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Origin of the balloon tire (research)

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Cooper S.

I live for the CABE
So I’ve been doing a little digging into the origin of the 26” balloon tire we all know and love, and I think I’m close to the original source of it.
As we all know, schwinn introduced the balloon tire to the American market after having taken a trip to Germany in the early 1930s. (Here’s a link to a primer if you haven’t heard that story before https://vintageamericanbicycles.com/index.php/the-first-american-balloon-tire-bicycles/ )
But, I was writing a paper about the German bicycle company Diamant for one of my classes while I’m studying for the semester in Berlin, and noticed that they hadn’t introduced a balloon tire equipped model until 4 years after the Schwinns had discovered the 26” tire. Then I started to look and I couldn’t find any standard model of German bike with those tires from before schwinn introduced them, which seemed rather odd to me. While the bikes in Germany had been using separate inner tubes and tires, they hadn’t really been using the tires that revolutionized bikes in the US, but had kept the 28 x1 1/2” size that was and still is the standard.
Until I found a Katalog from continental tires from 1930, which seems to imply that the ancestors of the 26x2.125 balloon tire was created by them in 1929.
( https://www.strewi-fahrradwerke.de/Fahrraddokumente/1930-continental-reifen-und-zubehoer.pdf )

what do you all think? If anyone has any primary sources from schwinn about where they got the idea from I’d love to see them as I might use this as a part of a larger paper for my German minor’s capstone paper next semester.
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cyclingday

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
The tire that Frank W. Schwinn saw in Germany, may have been a prototype, and not something that was actually in production.
I’ve read, that he had a hard time finding an American company that would produce that size bicycle tire.
It’s my understanding that Fisk was the first company to produce the 26”x2.125 size clincher type balloon tire.
 

GTs58

I'm the Wiz, and nobody beats me!
I'm pretty sure the new Balloon tire term used by Schwinn has more to do with the new nylon? corded tires that were double tube clinchers, not just the Balloon tire name alone that was around many years prior. Do some research on the evolution of a tire and when the cord was invented and then used on the balloon bike tires after Mr. Schwinn returned from Europe. His tire was the new double tube straight side Corded Balloon tire that was a clincher on the new drop center rims, not the sew up or the glue on garden hose tubeless balloon tires used on the wood rims and pictured above in that German literature. Schwinn was supposedly the first to design/build a bike specifically for these new 2-1/4 " balloon tires.

Sears Fall-Winter catalogue introduced the Allstate balloon tire bicycle. This was a 28 X 2 inch tubeless tire – similar to the construction of many auto and motorcycle tires. Sears advertised that it was a balloon tire that represented the first bike innovation in 50 years.


Note the print in orange.

I hope all my rambling helps a little with any of the tire confusion and all the Schwinn Balloon Tire hype.
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Cooper S.

I live for the CABE
I'm pretty sure the new Balloon tire term used by Schwinn has more to do with the new nylon? corded tires that were double tube clinchers, not just the Balloon tire name alone that was around many years prior. Do some research on the evolution of a tire and when the cord was invented and then used on the balloon bike tires after Mr. Schwinn returned from Europe. His tire was the new double tube straight side Corded Balloon tire that was a clincher on the new drop center rims, not the sew up or the glue on garden hose tubeless balloon tires used on the wood rims and pictured above in that German literature. Schwinn was supposedly the first to design/build a bike specifically for these new 2-1/4 " balloon tires.

Sears Fall-Winter catalogue introduced the Allstate balloon tire bicycle. This was a 28 X 2 inch tubeless tire – similar to the construction of many auto and motorcycle tires. Sears advertised that it was a balloon tire that represented the first bike innovation in 50 years.


Note the print in orange.

I hope all my rambling helps a little with any of the tire confusion and all the Schwinn Balloon Tire hype.
View attachment 1736711
That is a good point, it would be important the define exactly what makes a balloon tire. Is it the 2” width, the inner tube, or the compound of the tire? Is it just a borrowed marketing term? I kinda think all three components are necessary, but maybe not. If only we could ask them.
 

Archie Sturmer

Riding a '38 Autocycle Deluxe
Also, a key word in the A&S ad is the adjective, “super”.
The adjective may have been used to distinguish theirs from other balloon tires.

The translated text seems to compare the aspects of high and low pressures, due to the amount of surface area contact of the narrow and wide tires. Perhaps similar observations may be made today, exclusively with clincher tires.
 

Waffenrad

Look Ma, No Hands!
It's quite late and I just stumbled on this thread. I haven't read it thoroughly and may miss some points already made. But I feel compelled to chime in. First, the term "balloon tire" was an automotive concept from the 1920's. The idea was to use larger tires at lower pressure, for a number of purported advantages--traction, comfort, style, etc. So the answer to the above question is that it was the size (and low pressure) that made a balloon tire. The other, perhaps most significant feature of the Schwinn B10-E's new tire, its double-tube, wired-on construction (which cyclists now call "clinchers," not to be confused with actual G&J or other true clinchers), did not give the balloon tire its name. Frank Schwinn wrote in his unpublished notes from 1942 (made available from the Bicycle Museum of America's archives in 1993) that the German tire his father saw in Germany in 1932 "...had been in use for a number of years and was very practical, particularly on rough or cobbled pavements." My understanding was it was a size used for work or delivery bicycles, not general roadsters, so perhaps one could look in that direction.
Paul Rubenson
 
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