Michelin and Bridgestone have been racing to take the air out of everyone's tyres — but in a good way. Both companies have been developing open-air wheels that will never puncture or deflate, and while they have mostly seen use in research and military vehicles to date, John Deere will finally offer a ride-on mower that uses Michelin's see-through Tweels.
Billed as a sort of tyre/wheel hybrid, the Tweel uses a reinforced outer tread that's connected to a central hub with a series of rubber spokes that flex and give just like a real tyre. A tyre made entirely of rubber would be just as durable, but the rider would feel every bump and obstacle. So the open-air design of the Tweel strikes a better balance between comfort, shock absorption, and durability.
But John Deere isn't slapping these new tyres on the consumer-friendly ride-ons you'll find at Sears. The first mower with a pair of Michelin's Tweels is the $US8,000+ commercial-grade ZTrack 900 Airless-Tire Mower that's targeted at those who cut lawns — gigantic lawns — for a living. Even when used on a daily basis the Tweels last about two to three times as long as conventional air-filled tyres, and they're actually better designed to tackle larger obstacles like curbs, providing more stability for the rider as they're traversed. [John Deere via Popular Science]