Michelin are probably one of the most instantly recognisable household names in cycling, their tyres have adorned almost every professional and amateur cyclist’s bike at some point in their riding career. Their mascot, ‘Bibendum’ – more colloquially known as ‘Michelin Man’ – is universally known for his body of white tyres and animated features, with people of all ages acknowledging the symbolic icon.
But they haven’t always been giant in the cycling and automotive industry, in fact, there aren’t many beginnings quite as humble as theirs. The story starts with two brothers, Édouard and André Michelin.
Michelin’s humble beginnings
Édouard and André Michelin were two industrial engineer brothers from Clermont-Ferrand in France, where they ran their own rubber factory. The two weren’t producing the best tyres in the world – as their legacy does now – in fact they weren’t even producing the best tyres in France. To put it bluntly: they weren’t producing tyres full stop.
The legacy of the Michelin tyre started when, one night at the end of the 19th Century, a cyclist arrived at the brothers’ rubber factory with a damaged pneumatic tyre. Édouard and André laboured away for over three hours to fix the tyre, which had to be separated from the rim and re-glued before drying overnight. The tyre was destined for failure as the brothers found out when testing the bike out, but the predicament only spurred them on, they now had a mission to create their own pneumatic tyre that wouldn’t require gluing to the rim.
You could say that the rest was history, and to be fair, it was, but Michelin didn’t just create one tyre to rule them all – pardon the whimsical reference – they went on to conquer many milestones with many different tyre technologies.
Greatest hits – the best of Michelin
Michelin have developed products in 68 production sites across 17 countries, manufacturing approximately 160 million tyres around the world. With a reputation for safety, innovation, quality, durability and trustworthiness, Michelin have created some of the most impressive tyres in history, marking many ‘firsts’ for the industry. These include:
- The first detachable tyre – 1891
- The first pneumatic auto-mobile tyre – 1895
- The first tyre with a metal casing – 1938
- The first radial tyre – 1946
- The first tubeless tyre – 1947
- The first foldable-bead clincher tyre – 1976
- The first tubeless mountain bike tyre – 2000
And here are two great accomplishments, just for fun:
- Michelin get back in Formula 1 – 2000
- Michelin tyres used on Concorde – 2001
Michelin tyres at ProBikeKit UK
Here at ProBikeKit we’re a serious supporter and proud distributor of Michelin products, some of our most popular tyres include the Michelin Pro 4 Race Service Course Clincher Road Tyre, the Michelin Pro 4 Comp Clincher Road Tyre and the Michelin Lithion 2 Clincher Road Tyre.
You can check out all of our Michelin gear here.