As I mentioned in the previous post on tire tubes, I ride an average of 2,500Km a year and in the six years that I have been riding an old bicycle, I have only had one puncture. That is one puncture for 15,000 kilometers.
I swear by BE Tires . The beauty of the BE tire is that the flaps "ears" on the outer edges wrap around the tube and serve the function of a rim band. Thus, the tube is totally enclosed within the tire as compared with the W/O (wired on) tires which close to half the tube is exposed to the rim.
I picked up an NOS (new old stock) pair of Zebra Bicycle (sorry Japanese only) tires recently.
At first glance they look like trash but with a little elbow grease they will quickly be transformed into treasure. 、
If you look closely at the tread you will notice a raised letter "Z" pattern which is the initial for Zebra Bicycle Company.
In the 1950's in addition to the raised letters on the sidewalls, it was not uncommon for bicycle tire manufacturers in Japan to design the tread in the form of the manufacturer's company logo or company name.
Below is a scan from a 1958 catalog.
Here you will notice that all the tires have the company name/logo in raised letters on the tread itself.
Note the tire tread reads: "THE BULL DOG TYRE" in English and in Japanese along with the company logo, the head of a bull dog.
Other examples can be seen on this blog such as: MARUKA, DUNLOP, and Mr. Dunlop himself.
For bringing tires back to life, ArmorAll does a pretty good job.
After washing the tire with soap and water allow the tire to dry. Apply a generous coat of ArmorAll and let stand 20 minutes before wiping off. Once completely dry the tire can be buffed resulting in a nice sheen.
Below is the tire after using ArmorAll.
A nice reddish brown tire. The Japanese nicknamed these tires Candy Tires (AME TAIYA) as their color resembled that of hard candy during that period. The color is actually due to a high concentration of natural rubber and lack of black carbon typically found in the predominantly popular black tires.
Note the Zebra Company logo. The Zebra bicycle company produced its guarantee medal (Japanese only) in the same shape as the company logo.
Zebra Bicycle Company's roots date back to the days of the rickshaw. It's founder Choukichi Takahashi, in an effort to improve upon English bicycles created his own bicycle "The Zebra" and went on to form the Zebra Bicycle Company in 1903.
I've introduced Zebra bicycles (Japanese only) before. In 1969 the company joined hands with KOFU Bicycle Company to become Zebra Kenko Bicycle Company (Japanese only).
On the sidewalls of the appears the words Zebra Bicycle Company followed by the word KINSEI.
To me, no other word better conveys the spirit of the craftsmen and women of this period, or the Japanese spirit to provide the best product possible than this word KINSEI. It is written with two characters, the first meaning "humble" the second "to manufacture". The meaning is "to pour one's heart into producing the best product possible".
Today, "Made in Japan" is synonymous with high quality products. It is well known the world over that Japan produces excellent automobiles, motorcycles, electronic goods, etc. But 60 years ago Japan was in the early stages of rebuilding. It started with bicycles. But more on this fascinating subject in a future post.
For more on Zebra Bicycles please visit Jeff over at The Flying Pigeon Project who maintains a site dedicated not only to China's iron horse, The Flying Pigeon, but vintage bicycles from all over Asia. Recently he has run a fine post on a Zebra bicycle owned and restored by my fellow restoration enthusiast Mr Ishikawa (Japanese only).