There’s more to that strip of rubber between your vehicle and the road.
Tyres are a grudge purchase. I know.
They’re not cheap and they’re not sexy. They’re black bits of rubber.
But that handspan’s width of tread is the only thing between your vehicle and the road.
So, they’re incredibly important to your vehicle’s performance and your safety.
Since the wheel was invented people have been trying to ‘dress’ them to improve comfort, longevity and performance, and this is where the word ‘tyre’ comes from.
A tire (the favoured American spelling) is a contraction of attire, as in a ‘dressed’ wheel.
The first ‘dressings’ were wood, then steel, and later, rudimentary strips of rubber.
The first pneumatic tyre (one that can be inflated) was patented by Scotsman Robert Thomson, although John Dunlop’s cycle tyre, made from 1888, is often cited as the first practical tyre.
The first automobiles appeared around this time and the race began to produce ever-better tyres.
Many of those early companies – like Goodyear, Dunlop, Michelin and Pirelli – still exist.
Manufacturers spend billions of dollars and countless hours designing, testing and validating tyres for many applications: cars, bicycles, motorcycles, commercials, trucks, mining equipment and farm machinery.
Today, manufacturers are developing tyres specifically for electric vehicles and ones that heal themselves when pierced. Tyres that absorb pollution and that produce electric power by their rotation are also a reality, in prototype form at least.
Tyres are big business.
Tyres are important.
Think about that next time you head out on the road.
Words: VACC CEO, Geoff Gwilym. As featured in the Herald Sun 6 September 2019.