A Brief History of Motorcycle Tires. By: Amanda “Rosie” Lotter

     Robert Thomson, a Scottish engineer, invented a hollow circular belt made of rubber which was then inflated with air. This is called a pneumatic tire and was patented in the U.S. in 1847. Shortly after, Thomson lost interest in his invention and about four decades later, John Boyd Dunlop reinvented the pneumatic tire for his bicycle and some early motorcycle prototypes by 1895. It was until then that solid rubber tires were mainly used.

     Many changes have led to the modern motorcycle tires we have available today. One being the radial tire, patented in 1915 by Arthur Savage. His patent expired in 1949 but Michelin had furthered and made commercial success of it in 1946. These tires enhanced road grip and traction which made them great for motorcycles.

     Early tires were made of cross-ply structure, which were threads woven across each other. These were great for accelerating yet, had solid sidewalls which made turning corners difficult. Michelin improved the cross-ply with rubber threads and were used roughly from 1920 until 1972, when Dunlop patented a tubeless tire. This was a revolutionary invention, though tubes are still manufactured and used. As the early motorcycle industry progressed, larger tire sizes accompanied larger engine displacements. Engine size, racing, riding in rain, cornering and being able to stop quickly all contributed to the progression of tires for both safety as well as a comfortable ride.  

     Tires are the most important part of your motorcycle.  Not only are they needed to move, but critical in safety for both you and your two wheeled baby. Happy and safe riding friends!

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