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John Dunlop, Pneumatic Tires

A ten year old boy in Belfast Ireland rode his tricycle on cobblestone streets, but its solid rubber tires made the ride uncomfortable.  His father, a Scottish veterinarian named John Dunlop thought of an idea for making the ride smoother.  He took lengths of rubber garden hose and fitted it around the rim of the tricycle’s wheels, and glued the ends together to make a tube.  Then he put an air valve in the garden hose, and pumped up the hose with a soccer ball air pump.  The ride was greatly improved, but the tricycle was soon set aside for other toys.  About a year later, it was noticed by a friend of Dunlop, a bicycle racer.  A newspaper article attracted interest, and Dunlop and investors went on to develop an air filled tire for use by the “killer ap” of the day, bicycles, in 1888, soon to be followed by use in automobiles.


The pnuematic tire, combined with Starley’s basic bicycle design, made a modern one speed bicycle.  The early bike tires were tubular, and glued or wrapped onto the rim, which was dished to accept the tubular tire.  Clincher tires came later.

The pneumatic tire had actually been invented earlier by engineer Robert W. Thompson, in 1845.  However, that was before the huge popularity of bicycles, so the invention went undeveloped.

3 comments to John Dunlop, Pneumatic Tires

  • 22 Wheels Tire

    Forum: Parts For Sale/Wanted Posted By: baroncustom Pos

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    It’s great that more people are focusing on making better environmental choices. Plus technology is making it more economical now, and that’s what people really notice. Wind energy, solar power, hybrids and zap EV’s, our choices are good. There are now electric cars being sold everyday, you just plug it into a regular power outlet. When people test drive them they say it’s far more fun to drive an EV.

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