With an existence that spans over a century, Michelin has come to be regarded as one of the world’s leading tyre manufactures. The company produces quality tyres for all types of vehicles, from cars and bikes to trucks, tractors and even the space shuttle.
The company was founded by brothers Andre and Edouard in 1889 and was successful right from the very start, employing over 50 staff after just one year of trading. The 1920s saw a huge rise in the number of cars in Europe, with the working class finally being able to afford them and using them for ‘automobile holidays’ which became very popular at the time.
High import taxes encouraged Michelin to open a UK factory in Stoke-on-Trent, with the unit producing its first-ever tyre in 1927. Although synonymous with tyre manufacturing, Michelin is also renowned for its road maps, travel guides and restaurant rating system.
Radial tyre technology
Michelin has been at the forefront of many innovative industry firsts, among them being radial tyre technology. The company patented this pioneering technology for cars in 1946, and it was a whole 43 years later in 1987 when they introduced it to motorcycles, offering a limited range of radial tyres for non-brand specific bikes.
Radial tyres are designed with cord plies that are angled at around 90 degrees to the direction of travel. They feature widely spaced metal cables which are inserted into the sidewalls of the tyres for added strength. The result is improved rider comfort, increased durability, better grip when cornering and an altogether softer riding experience. Vehicles taking advantage of radial tyre technology also report better fuel economy.
Michelin and motorsport
Over the years, Michelin has been largely associated with a range of motorsport events, including Formula One, MotoGP, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the American Le Mans Series.
Michelin participated in the MotoGP from 1972 all the way through to 2008. The company was responsible for introducing its radial tyre technology to the event in 1984, followed by its multi-compound tyres a decade later. In its 36 years of involvement, Michelin reigned victorious a total of 360 times. Every single MotoGP champion from 1993 to 2006 rode with Michelin tyres.
However, in 2007 Casey Stoner won the title riding with Bridgestone tyres, and it was at this time that big players like Rossi started to comment on the inferiority of Michelin’s tyres in comparison. In 2008, Dani Pedrosa’s team switched to Bridgestone tyres half way through the season in a move which shocked many. The FIM and Dorma imposed a control tyre for the 2009 season and, with Michelin not entering a bid, the company’s involvement in MotoGP came to an end.
This doesn’t mean that Michelin has stopped developing for motorbikes, though, and the complete redesign and renewal of their radial tyre range over the space of two years proves that the company is determined to remain at the forefront of motorbike tyre design. Their latest offering rounds off this list of updates to the range. Jamie Ayres has had a chance to put the new Pilot Road 4 to the test. Make sure you read our next article to find out what he thought.