The Surprising Science Of Bike Tyres

The Surprising Science Of Bike Tyres

Tyres are an integral part of cycling as they are the only part of the bike (crashes aside) that touches the road surface on a ride. There is so much science that has gone into the development of bike tyres to allow us to ride as quickly and safely as possible. Here’s Dr Oliver Bridgewood PhD to talk you through everything you need to know about the humble tyre!

00:00 Intro
01:26 Construction
02:52 Tyre Compound
04:42 Grip
06:42 Hysteresis
07:50 Adhesion
08:35 Tread Patterns
11:02 Conclusions

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50 Comments

  1. MggW on June 21, 2022 at 10:10 pm

    Obviously you can compress a fluid 8:50 as fluids are both liquid and gaseous. Come on Dr Oli, you need to borrow Simon’s science glasses!



  2. Darcio Braga on June 21, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    How about talking about other tires brands then Pirelli

    How about Continental 5000 STR



  3. Hinko Rookmaaker on June 21, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    About the tyres: I have threads coming off the sides of my Continental tubeless tyres. What causes this? Is this something to worry about or is it expected (strange) behaviour?



  4. Brian Ford on June 21, 2022 at 10:14 pm

    Who cares if they actually commute….make em out of the liquorice from a sherbet fountain…..by the time you money hounds have finished yer dissertation id be there and back…..yaaaaaaaawn!



  5. Steve wilson on June 21, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    Excellent stuff



  6. David Paul Carlson on June 21, 2022 at 10:15 pm

    Great job, Ollie.



  7. Rotary on June 21, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    And let’s not forget how great they smell.



  8. Les Merritt on June 21, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    I’d like to know why my car tyres are cheaper than my bicycle tyres.



  9. Stuart Potter on June 21, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    Ollie Bridgewood – you’re awesome. Love your enthusiasm. That is all.



  10. ytyehyeh on June 21, 2022 at 10:21 pm

    Have you done away with the GCN Does Science eyeglasses? Or are those reserved for presenters other than Dr. Bridgewood?



  11. Frank Leurs on June 21, 2022 at 10:24 pm

    Hmmm. I use Schwalbe Marathon PLUS tyres on my bike.
    These are (almost) unable to puncture. They have protection LEVEL 7.
    The highest level available. They are 37mm wide. Not really advised for racing bikes. You need a pretty wide fork and frame
    to fit the tyre that’s 37mm wide. A roadbike with 19mm wide rims will be better. They also have a pretty thick thread.
    You can place a pushpin in the thread and it’s not flat.



  12. Brian Ford on June 21, 2022 at 10:24 pm

    could be liquorice as far as im concerned….if its round it rolls!



  13. johnstrac on June 21, 2022 at 10:26 pm

    Enjoyed that.



  14. BixbyConsequence on June 21, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    Thanks for dispelling the ever-present "hydroplaning" myth!



  15. Matt Burkey on June 21, 2022 at 10:27 pm

    Those kids be dicing on the ice again!



  16. Daniel Sotelo on June 21, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    KEVLAR vs ARAMID? Here is an interesting fact why I think Aramid & Kevlar are really the same. For over 25 years I developed bike tires for top tire manufacturers. One time I was working with the art department designing a tire logo and I requested it should say Kevlar on the tire and on the package. To my surprise they turned me down saying every time they use the "KEVLAR" logo, they have to pay DuPont (who owns Kevlar), a hefty royalty fee. So, they suggested to use the word "ARAMID" instead, which in the bike tire world all know it’s Kevlar. FYI: Again, I don’t know for sure this is a fact, but I do know we were using genuine DuPont KEVLAR as these huge rolls and bundles were all over the factory with their official logos. For a while I was a bit angered at DuPont for price gauging having to pay royalties on their KEVLAR logo even though we were using genuine DuPont Kevlar. Go Figure…



  17. betty jones on June 21, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    Ollie rocks



  18. AndyGL_5991 on June 21, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    "Power is nothing without control" – a Pirelli ad from the 1990s……



  19. Kaiserfa on June 21, 2022 at 10:28 pm

    Very informative Video and mostly correct! 😉 I’m working in rubber tribology (friction, wear and lubrication; seals not tires), and I can tell you that specifying any coefficient of friction (cof) to the second digit is nonsense. Variation is usually rather high, because friction depends on a million things. Dry rubber friction can be anywhere between 0.5 and 1.5, in extreme cases over 2! Yes, bigger than 1 thanks to adhesion. Most likely the cof will be between 0.7 and 1 in dry conditions, but only around 0.2 with oil…
    Also, smoother roads will result in more grip but less rolling resistance because the contact area between tire and road increases and there is less deformation.



  20. Vincent Prost on June 21, 2022 at 10:29 pm

    Maybe the Best GCN Tech show.



  21. firemanfitzy on June 21, 2022 at 10:31 pm

    I love these segments. Helps me explain to the wife why I can’t go cheap on things. LOL



  22. GCN Tech on June 21, 2022 at 10:32 pm

    What other cycling science would you like to see Ollie explain next?



