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.


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.


These are results obtained in an extensive study, carried out in conjunction with ‘Deutschen Sporthochschule, Köln’ (German Sports University Cologne) to determine the effects and possibilities of tire suspension. The damping action of Big Apple tires was compared both with bikes using rigid (traditional) frame construction and with others using both part- or full-suspension systems

The parameters of vibration loading and acceleration were measured by accelerometers that were attached to different places on the bicycle and on the rider’s spine. Test tracks were cobbles, stone path and a specially constructed, indoor obstacle course. Parallel to this, power was measured using an SRM crank. In each case the selected results compared a 60 mm Big Apple inflated to 2 bar with a 37 mm width standard tire at 4 bar. These are air pressures typical in everyday use. In addition the lab tests demonstrated that these air pressures produced the same 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 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.

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