When cycling, only two tires touch the ground, and the total contact area is not much larger than that of a credit card. So, to ensure that you can ride a bike freely on the road, you should have some knowledge about it, more or less.

The Origin of Inflatable Tires:

Before the invention of inflatable tires, all tires were solid tires. However, solid tires were unable to absorb road bumps, making the riding experience quite uncomfortable.

In December 1887, a British veterinarian named John Dunlop noticed his son riding a tricycle in their stone-filled yard. He wondered how to make the tires softer to absorb shocks. As a result, he invented the prototype of the inflatable tire by fitting an inflatable rubber tube onto a wooden rim.

In 1892, the Michelin brothers from France invented a quick-detachable inflatable rubber tire, simplifying tire installation and maintenance. This invention revolutionized the use of carriage wheels in Paris, France, replacing solid tires and reducing tire noise.

In 1937, Michelin introduced the radial tire, where the tire’s inner layers were arranged in a radial pattern. This design improved tire handling and became the most commonly used design for modern automobiles.

In 1938, tires were further specialized for different purposes, including car tires, motorcycle tires, ATV tires, bicycle tires, and aircraft tires.

Tire Identification:

According to regulations, tires must have markings on both sides indicating their identity and model, allowing consumers to better distinguish different tires when purchasing. These markings serve to convey specific information about each tire. Some of the common markings include:

Brand Identification: This indicates the company that produces the tire, represented by its logo.

Name identification: The marking represents the specific model of the tire produced by the manufacturer.

Country of origin identification: The marking indicates the country where the tire is manufactured. (The image below indicates that the tire is made in THAILAND.)

Size identification: 140/70-17, where 140 represents the tire width in millimeters, 70 is the aspect ratio (70%) which indicates the tire’s height as a percentage of its width, and 17 is the rim size the tire is designed for (17 inches).

Usage identification: In the image, the yellow arrow points to “M/C,” which indicates that the tire is designed for motorcycles. The number “66” following M/C represents the tire’s load index, which in this case is 66, corresponding to a maximum load capacity of 300 kilograms. The letter “S” represents the speed rating of the tire, with S indicating a maximum speed capability of 180 kilometers per hour.

Directional marking: The arrow indicated by the red arrow is a reminder for the correct installation of the tire. It indicates the rolling direction of the tire, and it is crucial not to install the tire in the wrong direction.

Wear indicator: The Michelin man symbol indicated by the yellow arrow serves as a wear indicator. It reminds users that when the tire’s tread has worn down to the level of the Michelin man symbol, it is time to replace the tire.

Year identification: 1816, where 16 represents that the tire was manufactured in 2016, and 18 indicates that it was produced in the 18th week of that year. Therefore, this tire was manufactured in May 2016.

Usage life:

Tires have a limited lifespan and do not remain undamaged if left unused. The primary component of tires is rubber, which is an active material. When new tires are manufactured, their material may not be fully stable, so it is advisable to let them sit for about six months before use.

However, tires that have been used for an extended period should not be used indefinitely. Driving on various roads can expose tires to corrosive substances, combined with exposure to different weather conditions like sunlight, wind, and temperature changes throughout the seasons, all of which can affect tire longevity.

Some vehicle owners try to save money by using their tires until they are completely worn out, but this is not a wise practice. The tire tread is designed to handle various road conditions, such as water and gravel. When the tread wears down or becomes too shallow, the tire’s ability to cope with challenging road conditions decreases, leading to compromised safety during driving.

It is recommended that all vehicle owners consider replacing their tires when they have worn to a certain extent. Saving a few extra kilometers may not be worth compromising safety and health on the road.

User

Year identification: 1816, where 16 represents that the tire was manufactured in 2016, and 18 indicates that it was produced in the 18th week of that year. Therefore, this tire was manufactured in May 2016.

Tire Size:

There is a common misconception among many people regarding tires, believing that wider tires provide better stability and handling during cornering. However, this is not accurate.

Although wide tires may look appealing, increasing tire size beyond the original factory specifications can lead to higher starting resistance, resulting in slower acceleration and compromised handling. Wide tires are typically used in high-performance vehicles with large horsepower, as they require sufficient traction when coming out of corners. On the other hand, smaller engine vehicles do not need as much traction and grip, so narrower tires are more suitable.