  23. Richard Covert on June 21, 2022 at 10:32 pm

    A great techno analysis. Thanks



  24. Comment Highlighted on June 21, 2022 at 10:33 pm

    The bullet test should be a standard in tire QA 🙂



  25. Peter Siestrzewitowski on June 21, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    All this tire jibber jabber and no mention of various TPI ratings? They go anywhere from 120 to 320! C’mon Ollie! 😉



  26. Douglas Pate on June 21, 2022 at 10:40 pm

    I loved that explanation.. and learnt a new word "sipe". Awesome Ollie… (no comma between awesome and Ollie 🙂 )



  27. Mark Conlon on June 21, 2022 at 10:45 pm

    Well done Ollie!



  28. Edward Sihler on June 21, 2022 at 10:46 pm

    So Ollie just got dropped as a Geek by suggestion boy.



  29. earthstick on June 21, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    I use natural rubber non-vulcanised tyres on one bike and I find the tread last more miles than the synthetic vulcanised rubber tyres on another bike. My hypothesis is that natural rubber (latex) can stretch to 6 times it’s resting dimensions, while synthetic rubber stretches less. When the tyre experiences shear stress in cornering and acceleration, if it cannot stretch it will reach its limit and break. Thus, synthetic rubbers wear quicker.



  30. Lars Hachi-roku on June 21, 2022 at 10:48 pm

    i would’ve loved to hear more about longitudinal compliance and the interaction with the inner tube.



  31. The Crazy Hat Chemist on June 21, 2022 at 10:49 pm

    Not only did Vulcanisation come the planet Vulcan and Spock brought the process to Earthlings, but the location of the planet Vulcan has been just recently discovered such that mere mortals know its actual location. It is an exoplanet orbiting 40 Eridani A, which is 16 light-years from Earth. I’m sure that there will be some trips to the planet Vulcan soon…Space X?



  32. Bronson911s on June 21, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    So Ollie, what you are saying is that to stop my dog slipping and sliding on the wood floors, is to put boots on him that have a very sticky compound. My worry then is will he stop in time, or plow into the door?



  33. AmyX on June 21, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Agreed. Mountain bike tires seem big and chunky, less grippy, but more lugs. Road bike tires are slimmer, grippier (or maybe that’s just mine), and more smooth. In theory, completely bald tires may be slightly faster? Aero anyways.



  34. Donald Young on June 21, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Ollie in full geek mode…love it!



  35. 177inthe70s Phila on June 21, 2022 at 10:54 pm

    Want to learn more about tires, check out motorcycle tires from Moto GP on down.



  36. Chris Emm on June 21, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    More science, less terrible fake accents that are insulting, please.



  37. Mark Loren Cate on June 21, 2022 at 10:55 pm

    Hi im just here to say, I love Manon so much 😍😍



  38. Donald Rice on June 21, 2022 at 10:56 pm

    We do have some tarmac here in the states, but it is limited to automotive drag race tracks and airport runways.



  39. Sean Mullin on June 21, 2022 at 10:57 pm

    Honestly surprised we didn’t get xrf, tensile strength, raman, and ir spectroscopy data of different tire types Ollie, along with some bonus Scanning Electron Microscopy photos. 🙂



  40. Bradley Hawkins on June 21, 2022 at 10:59 pm

    I don’t understand why you have a little person with no connection to cycling on your show.



  41. Roberto Olivotto on June 21, 2022 at 11:00 pm

    Great job!



  42. Jona Sosa on June 21, 2022 at 11:02 pm

    Olie a freak



  43. The Crazy Hat Chemist on June 21, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    Ollie,
    An analysis of crank arm length with efficiency and power comparing flats and hills.
    Also the efficiency of different types of chain oils with the scientific explanation of the oils under different conditions.
    Thanks,
    The Crazy Hat Chemist



  44. MVM on June 21, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    Quite informative. If I hadn’t watched this, I’d have never learned Mr. Spock had such a significant contribution to tyre engineering. Thank you (to both Mr Spock and the GCN crew).



  45. Dilligaf on June 21, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    supply in Aus is my problem ATM. Hard to buy Conti’s. especially 32mm.



  46. ltwargssf R on June 21, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    its still ridiculous when bike tires cost more than car tires. Price per grams for cycling components is on par with NASA equipment cost



  47. Patrick English on June 21, 2022 at 11:04 pm

    thanks for this-I had wondered whether the topic of TPI and how that affects tyre performance would be covered and would appreciate a short piece including this some time. Great work. Glad Alex survived too



  48. Robert Rensch on June 21, 2022 at 11:04 pm

    Quite honestly, and to my surprise, I found this to be one of the most informative and entertaining GCN videos I’ve seen. Having dispensed with the sincerity, I would hasten to add my appreciation for your acknowledgement of my native language, American (Yank, if you’re a Brit.) While you avoided "bidon," or "bidet" if you’re French or pretentious, you did cover both "eraser" and "asphalt." This made me feel downright Continental and a bit exotic. I was saddened that you skipped right over "indoor trainer" for "turbo," "zero-point…" for "nought-point…," and "hydroplaning" for "aquaplaning." Your use of the terms "slippy" and "knobbly" just made me laugh, and I thank you for that. Finally, are you completely sure the zinc oxide isn’t added just for protection against the harsh British sun?



  49. Richard Peet on June 21, 2022 at 11:05 pm

    Bail/crash science. Laydown vs endo or clipless vs flats or bear hug vs side eject or hand catch vs shoulder contact ….



  50. phil spencelayh on June 21, 2022 at 11:09 pm

    Some interesting stuff there. Not convinced that mentioning hysteresis (A lagging of one of two related phenomena behind the other) was helpful though