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Greener Tyres on the Way

Michelin is working on sustainable tyres, aiming to make all of its global production (including bike tyres) 100% sustainable by 2050. It’s starting with the car and bus sectors, but motorcycle rubber will inevitably follow. New car tyres just unveiled use 45% sustainable materials, are approved for road use and Michelin says they offer the same performance as conventional tyres. The company is also experimenting with alternatives to carbon black, a key ingredient of modern tyres which binds the rubber molecules together.

If there is a downside to the eco-credentials of big motorcycles, it’s in their tyres, which can have a life of less than 5,000 miles before replacement time – car drivers can count on 20-40,000 miles of life.

Conventional tyres are now seen as an increasingly serious cause of urban pollution, with scientists at Imperial College London reporting that 52% of the small particle pollution from road traffic comes from tyre and brake wear – as exhaust emissions are cleaning up, pollution from other sources is being thrown under the spotlight.

More sustainable bike tyres are certainly in the pipeline and being tested – the rear tyre used in the 2022 MotoE World Championship comprised 46% of sustainable material including pine resin, recycled lorry tyres, sunflower oil and even orange and lemon peel.

“The biggest stumbling block is the need to implement new sustainable materials without compromising tyre performance or longevity,” said a Michelin spokesperson. “For example, silica is a great alternative to carbon black and a lot cleaner and more sustainable. However, whilst silica works well in the cold and wet it doesn’t like very high temperatures so can’t be used effectively in race tyres.” But they added that experience with sustainable racing tyres will lead to ‘green’ rubber for the road.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said, “Tyres are a subject close to most rider’s hearts. The particulates from tyres and pads have been of concern for many years, its one area where bikes are vulnerable to criticism. As a rider, I’ve always valued grip above all else. I shall continue to do so.”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Images courtesy of Michelin