Friday, July 25, 2014

Avon Tyres

I've used Avon Motorcycle tyres all my life, which means over the years I've used quite a lot of them :-) Quite a few different ones too; from the iconic Avon Speedmaster on my classic bikes to the Avon Sidecar Triple Duty on my sidecar combination. Avon RoadRunners and Super Venoms have been fitted to a range of previous bikes and Avon RoadRiders on my current Bonneville before we went on this trip around the world. Currently we run Avon Distanzias as they allow us to ride gravel roads as well. Despite quite a lot of tyres over the years I can honestly say I've never had a bad tyre from them.

During our trip through the UK we wanted to visit the Avon factory, made an appointment and were treated to a full guided tour through the Avon factory in Melksham! All Avon motorcycle tyres are made here, pure British made! Not only did we receive a factory tour, we also found ourselves walking over the design department and looking at a range of new tyre designs. One of them is coming out early next year and we were shown the ins and outs already! You like to know what it is… well, we can't tell you! But… we have seen it, have seen the design process and the preliminary outcomes and it looks like an absolute winner! With a little bit of luck we might be testing them too… (Ashley: hint!)

Pete McNally and Ashley Vowles at the Avon Tyre factory in Melksham

Ashley, the motorcycle tyre design engineer himself, took us through the whole process. From design brief to computer aided design, simulated testing and a range of extensive pre-production tests including testing in real life situations by an ex motorcycle racer. If Avon designs a new tyre for a particular motorcycle that is capable of 190 Mph (over 300 km/hr) then their tester will take that motorcycle to a test track and take it up to 190 Mph. If he is not happy with the results, it's back to the drawing board. They also do mileage testing as well as wet, cold and hot weather tests. 

We were also shown the whole process from raw materials through to final product. The Avon Tyre factory in Melksham has been producing tyres for over 100 years. Don't expect it to be in the dark ages though. Avon is very much at the forefront, they have to be as there is a lot of competition in motorcycle tyres. Having seen the design, the dedication and the sheer knowledge at Avon, as well as their safety and very strict end control they put into each tyre, it must be frustrating to see motorcyclists that think tyres are all the same. They aren't.

The differences between producing a radial and a cross-ply tyre are much more substantial than I would have thought. I know a little bit about the differences between the two. Actually I thought I knew what the differences were but after talking with Ashley for a while I realised I knew hardly anything about them as there is so much more than meets the eye. Designing a good tyre is an art. The design brief for each tyre has so many conflicting instructions that it is amazing they can design it at all. Design briefs may come from the marketing department but can also materialise when the Avon laboratory has developed a new composition.

What stood out for me as well is the pride the people at Avon have in making tyres in the same factory for 100 years. The people working here today mostly have family members like fathers, aunts and uncles that worked for Avon as well, or in some cases still do! Each motorcycle tyre is hand made by people that love motorcycles and this proudly made 100% British product is doing deservedly well. We are proudly riding the world on them!

Because let's face it; every time we steer our bike, lean into a corner, accelerate away or slam on the brakes; we put our trust into the people that design and build our tyres. Having visited the Avon factory and seen the dedication put into each and every tyre, that is a trust well placed.