History of Motorcycle Tires

History of Motorcycle Tires


History of Motorcycle tires | Why where vintage
motorcycle tires white? Why where motorcycle tires made before 1915
white? And why did tire engineers add carbon black,
making the tires black after that? Lets science the whooohooo out of this! The first production inflatable tires were
made by Scottish inventor John Boyd Dunlop in 1888. He originally made them for his sons tricycle
out of canvas bonded with liquid rubber. Realizing how efficient they were on the tricycle
he later fitted them to a bicycle and the rest of course is history. Some other tire manufacturers you may have
heard of started their bicycle and/or automotive tire business soon thereafter, such as: Goodyear
(1898), Michelin (1889), Pirelli (1890), Metzeler (1892), Continental (1898) and Firestone (1900). Since the original motorcycles made were essentially
modified bicycles, all production motorcycles, including the first Hildebrand & Wolfmüller,
had inflatable tires. The very first motorcycle tires (1894-1909)
were between 22-28 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 – 2 inches wide. The wheels were spoked made either entirely
out of metal or metal and wood, and the tires used inner tubes to hold air. As the engine displacement and weight of the
motorcycles grew, so did the tires width. By 1914 Indian motorcycles used 3 inch tires
on 28 inch rims. These tires were constructed with a cross
ply, or a bias tire construction, with body ply cords that extend diagonally from bead
to bead at an angle between 30-55 degrees, with successive plies laid at opposing angles
forming a crisscross pattern to which the tread is applied. Tread patterns had been invented for bicycles
already during the late 1890s, with either protuberances of raised rubber buttons or
indentations of depressed transverse slots The manufacturers experimented with more complex
patterns of indentations and protuberances in the years to come, and still do to this
very day. Before 1915 motorcycle tires were highly sensitive
to ultraviolet light, or sunlight. The tire manufacturers discovered that by
adding carbon black, which is a material produced by the incomplete combustion of heavy petroleum
products, the tires had greater resistance to sunlight and also got better thermal stability. This is why tires from before 1915 were white
in color, which is the color of natural rubber. Tires of the time were also very flexible
due to the way the tire attached to the wheel by a clincher interlock. This led Michelin engineers to try and find
a solution, which they did using wired-on beads, which used steel loops embedded in
the tires edge to prevent it from expanding under pressure. The solution was implemented by all manufacturers
in the coming years and by 1930 all motorcycle tires and rims where designed in this way. Another limitation of the tires of the time
was the use of only natural rubber, but in 1909 German Organic chemist Frits Hofmann
discovered Synthetic rubber. Natural rubber has great mechanical performance
at constant temperatures but is thermally unstable, or in other words, as the temperature
in the tire increases, its performance decreases fast. So adding synthetic rubber made the tires
a lot more thermally stable. The cross ply, or bias ply construction of
the tires were severely flawed by the fact that as the sidewalls flexed, they generated
loads of heat. This would be solved by US inventor Arthur
W. Savage in 1915 for car tires, by having the cord plies arranged at 90 degrees to the
direction of travel, or radially (from the center of the tire). Michelin would commercialize the idea for
car tires in 1946, but radial motorcycle tires were not implemented until 1983. Thus highly limiting motorcycle tires up until
that time, by the fact that hard rubber had to be used as to not overheat the tires. Bias-ply is still used for some motorcycle
tires to this very day, with the advantage of being able to carry heavier load, and thus
used for touring motorcycles and Harley-Davidsons. In Grand Prix racing it would take until 1985,
for Freddie Spencer to win the championship on radial motorcycles tires, proving their
superiority to bias-ply in racing. Since then all motorcycle racing tires and
most road tires are made from a radial construction. More innovation in tire technology came in
the 1990s, with the addition of silica and silane. Tire engineers had been experimenting with
using Silica as a filler in tire rubber since the 1970s, as a way to reduce rolling resistance
and get more mileage. Only adding silica did indeed reduce the rolling
resistance but also lowered the grip, which wasn’t very advantageous for racing. Adding a substance called silane together
with silica was the magic trick that was needed. The addition of silane and silica had miraculous
effects on motorcycle tires, because it lowered the rolling resistance, enhanced grip, while
keeping wear constant. You could call this magical, because it went
against the inevitable trade-offs that tire engineers previously had to work with, balancing
grip, rolling resistance and treadwear against each other, previously called the “magic
triangle”. Multi compound tires is another example of
how the magic triangle was broken in the 90s. In a multi compound tire, multiple compounds
are used in the tire, obviously. A hard compound is used in the center, where
most wear can be expected, and a softer compound is used closer to the edges. In MotoGP racing, different compounds are
even used on the left and right side of the tire, adapted to the track and rider needs. This and much more is going to be a part of
the documentary that I am producing on the full history of motorcycle racing. It’s going to cover the entire history, so
all the way from the first motorcycle produced, all the way up until moto gp of today. It is going to cover all the the big sports,
so motocross, speedway, grand prix racing as I said, trials, enduro. I am working hard to really make the documentary
and the riding technique video as good as possible. I might release some smaller videos, such
as this one dependent on how popular this video is. So if you guys want to see more short videos
like this, on for instance history or technology of motorcycle racing. Please say so down in the comments below,
and I might be producing something more. Now I got to get to editing my video, so thank
you guys for watching, and… see you next time!

Only registered users can comment.

  1. Great Work, Informative, Clear, Concise, Interesting with Good Delivery. I for one, Enjoy the Videos Much! Thankyou!

  2. great video! love your content!

    man that documentary will be 180min minimum if you eeally want to cover everything. or a multipart series. that's a gigantic task you've put on yourself. can't wait to see it.

  3. Great content as always! Been looking forward to watching new videos from you! Keep on bringing great, informative videos about motorcycle technology and racing! Thank you!

  4. The Continental Road Attack 3 tires use a SINGLE rubber compound throughout the tire. To get different hardness between the center and edges of the tire, they use different heating in manufacture while curing the rubber.
    I bought a set, great tires.

  5. Great video. Thank you so much!
    I am also looking forward to your documentary about motorcycle riding techniques. Is it still on your agenda to produce this video?

  6. When discussing track racing it would be great if you could discuss the differences between MotoGP, Superbikes, and TT racing.
    I'm looking forward to seeing the end product.

  7. Mikael
    AWESOME video my friend!!!! Thank you for your hard work! Motorcycle tires today are so specific to the task that it's hard to decide on your tire for the way you ride. Great video!

  8. More videos, please. Your knowledge is awesome. When is the riding video going to come out. And where can we find it?

  9. Great video Mikael!!! FABULOUS history lesson! Well done Sir!! I also LOVE the DJI Mavic on the shelf behind you! I have the Mavic 2 Pro!

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