Tyre choice is a popular topic for discussion wherever mountain bikers gather, possibly because there’s really no clear winner – all tyre design is a compromise. One area that’s often identified as lacking is grip on wet rocks and roots, a particular concern in the “temperate” (ie damp) UK. Riders who also hike and climb have often been heard to wonder why their tyres won’t grip when their Vibram-soled boots have little trouble.
Well, the answer may be at hand, with the news that the legendary rubber sole manufacturer (that celebrated 70 years of preventing people falling over in 2007) is looking at launching a range of bike tyres.
This isn’t anything like as bonkers as it may sound. Italian mountaineer and Vibram founder Vitale Bramani was partly inspired by Pirelli’s rubber car tyres when seeking more effective footwear for rock climbing than the hobnailed boots in use in the mid-1930s, so in that sense it’s a return to the company’s beginnings. This wouldn’t be Vibram’s first foray into the world of bikes, either – Gaerne, Lake, Shimano, Timberland and Northwave all make MTB shoes using Vibram soles, and the company is also working on saddles with Selle Italia. So tyres are a natural next step.
The early renderings we’ve seen show a tread clearly inspired by Vibram’s famous Montagna hiking sole, with closely-spaced star-shaped lugs running up the centre and larger tapered lugs on the shoulders. The tyres also feature the famous yellow octagon logo, although whether they’re inset into the tread in the style of the boots or simply printed on isn’t clear.
As far as we can tell, no actual tyres exist as yet – we’ll keep you posted…