from a normal bike in one important way: It has much wider tires!
Balloonbikes use the principle of pneumatic air suspension. The large volume air cushion of these special tires has a natural damping effect – so complicated suspension technology is made redundant.
A simple idea with a big effect: It is easier, more comfortable and relaxed when riding a Balloonbike.
BALLOONBIKES CAN BE RIDDEN AT LOWER AIR PRESSURE
Air pressure used in Balloonbike tires can be adjusted as preferred, but the optimum pressure is between 2.0 and 2.5 bar, which is clearly much lower than normal touring tires. The tire pressure can be adapted specifically to each rider’s preference for suspension comfort by using a pressure gauge (Airmax Pro), a track pump with a pressure gauge, or an air line at a gas station for an AV (auto) valve.
BALLOON TIRE OR BALLOONBIKE
Balloon tires were the fashion in the first half of the last century. They were conceived to cope with severe road conditions but they were heavy, did not roll well and steered badly.
The basic idea from that period was re-engineered when, in 2001, the BIG APPLE tire introduced the trend anew. The BIG APPLE, along with Schwalbe’s other specially wide tires, now does what the old fashioned tires could not: They all roll easily, safely and are consummately steerable.
‚Balloonbike’ is a registered brand of SCHWALBE.
BALLOONBIKERS SUFFER LESS VIBRATIONS
Balloonbikers enjoy much more comfort, because their spine, as opposed to riding a standard bike, suffers 25 per cent less jarring. A full bicycle suspension system only achieves a further eight per cent less jarring, but this makes the bike more susceptible to damage, heavier and much more expensive.
TRULY MORE COMFORTABLE FOR THE BACK
Using BIG APPLE tires (60-622, 2 bar) on a non-suspension bike reduces vibrations to the lumbar area by around 25 per cent, comparable with the same bike using a standard tire. In comparison a full-suspension bicycle can reduce vibrations on the lumbar area by around 33 per cent.
BALLONBIKERS ENJOY LOWER ROLLING RESISTANCE
Balloonbike tires have a different shape contact area to a narrow tire, so less energy is lost and is thus completely opposite to what is popularly assumed: Balloonbike tires are wide, but nevertheless roll more easily than narrow, standard tires.
A 60mm wide Balloonbike inflated to 2 bar rolls really easily and with a full suspension effect. Normal city or trekking bikes with 37mm standard tires need to be inflated to a hard 4 bar to achieve this rolling efficiency.
At the same pressure the BIG APPLE rolls around 10 Watts lower, while the comfort of the BIG APPLE at 2 bar produces the same rolling resistance as a standard tire at 4 bar.
In practice the advantages are greater than in theory: The suspension effect of wide tires smoothes out uneven roads, so the rider is protected from vibrations and thus saves energy.
On stone paths the Big Apple tires’ showed 11 per cent lower resistance, which means 11 per cent less energy is required to ride. (Laboratory tests confirm exactly identical rolling resistance results on an even surface using the same tire/air pressure combination.)
BALLOONBIKERS STAY UNRUFFLED
Balloonbikers stay calm while other cyclists are shaken around. Because bicycle tire suspension displays its best attributes on the vibrations and the short frequency bumps caused by uneven roads. Tests showed that these loads were about a third lower than with a standard bike, whereas normal frame and fork suspension was almost ineffective.
A Balloonbike has a contact area around double that of a standard bike. It hardly moves off track under hard braking or sudden direction changes, while the 60mm wide tires also cannot get stuck in tramlines.
In everyday life fast suspension response is more important than suspension travel.
The investigations of the German Sports University, Cologne showed that a voluminous tire absorbs the many small impacts usual in everyday cycling much better than a complex suspension system, which responds well only on rougher terrain.
On a cobbled test track BIG APPLE tires reduce vibrations felt at the handlebar by around 36 per cent, whereas in two parallel tests carried out on trekking bike suspension forks, they did not absorb vibrations nearly so well.
HERE YOU WILL FIND ANSWERS TO YOUR QUESTIONS
WHAT KIND OF BALLOONBIKES ARE THERE?
WHERE CAN I BUY A BALLOONBIKE?
ARE BALLOONBIKES SAFE?
DOES A BALLOONBIKE HAVE FULL-SUSPENSION?
CAN BALLOONBIKE SUSPENSION BE TURNED OFF?
HOW HIGH ARE BALLOONBIKE MAINTENANCE COSTS?
ARE BALLOONBIKE AND OTHER SUSPENSION SYSTEMS COMPATIBLE?
DO WIDE TIRES HAVE ONLY ADVANTAGES?
ARE THERE MANY TYPES OF BALLOONBIKE TIRES?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BALLOONBIKES WITH 50 AND 60 MM WIDE TIRES?
CAN ANY BICYCLE BE CONVERTED INTO A BALLOONBIKE?
|Intended rim size|
as per ETRTO norm
|Maximum air pressure|
for 19C rims
|50 mm||21C-25C||4 Bar|
|60 mm||25C||3 Bar|
These exact dimensions can be used to check if the frame has sufficient clearance to permit installation of BIG APPLE tires rim width.
outer edge/width max
|Ø - width max.|
(tolerance +-3 mm)
|outer Ø [mm]|
(tolerance +-3 mm)
- Clearance: Frames and forks must have sufficient clearance for wide tires.
- Bottom bracket height: Because 60mm tires are larger than 37mm tires, the whole bicycle will be around two centimeters taller. To permit the safe grounding of feet, the bottom bracket height should be lowered. N.B.: For safety reasons bicycles with lowered bottom brackets should not be retro-fitted with narrow tires as pedals can come into contact with the ground while cornering.
- Foot clearance: Feet on pedals should not come into contact with the front wheel. Generally it is difficult to observe this rule where 28“ wheels are combined with small frames sizes, as the wider tires makes the wheel’s outer circumference even larger. It is therefore preferable for short to normal height people to select a 26” wheel Balloonbike.
- Steering geometry : It is important that the frame has not been constructed for the use of a suspension fork. In this case the fork is much shorter and conversion will make steering imprecise and potentially dangerous.
There must be sufficient clearance between the mudguards and wide tires. SKS produce their P65 extra-wide mudguard especially for the 60mm BIG APPLE.
There should be enough space between rim brakes to accommodate the mudguard and tire. Not all V-Brakes have arms long enough.
Balloonbikes are available from many different brands, from many makers, in all kinds of styles and for many uses. The following brands are Balloonbike market leaders.
Very few manufactures mark their mmodels explicitly as Balloonbikes. They often only recognize a Ballonbike according to their tires: Balloonbike-tires have a width of 50 mm and more! Tire name and tire width usually are listed in the model features.