In fact it was the element of comfort that produced the first pneumatic tyre – Mr Dunlop created them in 1888 to cushion the wheels on his son’s tricycle.
From there it wasn’t too big a leap to fit this kind of tyre to a car. Cross-ply tyres were then all the rage. The tyre is made with interlocking cords layered across each other at 45 degree angles then encase in a tough rubber outer shell. You get a hard, pretty rigid tyre able to withstand impacts but with a soft inner tube you’d get flats if there was a puncture.
Then with man’s great desire to improve things Michelin created radial tyres in 1946 – these have widely spaced metal cables in the sidewalls, unlike cross-ply. It gives strength and makes a tyre better able to withstand and dissipate heat build-up. They were fitted to the first car in 1951.
You’d think with this major advancement that it would have been a no brainer to create them for motorbikes. But for some unknown reason good motorbike tyres are way behind the curve after a car tyre and it took more than 30 years!
There’s some debate about who was first across the line. Pirelli claims it was first in 1983 with radial tyres on a Honda VF1000R, while Michelin claims it was the first in 1987 as it brought out a small range of radial tires for non-brand specific motorcycles. But It is certainly true to say that Michelin had the technology first of all.
I don’t know about Pirelli tyres but I can tell you the wife raves about her Michelin Road Pilots
Whatever you’re choosing to use make sure they’re in good condition. We’ve got plenty of information in our FAQs on the problems you face riding with dodgy tyres – like a £2,500 fine if you end up in court!