When a vehicle leaves the factory, the manufacturer has already tested and determined the most suitable tire size for that specific model. Therefore, increasing tire size beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations usually serves little practical purpose and may even negatively impact vehicle performance and handling. It is essential to stick to the correct tire size to ensure optimal performance and safety. If vehicle owners consider changing tire size, it is advisable to consult a professional automotive technician or follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Regarding tire pressure:

There are also common misconceptions about tire pressure, such as the belief that overinflating the tires to increase the contact area with the ground will provide more friction.

While it is true that overinflating tires can increase friction, this effect is limited to straight-line driving. In the case of cornering, overinflated tires can lead to inadequate steering response and increase tire wear. Additionally, altering the tire’s specially designed tread pattern can be detrimental, particularly on wet and slippery surfaces, as it may reduce the tire’s ability to effectively disperse water and maintain traction.

This practice of increasing tire pressure might be appropriate in certain specific use cases, such as off-road driving, to enhance friction and prevent punctures from sharp objects.

However, excessive tire pressure can cause severe tire bouncing and place greater stress on the vehicle’s suspension system. Both overinflating and underinflating tires can lead to tire failure, increasing the risk of a blowout. Therefore, it is essential to maintain the correct tire pressure, and when purchasing tires, it is recommended to inquire about the optimal tire pressure for the specific tire model.

Pirelli is a very common tire brand and is widely used in many vehicles in China. It is also a preferred choice for some car enthusiasts who modify their vehicles. Pirelli tires are known for their strong grip among various tire brands. However, they tend to produce more tire noise. Pirelli mainly manufactures sports tires and has a history dating back to the late 19th century. It is one of the oldest tire manufacturers and sponsors events like the World Superbike Championship (WSBK).

Michelin, on the other hand, focuses on providing quiet and comfortable tires with moderate grip, but they are not particularly known for their high grip performance. Additionally, Michelin tires are not extremely durable and may wear out more quickly compared to some other tire brands.

Dunlop is another relatively rare tire brand. Its tire performance falls in the middle range, neither exceptionally strong nor weak.

Michelin was indeed one of the pioneers in using inflatable tires and is also credited with inventing the radial tire. It is a well-known brand with a focus on providing comfortable tires, similar to Michelin. The wear resistance of Michelin tires is moderate, and their grip performance is also considered average. Most of their tire designs are aimed at handling various complex weather conditions. Michelin is currently a sponsor of MOTOGP racing events.

Bridgestone is a Japanese tire brand that entered the tire industry relatively later. Similar to Dunlop, Bridgestone tires are known for their neutral characteristics and fall in the middle range in terms of performance. They do not have many standout features but are considered well-rounded and balanced in various aspects. Bridgestone tires are also known for their good wear resistance.

Tire Type Selection:

The choice of tires is crucial for the road conditions a vehicle will encounter. For example, high-performance racing tires with strong grip, known as “full slick” tires, are not suitable for street use. These tires may have lower grip than regular tires when not at their operating temperature.

Full slick tires become very soft and sticky when they reach their operating temperature, making them more prone to picking up debris like gravel, which can affect their grip. These tires have fewer tread patterns to maximize the contact area, but they are less effective at handling complex road conditions and have a shorter lifespan, resulting in higher costs. Therefore, full slick tires are better suited for racing tracks and occasional use in good weather conditions.

For street commuting, “commuter tires” are more suitable, as the name suggests. They are designed to handle various road conditions on the streets. These tires have deeper and more numerous tread patterns, allowing them to disperse water on wet roads effectively. They can also deform to maintain contact with the road surface when encountering gravel.

Commuter tires are made from wear-resistant materials, offering a longer lifespan even after covering many miles, resulting in lower operating costs. They are ideal for daily commuting, long-distance driving, and even occasional mountain driving. Although their performance limits might be lower compared to racing tires, they are more versatile and practical for everyday use.

“Performance tires” or “semi-slick tires” are preferred by those who enjoy spirited driving while still requiring a tire suitable for daily commuting. These tires strike a balance by using harder, wear-resistant material in the center and softer, higher grip material on the sides. They perform well in corners while still accommodating city driving.

While they may not have the same level of grip as full slick tires, they have a much longer lifespan. Performance tires are the ideal choice for those who enjoy occasional mountain driving and even track days, while still using their vehicle for daily commuting.