Bicycle tires are tough and are designed to be just that. But it is often overlooked how much work and technology have been put into their production for them to be this good. Just how are bike tires made?
Bicycle tires are made by processing rubber and producing components with varying qualities. These parts are then assembled. Let’s take a detailed look at the process of how they are manufactured in a production facility.
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Bicycle Tires and Production
There are many bicycle tire types, and all possess qualities that make them well-suited for specific biking conditions.
Mountain bike wheels need to be durable for off-road tracks, and road bike wheels are designed for better aerodynamics that allows for faster speeds. However, bicycles in the past did not have such specifications.
While rubber bicycle tires are now the norm, early bicycle wheels were made of wood and metal with the tires made of iron. We can only imagine how uncomfortable riding a bicycle with such wheels would be.
Thankfully, numerous technological innovations in manufacturing led to the use of rubber that helps make cycling more comfortable.
But the sort of technology that goes into producing modern bicycle parts is not easy to imagine — at least it wasn’t for me. Seeing a detailed explanation of the manufacturing process lent a higher appreciation of bike tires that many people take for granted.
Below is a step-by-step look at how modern bicycle tires are made.
How Bicycle Tires Are Made
1. Mixing process
Everything begins with gathering materials; this often dictates where production facilities are located.
Many leading tire brands are not made in USA because it is more practical to have the factories in places where the rubber may be sourced locally.
The first step is to mix the base rubber ingredients, these are natural rubber and synthetic rubber. Certain additives are also used, but these materials vary depending on the recipe.
A different recipe may be used depending on the product type being produced, and bike tire manufacturers all have unique recipes for every type.
The combined rubber is mixed together with additives and oils and then transferred to a specialized mixer. This machine can thoroughly combine the tire components, resulting in very high temperatures due to the resulting friction.
2. Processed rubber is rolled out
The rubber mixture is brought to a homogenization process, wherein it is ironed out. This ensures that the rubber is free from air pockets, and ends up in a mat-like state.
It then goes through a curing process, where the rubber mat is treated for consistency and stored for cooling for around eight hours.
At this point, samples of the production batch may be subjected to quality testing to determine if the resulting material is up to commercial standards. Not all tire manufacturers do this, but it is an important procedure for leading brands.
Tests include ozone tests, tensile strength tests, and other quality checks to ensure that the desired characteristics for specific tire types are retained by the produced material.
This process is a manufacturing step where specific materials are passed through a machine to create specific products with different recipes, and tires made of rubber use it extensively.
The rubber is then passed through a heated metal die. The die makes the center of the tire thicker.
After extrusion, it is then flattened into a long sheet using rollers.
The resulting rubber is collected into spools.
4. Section construction
Bicycle tires are made using several layers of rubber. However, each layer is different from the rest with different strengths and qualities.
Key layers are the nylon casing, the treads, and the sidewall that also has the branding. Another important component is the bead; it is similar to a metal wire in appearance but may also be made of a strong material such as Kevlar.
The nylon casing is not made of rubber and is prepared separately; it is made up of a weblike mesh.
This nylon casing is matched to a layer of rubber casing and merged together. The combination serves as the base of the tire and is also known as the carcass.
The tread usually goes through a longer and more rigorous procedure to ensure that it has the necessary durability for road performance.
5. Tire assembly
Once all sections of the tire have been prepared, it’s time for assembly. This process is usually done by hand but also makes use of a specialized wheel-like machine, layering the components in order. Glue may be used to keep the components together.
First goes the carcass. Then, the bead is placed on each side, which serves to reinforce the structural integrity of the tire; this is also what dictates the width of the sheet.
The excess length of casing on each side is folded over the beads and covered with sidewall reinforcement then sealed in place with chafers.
The tread is placed at the center section of the carcass. This is when the brand logo is added as well.
After assembly, the tire is still flat and does not fully resemble the shape we all know.
6. Pressure cooking
A specialized curing machine is used for the final step of production. The tire is placed into it and then goes through pressurization.
This involves subjecting the rubber to intense heat, resulting in the layers thoroughly bonding, which results in its material strength.
It is also this process that gives the tire its recognizable shape. The finished product will also be subjected to different types of testing to ensure that safety standards are met.
Bicycle tires are an impressive product of continuous technological innovation, and every biker will be able to appreciate this more as they ride more.
Experienced cyclists may be able to understand tires at a different level, considering how different modern ones are from those made one or two decades ago.
You should have gained a higher appreciation for them after learning about how are bike tires made. If you have any comments or suggestions about this topic, please feel free to leave your message in the section below.
Always ride safely.
“I ride my bike to work for years, but is that enough? Our carelessness towards our surroundings has taken a toll on the environment. And now, everyone is responsible for changes; even the most minor contribution is counted. With this hope and spirit, I started with my partner to establish Biketoworkday to help more individuals commute to their work sites on their bikes.”