Sciences of travel

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A Tale of Two Tires

Hmm, where to begin. Well, let’s begin with Napoleon III who launched a campaign to Vietnam for Imperialistic means. Since the North was a stronghold, the ships attacked the Southern weaker states and eventually gained ground around what is present day Saigon. From there, between 1859 to 1867 the French expanded their domain in Vietnam, just at the same time they needed more rubber trees for developments back in the mainland. To read more about French Indochina, Wikipedia has a pretty nice wrap up of events here

P1010993-225x300Almost a hundred years prior, back in France, Charles Marie de La Condamine presented a research paper to the Académie Royale des Sciences introducing rubber in 1736. By 1829 rubber in manufacturing is begun by Edouard Daubree and by way of various ins and outs of the development of the company, in 1889 Edouard and Andre Michelin take control, creating what we know today as the fine tire company that has been in business for over 120 years. For more on the development of the tire company read this excellent article by Liz Smith

It’s a fascinating part of history and one that plays a huge role in our daily lives – especially if you like to bike. I’m not here to talk about the history of rubber in France (although, it is pretty interesting for those who didn’t know); I’m here to talk about tires. Two tires. Two French tire companies and why one is better than the other. I average about 7,ooo kms on my bicycle per year (I work outside) and my tools are steel and rubber. Last year Hutchinson created a “Tour de France” edition of their Fusion road tire (which they do every year for marketing purposes?). It lasted a very short while before getting a tear in it. In fact, it wasn’t just a little tear but down to the threads just two weeks after I had put the tire on the wheel (approximately 1500 kms). I’d have a hard time believing a Tour de France finisher – riding approximately 3,500kms over 21 days – would put so much faith into this rubber on the road (unless they have a different type of tire).

However, the Michelin Pro Race have an extraordinary lifespan. I’ve been able to go through a season with replacing the rear tire just once mid-season. The front tire will last well into the end of the season. I have hit rocks and have come screaming down high altitudes without a problem. I don’t really understand the chemistry behind these intense polymers, but I’d believe that 120 years of experience speaks through their product. They’re usually a bit more expensive than regular tires but I think the price is worth it since your life depends on them. So which tire did I put on my bike? The Hutchinson of course: I don’t want to get the Michelin Pro Race dirty just yet. Thanks Chuck.

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