By John Burns
In addition to being the largest tire manufacturer in the world, Michelin is also one of, if not the oldest tire maker, with a brand that’s known worldwide for much more than tires, and a mascot, Bib, who’s also instantly recognizable (even though he quit smoking cigars some years ago). Michelin’s road maps, travel itineraries, and hotel and restaurant guides have told people where to go ever since the miracle of internal combustion made it possible for them to go there. The fine dining industry lives and dies by the Michelin stars its Red Guide awards to restaurants for their haute cuisine. In fact it may have been Michelin that coined the phrase so many motorcycle riders have taken to heart: “Eat to ride, ride to eat.”
Unknown author – Andrew Helme, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org
There haven’t been all that many major breakthroughs in tires over the years, really, but Michelin’s been responsible for the big ones: It made the first removable pneumatic bicycle tire (which didn’t need to be glued to the rim) in 1891, the first run-flat tire in 1934, and the first radial tire in 1946. The radial automobile tire didn’t really get to the US until the late 1960s, when Michelin partnered with Sears to sell them as Allstates. In the U.S. today, Wikipedia tells us, the radial market share is 100%. More germane for us, Michelin’s first radial motorcycle tire burst into the limelight on the back of Freddie Spencer’s 500cc Grand Prix Honda in 1983.
On the 25th anniversary of its first street-going motorcycle radial (1987) Michelin sent out this press release in 2012:
Three years after first using it in racing, in 1984, Michelin decided to bring to market its radial motorcycle tire. In 1987, the MICHELIN A59X …read more