Continental has been trading in rubber-based goods in Hamburg, Germany since 1871. Right from the outset it was making bicycle tyres, as well as tyres for horse-drawn carriages. However, it wasn’t until 1892 when it became the first company in Germany to start making the new ‘pneumatics’ that bike tyres became a big thing at Conti. The early tires had basically just been a strip of rubber (or sometimes iron) mounted on the wheel rims. You can imagine the impact a bit of an air cushion had on the comfort factor of 19th century cycling.
Nowadays of course cycle tyre technology is streets ahead of those early days. A tyre is a surprisingly complicated thing, involving various parts and ingredients that all affect its grip, weight and durability. Continental is still one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of tyres, along with Goodyear, Michelin and Bridgestone. They produce an initially bewildering array of options in any given class – MTB, road, track, commuting, touring – but provide good information on the properties of the tyre and its suitability for the various pursuits. Their latest technology is a tyre compound they are calling ‘BlackChili’, which apparently uses soot particles and some fancy polymers to produce tyres that boast ‘26% less rolling resistance, a 30% higher friction value (grip) and a 5% increase in mileage’.
Continental are heavily involved in all aspects of competition cycling, providing tyres to everyone from BMC Racing to the Rapha Condor JLT team.