SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes even a great idea falls flat at first. Take Pump-Hub, a self-inflating bike tire gizmo. It was rolling along at trade shows and getting lots of good press before the financial crisis of 2008 sidelined the project.
Now its creator, engineer Kevin Manning, is getting back on track with a new team behind him and plans to expand his original idea — an automatic, adjustable, tire-inflation system housed in the hub of a bike wheel.
For cyclists, the Pump-Hub means no remembering to check the tire pressure or pack a pump, no fiddling around with the valve and then racing to put the cap back on before the air wheezes out and your aching arms have to start all over again. It inflates the tires to the proper pressure while you ride, making a gentle clickety-clack sound reminiscent of spoke cards from childhood days. When the tire hits the designated pressure, the fluttering sounds stop. If you get a flat, just upend your bike and spin the wheel until pressure is restored.
“It’s like how using a Macintosh is easier than using a command-line interface,” Manning says, turning his Gunnar bike upside down on the Embarcadero to show me how the Pump-Hub works. If you really boil down all the technology behind his invention, he adds, the main advantage basically ends up being “it’s easier.”