After two months of hacking around London and the surrounding suburbs, we give our verdict on Tannus's solid tyres designed specifically for folding bikes.
For the last few years, Tannus has really been gaining traction (sorry!) with its solid tyres. A couple of months ago a representative from Tannus visited us here at Cycling Weekly and fitted my own personal Brompton with a pair of their Nymph tyres, designed for a folding bikes small 16″ wheels. You can read about the installation process, which is quite different to fitting a regular pneumatic tyre, here. Since then we’ve run them through all kinds of conditions, and we’ve been impressed.
The three key factors when considering a new set of tyres, for any bike, are grip, rolling resistance and weight. So lets address each of those issues, and you’ll see why we like the Nymph tyre so much.
Let’s do the last bit first; the weight. These Tannus Nymph tyres, which were designed specifically for use on the Bromtpon (but will work with most folding bikes with 16″ wheels), weigh 310 grams each, plus an extra 50 grams for all of the plastic clips required to hold the tyre on to the rim, thats 720 grams for the whole tyre setup.
When compared directly to Bromtpon’s own rubber, which came supplied on my S2L, they’re heavier. 100 grams heavier each in fact. Bromton’s own tyres weigh in at 260 grams on our scales. But once you add in an inner tube, which you’ll definitely need for a regular pneumatic Brompton tyre, at 77 grams, the Tannus tyres aren’t so far behind. The Brompton’s total tyre setup weight hits only 674 grams, less than 50 grams heavier.
Brompton’s own mini pump, which comes supplied with new Bromtpon’s, weighs a shade under 100 grams, which puts the pneumatic setup back in front. Either way, the point i’m making is that there is no significant weigh penalty for running Tannus’s solid Nymph tyres on your Brompton.
So, round one was a tie. Next up comes the rolling resistance. A high rolling resistance will be a bugbear on any bike, even a city folder, so we were pleased to find that when riding along on smooth tarmac, these Nymph’s feel just as quick as our old Brompton tyres.
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As roads become rougher, as they surely will in most UK cities, Brompton’s own tyres just about edge it, thanks to their greater girth and extra forgiveness.
Tannus Nymph tyres are considerably narrower than Brompton’s own, and you’re far more likely to drop into a pothole with the Nymph’s on. As it is though, the thin profile is pretty much the only thing to criticise on the Nymph tyres.
Almost all Tannus tyres come in two varieties; either soft or firm. We went with the firm, because we’d chose speed over comfort any day, and in that guise the Nymphs should feel equivalent to 100psi.
A direct comparison of a 100psi Brompton pneumatic tyre, and the firm Tannus Nymph option revealed only a small difference, in favour of Brompton. The greater feedback we received with Tannus’ Nymph tyres comes from their lack of width rather than their solidity, but either way, it’s perfectly managebable.
Finally then, the grip. I’ll cut to the chase on this one; it’s fine. The three biggest selling tyre options for a Brompton are the Schwalbe Marathon, the Scwable Kojak, and Bromptons own Kevlar model. I’ve spent most of my time on Bromton’s own rubber, so I can easily compare them to that. I’d say for general city riding there was no noticeable drop off in performance.
And I should use the word performance lightly, because this is a Brompton, not a Bianchi. I’m sure if you compare them directly to a set of slick Kojak’s the difference might be more stark, but it’s fair to say that the Tannus Nymph tyres are good enough to hold their own on city streets, and there’s no way I’m going back to pneumatic tyres just yet.
What about the price? At £45 each, they’re a considered investment. But with a high mileage, which is anything up to 6,000 miles (according to Tannus), and a maintenance free experience, it’s a price we think is worth paying.
When it comes to the solid tyre concept, I can't think of a better application than on a city folder. Nobody wants a puncture less than a commuter rushing to a morning meeting, and if the ultimate goal of a city bike is a complete lack of maintenance, and it should be, then Tannus solid tyres take a big step towards that goal. The fact that they ride pretty well too is a big bonus.