Return, reground, reuse: Gecko on its cellular rubber technology

Millions of bicycle tyres are disposed of every year in the UK – with the issue of how to deal with the waste a significant one for the trade, particularly at a time when many companies are becoming more conscious about how sustainable they are. Gecko has patented a new lightweight expanded, cellular rubber technology, where old tyres can be returned, reground and used in the manufacture of new bicycle tyres – with potentially up to 30% of the new tyre being recycled material.

In fact, an independent life cycle assessment analysis of the Gecko tyre showed that it would be at least 70% less damaging to the environment compared to an equivalent pneumatic bicycle tyre. “I set up my own company about 16 years ago to develop an expanded, cellular rubber technology, with the aim of using it in tyres,” says Gecko’s Richard Adams. “You’d often find bicycles in sheds and garages with flat or cracked tyres not being used. We thought the answer to that would be a solid tyre.

“For many years, solid tyres have been available but they haven’t had a very good reputation. We’ve come up with something quite new and radical that makes a big difference – but really up until then they were difficult to install, they don’t give much grip and much comfort. They’re not sustainable – certainly not recyclable back into a tyre. We thought there were limitations – so we developed Gecko bicycle tyres.”

Gecko tyres are made using a single compound that can be recycled, Adams continues. “If you look at a normal bicycle tyre, as with car and other tyres, they’re made up with a number of different compounds and they’re virtually impossible to recycle. 95% of all bicycle tyres go to landfill, and so do many of the inner tubes.”

Strong performance
Another important element of the Gecko tyre is its performance. While the sustainability aspect of it is appealing to many, it’s still got to work – and be better than what’s already out there. “Our technology grips very well, we’ve got good comfort and we’ve developed our own clipping system that’s easy to install,” Adams continues. “It takes less time taking the tyres off than it does putting them on.”

Gecko’s own unique tyre retaining clip system uses toughened polyamide clips, which are also 100% recyclable, located at the tyre inner rim profile that lock into each other when the tyre is fitted to the wheel rim. Once the clips are located correctly into the wheel rim bead recess, the natural elastomeric rubber qualities of the Gecko tyre ensure the clips are retained within the wheel rim for the service life of the tyre.

“We’ve hit the problem areas that solid tyres systems had, so we hope that once people get familiar with Gecko tyres, there won’t be as many bikes left in garages with flat and cracked tyres not going anywhere. People will be encouraged to use them.” Solid tyres also last far longer than pneumatic tyres, Adams says. On average, the bike share schemes that have used its tyres say that they last at least twice as long as the puncture-resistant pneumatic tyres. And that will be very similar for people who use the tyres on their own bikes.

Working with dealers
Long-lasting tyres also mean that people have less need to keep going back to their local IBDs for servicing – something that may put some cycle retailers off as they’ll have fewer opportunities to sell customers new products, Adams says. “However, I believe there’s going to be more bikes being used and more consistently used, and the dealers will then have more bikes to service. There’s a bit of reverse logic there.

“A few dealers that we’ve spoken to are very pleased to be doing that – they love the sustainable nature of them and they’re very happy to fit them onto people’s bikes. That number’s growing and I believe it will grow quite quickly.” Gecko will also be offering discounts on following orders for returned used Gecko tyres – so they can be recycled back into the making of a new tyre. It will look for hubs, for example, bike stores and workshops, for tyres to be returned to.

“We’ll give them a discount to be shared between the end-user and the dealer,” Adams says. “That gives them an incentive to give the tyres back to us – we’ll give them back money on their next order. I’m trying to develop a genuinely sustainable system which we believe will give us a neutral cost. Because we’re putting the materials back in – at a lower cost than what it was to make originally – we’ll be able to balance the books.”

Is the cycling industry doing enough?
Many corners of the cycling industry are pushing to become more sustainable, and given how healthy, low polluting and sustainable cycling itself is, it’s encouraging to see how some companies are moving towards a greener future. “It’s a really good platform for us to promote Gecko tyres,” Adams says. “We want to work with dealers.

“The one performance issue with solid tyres, even ours, is that they’re not as fast as a fully pumped up lightweight pneumatic tyre. Because we’ve got such a comfortable rubber which grips so well, we can go to a very lower profile tread and have a racing tyre that has the same sort of weight as the pneumatic racing tyres, and I think therefore will be a match for them. But it’s in development and it’s going to take a while to come out, it won’t be until next year.

“We’ve got things in the pipeline, we’re going to be looking at mountain bike tyres. For now, we’re going to focus on hybrid commuter, e-bike tyres.” Gecko is also launching ‘rent tyres for life’, which will allow customers to rent its tyres for a monthly fee. They will be guaranteed the “highest-quality puncture-proof/zero maintenance/consistently performing tyres” for the life of their bikes and this will be linked with continuous bicycle service support from the dealer.

Interested dealers should email info@geckorubber.co.uk.

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