Who actually invented the bicycle tyre?

In this case, it’s not made in Switzerland. But it’s not made by Schwalbe either, as the bicycle tyre is much older than our brand. It was mainly thanks to two gentlemen from the 19th century: Charles Goodyear and John Boyd Dunlop.

In 1839 the American Charles Goodyear discovered more or less accidentally the vulcanization process and manufactured the first rubber. 50 years later the British veterinarian John Boyd Dunlop invented pneumatic tyres which made cycling much more comfortable. Prior to that “boneshaker” had been another name for a bicycle.

As early as 1845 a Scotsman named Thomson had already applied for a patent for a pneumatic tyre. But due to the fact that bicycles were still little known, he did not find anyone interested in his idea.

The economic breakthrough came with the French Michelin brothers who developed a pneumatic tyre with separate tube in 1889. In 1904 the first tyre with tread was built by Continental.

The history of Schwalbe tyres started in 1973. Up to that time bicycle tyres were hardly a high-quality product. This is what Ralf Bohle, the founder of Schwalbe, wanted to change. He specialized solely on bicycle tyres. Since these days, Schwalbe stands for numerous innovations, such as the Marathon series, the redevelopment of the balloon tyre equipment, the invention of the Flat-less® tyre, the further development of the tubeless technology and much more.

Where does the name Schwalbe come from?

In 1973 Ralf Bohle imported bicycle tyres from Korea to Germany for the first time. These were called Swallow. In these days, Germany was the biggest and most important market. For this reason “swallow” was translated into German, i.e. Schwalbe.

In Korea the tiny little bird is a traditional sign of good luck. For us it symbolizes that cycling is a wonderful way of moving: fast, light-hearted, with confidence, naturally and free.

Swallow tyres are in fact still available today. Our partner company HungA distributes them mainly in Asian countries. The Schwalbe brand is, however, a name which is more well-known all over the world.