Where do your tires come from? From a dealership, duh, but before that, they go through a convoluted chain of importers and distributors and shippers; ultimately, that chain starts at the factory, where the tires themselves are made out of raw materials.
And now, thanks to YouTube, you can get a look at that production process, at Shinko’s motorcycle tire factory in South Korea—see above. Our takeaways from the vid? Tire-making might use a lot of machinery, but there are still many manual steps. While Shinko’s tires typically don’t use the latest tech (it doesn’t have many radial or dual-compound options), there is something comforting knowing that somewhere in the world, people are still manufacturing things by hand and giving people a job, instead of handing it all over to machines.
Shinko’s motorcycle tire manufacturing business was founded on Yokohama’s machinery and designs, when Yokohama sold off that line in the late 1990s. Shinko (founded in 1946) itself started as a Japanese company that specialized in bicycle tires, so the move into the world of motorcycles made sense. Now, it makes 200,000 motorcycle tires each month (at least, that’s what it did before COVID-19 hit supply chains). Its line includes everything from tiny scooter tires to big-bore cruiser rubber. It’s probably best-known in the dual-sport world, where the trusty Shinko 244 is a popular tire choice for the DR650 and KLR650, due to its combination of low pricing, 50/50 capability and medium-length lifespan. Dual sport and adventure riders also like the the Shinko 705, which is more street-oriented, with less-pronounced knobs. Retro riders also favour some of Shinko’s old-school tread patterns, and it still makes some hard-to-find sportbike sizes as well.