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At the Tour de France, Conti' will show its bike tires made of dandelion rubber

Published May 30, 2019

KORBACH, Germany (BRAIN) — By the time the Tour de France begins next month, Continental will offer a limited number of road bike tires made in Germany of rubber derived from dandelion plants grown in the country.

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The Urban Taraxagum model will be offered in a 700x32 size. A spokesman for the company told BRAIN the model will not be available in the U.S. initially. 

The company has been experimenting with dandelion rubber for years and recently opened a 35 million euro ($39 million) lab in Anklam, Germany, devoted to bringing the material made from the Russian dandelion plant to commercial use. The Latin name for the plant is Taraxacum koksaghy.

The company says the dandelion is a more sustainable source than rubber trees, which grow only in the tropics and produce latex only after 7 years of growth. The Russian dandelion can grow in a wide range of conditions and produces a latex-like material after a year. Using the plant would help avoid monoculture and slash-and-burn farming in the tropics, the company said, and substantially reduce the distance the raw material has to travel to its factories.

Rubber from trees in Southeast Asia is currently very cheap making dandelion rubber an expensive alternative even if it is further commercialized. However, a fungal disease has wiped out rubber trees in South America (where the tree originated); if the disease comes to Asia, an alternative will be needed.

Continental has previously produced commercial truck tires made partly with the rubber. 

The Anklam lab is working to apply Continental's Black Chili compound to the dandelion material. Black Chili, developed initially for two-wheeled vehicle use, is now used in performance auto tires as well. 

Conti at the Tour

Continental is one of the Tour de France's five "Main Partner" sponsors this year. The Continental logo will appear on the arch above stage finish lines as well as on the "flamme rouge" arch one kilometer from the finishes. After each stage, a representative of Continental will present the trophy to the stage winner.The Urban Taraxagum tire is made using Russian dandelion rubber.

Additionally, Continental sponsors six teams competing in the Tour and will be equipping the official Tour vehicles with its tires.

"For us, the Tour de France provides a good platform on which to set out our stall as one of the most technically experienced bicycle tire manufacturers in the world," said Christian Kötz, the head of the company's tire division.

"We have many years' experience in manufacturing racing tires for the Tour de France and a long tradition of supplying teams with our tires. The Tour also helps us to build a bridge between cyclists and drivers and to highlight our commitment to Vision Zero, which targets a world without fatalities, without injuries, and indeed without crashes on our roads. At the Tour we will be urging cyclists and drivers to show more consideration for each other, as well as spotlighting our 'Stay Wider of the Rider' campaign."

Tour director Christian Prudhomme tours a Conti' factory.

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