Feature: Get the Grip – Cambrian Tyres

A look at Welsh company Cambrian Tyres who have helped revolutionise what tyres are fitted to racing bikes in Britain

RST Cycle Clothing & Trigon Bikes

Feature: Get the Grip – Cambrian Tyres

Over in Aberystwyth in Wales is a company called Cambrian Tyres that many may not have heard of even if they have heard of the brand they helped make popular in Britain; Continental.

The Edco and Continental brands on the jersey of a women’s development team

Back in 2011, they started their support for VeloUK but well before that, they were already supporting the sport and to learn more, we spoke to Shelley Childs at Cambrian Tyres. He explained that the company got involved in distributing tyres to the pedal cycle industry a few years after they were already doing the same for the motorcycle one and for 25 years, British racing cyclists have been getting the grip with Continental.

Of those 25 years, Shelley has been at Cambrian Tyres for 24 and when talking about the way they put back into the sport of cycling, he says “we have always done what we do now and that is help the domestic scene as we are responsible for Continental in the UK and Ireland.”

“We used to support the British Cycling Federation and Welsh Cycling Union as they were known then and give them boxes of tubulars and clinchers back in the 90s. We even had our brand name on the jerseys, which would cost a fortune these days.”

It was, says Shelley, a very different market back then when buying Continental wasn’t as straight forward as it is now with most, if not all, cycle shops having a range of Continental. Nowadays, they are the market leader in road tyres which is no surprise as I see them on a lot of bikes these days at races, whether it be the UCI Conti teams, the Elite teams or individual riders buying their own choice of rubber for their wheels.

Staying on top of the market says Shelley is hard work and a lot of that comes from supporting the domestic sport and for a lot of years, I’ve seen them supporting UCI teams like Madison Genesis, JLT Condor, Metaltek Kuota, Pedal Heaven, NFTO, Wiggins and many others. Even at World Tour level, the Continental brand from their head office in Germany supports many many teams.

The tubulars that the British sponsored teams get from Cambrian Tyres, the not for resale, Competition Pro Ltd. A very similar model is available to purchase with a different tube.

When I asked Shelley for highlights over the years from teams they have supported, the first he mentions is when Team Sky needed some tubulars for the team in the Tour de France. Cambrian had already given their stock of Pro Ltd (not for resale) tubulars to the UK pro teams and so Team Sky bought off the shelf Continental tubulars from the Cambrian Tyres warehouse. This was back in 2016 when Chris Froome went on to win the Tour de France on these off the shelf tubs that anyone could buy from their local shop.

Another highlight was from the days just after the company started distributing Continental in the UK. Chris Boardman won his gold in 1992, again on tyres that were supplied by Cambrian Tyres.”

“It was before my time” says Shelley “but I remember the boss (Neville Evans) talking about it as being the first ‘big thing’ for the Continental brand in the UK, with Chris winning on ‘Olympic Bahn 19mm’ tubs supplied by Cambrian Tyres. We even have one of the famous Lotus bikes here in Aberystwyth.

This year came another big moment for Cambrian when a rider (Dan Fleeman) was in a team they sponsor, Metaltek –Kuota, and they won one of the country’s most popular road races, the UCI ranked CiCLE Classic. “That race is real test of equipment and he was on Edco wheels and Continental tubulars so we were over the moon with that victory” says Shelley.

There is though much more that the company has done for the sport. With Shelley and the people at Cambrian networking with within the industry to bring a round of the Tour Series to headline their ‘AberCycleFest’ event which they help organise annually. The organisers of the Tour Series took the event to Scotland instead in 2017 but the legacy enabled AberCycleFest to continue with its own Ceredigion Grand Prix, with a top prize of £1000, won by Team Wiggins’ Sam Harrison & Ford Ecoboost’s Charmain Porter in 2017.

The two brands distributed by Cambrian Tyres, Edco and Continental on the bikes for Metaltek Kuota

Progress in getting the grip

As well as putting back into the sport, Cambrian Tyres have also affected the buying habits of the cycle racing community by distributing the German brand in Britain.

When I first started racing, in the 70’s, clinchers were so heavy, they were not much use for racing on or even training. So they have come a long way since then but even in the last 25 years, there have been so many improvements that using clinchers to race on is commonplace.

Shelley explains “Back when we started, if you were serious, you’d be on tubs (tubulars), and to be honest the pros are still exclusively on tubulars. But, along with the improvements of clincher wheels such as carbon ones, the club riders tend to stick with clinchers a lot more than they used to.”

One of the highlights for Cambrian Tyres was seeing Dan Fleeman win the tough CiCLE Classic on Edco wheels and Continental tyres

“The basic structure to clinchers hasn’t changed that much but the compounds used in the rubber has, as has the tread design. Back in the day, we were told it (tread design) didn’t matter and that the perfect clincher was a slick one but now for aero dynamics, its proven a tread design contributes to the aero dynamic properties of that clincher.”

“The basic tyre structure, the casing, is three ply and then some companies add in one or two more. So the (Continental) Four Season GP clincher has an extra two layers under the tread and the GP 4000 has one of those extra layers to give them a bit more puncture protection.”

The material for the casing has changed though, not just the material but also the thinness of threads allowing more per inch than ever. “Years ago, there would be silks and cottons used in casings but now it’s almost exclusive for Continental, a nylon which they have perfected. Even the track tubulars have gone from being cotton to nylon. They are tested and shown to be faster and more resilient. Also for road cycling in the rain, there is no water retention as there would be with cotton.”

Wheels and Bikes

There is more to Cambrian Tyres than just tyres however. Three years ago, the company was looking to expand its cycling portfolio and chose Edco Wheels (and other products) and now they are also distribute Storck bikes.

The latter product is well known for being an premium carbon race product but Shelley explained they have quite a range from alloy frames, MTB and Cyclo-Cross machines as well as the premium road super bikes.

“There are customers out there who like things that are a bit different and exclusive and that is where Storck are and we’re looking to expand and gain more volume with them in the market.”

The Continental Pro Ltd tubulars on the bikes of Wiggins in 2017

Who knows, we may even see a team on Storck bikes in the future just like there are teams on Continental tyres and also on Edco Wheels including a club team they have supported – Edco Continental which also has a women’s development squad at the top tier of the club. That may well develop further to the point a men’s development team comes to fruition.

All this putting back in says Shelley is because the people from the top down at Cambrian Tyres are passionate about what they do. “We’re all cyclists and yes, you have to stay level headed and not throw large amounts of money at things which would not be sustainable, but there is nothing better than helping a youngster out and see him/her do something special. That is what we love seeing”.

And for a business that Cambrian Tyres has helped for many years, it was pretty special seeing their premises and talking to Shelley away from a bike race and we’ll have more from him soon on VeloUK.




Send your results as well as club, team & event news here


Other Results on VeloUK (including reports containing results)

Other News on VeloUK

Tags: ,