How many times have you seen a great idea or invention and thought to yourself, “That’s genius! Why didn’t I think of that?”
That’s how I felt about the four-strand micro-mesh braiding used in bicycle tires. For years, I’d seen photos of bike tires with these incredibly complex braiding patterns and always thought they were pretty neat. Then, one day, I saw an article about how a company called Miyuki Technologies had developed this revolutionary new micro-mesh style and how it could make flat tire repair easier for both professionals and DIYers alike.
I decided to pick up the phone and call them to see if they’d explain more about their braiding concept and technology. To my delight, they greeted me by name and invited me to visit their website to learn more.
Tires Made Of Twine
It all started with a great idea. Miyuki Technologies had developed a micro-mesh four-strand braiding pattern that, when used in bicycle tires, produced a truer circle shape and improved tread wear and feel. Essentially, their design allows for more rubber to be packed into the same volume of tire, resulting in a gain of 30 percent in footprint capacity. This, in turn, allowed for the possibility of an increase in speed of up to five to seven percent. Not too shabby!
The result was a slicker, smoother ride coupled with greater speeds that, in turn, led to a greater enjoyment of cycling. It was a genius idea, and for a brief moment, I thought it was just the wind on my cheeks as I sped past the stop sign on my way to work.
A Revolutionary Design
While we were chatting, I found out that Miyuki Technologies’ micro-mesh braiding had been licensed to a Taiwanese company named Wistron for use in car tires. This was odd because I didn’t recall seeing this particular design used in motor vehicle tires before. Nonetheless, it was a start.
I decided to do a little more research, and sure enough, it turns out that this was a design that the automakers had preferred not to implement because it produced a more dramatic bulge in the sidewall at high speeds. This, in turn, created an imbalance that could lead to slippage. In other words, it wasn’t safe for use in heavy vehicles.
A Prototype, And Then Some
Now, any self-respecting engineer or inventor will tell you that the first step is to always begin with a prototype. For decades, this has been the case for me as well (I’m an engineer by trade).
With the help of my friend and coworker, Jimmy, we found a company in China that could produce the braiding we needed in an incredibly short amount of time. We went ahead and placed our order, and a few weeks later, we had a box of high-quality four-strand braiding sitting on our desk. It was a little more work to get the configuration right, but other than that, it was a matter of following the instructions that came with it.
Once we got the hang of it, it wasn’t too difficult to replicate, and we ended up producing four large boxes of the stuff. We ran some computer simulations and compared the results to data obtained from independent tests to verify that our understanding of the braiding’s qualities was correct. When we were satisfied that we had replicated the results of the experiments, we started putting our theory to the test.
The Truth About Braiding
In the beginning, our trials and errors resulted in some pretty wild rides. We’d start by pumping up our tires a little bit and then gradually increasing the pressure until it reached its operating range – a very funny feeling, like trying on a tire that wasn’t yet pumped up.
Once we got the hang of it, it was like riding on a cloud. Our confidence grew, and we eventually started competing in races. Our results were astonishing. We went from finishing last to winning several races in a row. It was as if someone had turned out the lights, and for a second or two, we’d ride in complete darkness. But then, as quick as it had arrived, my fear of the dark returned, and I’d end up running on the spot with my heart pumping hard just to keep upright.
Beyond The Lab
Now, it’s time to get a little more personal, and I’d like to tell you about an incident that happened a few weeks ago that illustrates just how far this game can go. It all started when my friend Chris Sorensen, a race car driver and engineer, came to me with a problem. He was driving down the road with his wife, Lori, when he noticed that a tire was wearing out. He thought it was strange because the treads were still relatively new, and they didn’t suffer from any significant wear. Nonetheless, Chris decided to pull over and investigate. As it turns out, his first instinct was right: The inside of the tire was completely bald, and it had been this way for a while. He didn’t know what was causing it, so he took a deep breath and called me.
I live in Minneapolis, which is where Chris and Lori live as well. It’s the home of the Winter Carnival, an annual event that features a huge ice rink and several thousand participants. When Chris told me that he and his wife were planning on going for a ride on the Sunday of the carnival, I was immediately reminded of how the roads down there can be a little bit icy in winter. This, in turn, made me worry about what would happen if something were to go wrong. Would their car be able to take care of itself on the road? Could they handle a serious accident if it happened?
These were all questions that crossed my mind, but I didn’t want to ruin Chris and Lori’s weekend. So, instead of forcing them to cancel their plans, I told them that I’d come over on Saturday evening and give the car a once-over to make sure that everything was working as it should. I’m glad I did. It ended up being a fun trip, and their car handled itself just fine on the road. Aside from a few scratches and some minor dents, everything seemed to be in good order. Still, I’m not sure I’d want to do that every week. It’s probably better to let the professionals handle that sort of thing.
A Change In Perspective
There’s also been a change in perspective for me. It used to be that I’d look at a problem and want to solve it right away. These days, I ask myself, “How can I make the solution work for me?”
Take wind noise, for example. Up until now, I’d always thought of it as something that was inescapable when riding a bike. But then, I started asking myself questions: How can I reduce the noise level? How can I use the wind against me instead of having it hurt my experience?
These days, I go into every problem with a solution in mind. It starts with a simple question: “What are the possible solutions, and which one do I want to use?” Then, it’s a matter of testing out each one and seeing which one produces the best results. Sometimes, it’s as easy as just changing a few settings on my bike and then going for a ride. Other times, it takes a little bit of trial and error before I find the ideal solution. Still, in every case, I end up with a bike that I enjoy riding more than ever before.
A Better Understanding
Now, I don’t want to give the mistaken impression that all my problems were solved. There are still issues that I have to deal with. For instance, whenever I ride on a rough road, the bike sometimes ends up shaking so much that it’s difficult to hold on for the duration of a trip. Or, if it’s really windy, it’s hard for me to stay on a steady pace. These things used to be a huge problem for me, but now that I’m starting to think about them in a different light, it’s easier to fix. It’s all about priorities, and I’ve learned to be more selective about the problems that I choose to tackle.
In every case, I try to take the path of least resistance. With the problem that I mentioned earlier, for example, I realized that if I pumped up my tires a bit more, I’d experience less wind noise. So, I did. Now, it’s just a matter of maintaining that optimum pressure throughout the ride.