In 1932 Montgomery Ward advertised a larger-sized, single-tube tire equipped on bicycles they sold.
Although this larger-sized tire was called a “balloon tire,” the more modern clincher-type tire introduced a year later by Arnold Schwinn & Co.
It was hard rubber strapped to the rim with a wire that was inserted through its center.
This tire did not offer a cushy ride, but it was at least reliable as it could never get a flat.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s the middleweight bicycle was supplanted by the 10-speed lightweight bicycle that rode on a larger 27″ wheel with a tire that was narrower yet at 1 1/4″.
Just as the earlier middleweight tire, the new 27″ lightweight tire held a higher air pressure, once again increasing the stiffness of the ride while reducing rolling resistance.
Another popular tire size available during the balloon-tire and middleweight eras was a tire with a width of 1 3/8″.
Called the “lightweight” tire, it was marked in decimals (1.375) or more commonly in fractions (1 3/8″).
While being of the clincher variety, Schwinn’s balloon-tire differed in its addition of a metal wire inside the beads and the elimination of extra rubber between them. Furthermore, it was necessary to apply a separate rubber strap over the spoke nipples on the rim to protect the inner-tube.
Such tire technology is still used today on modern cruisers as well as on BMX and mountain bikes.
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Unlike their previous tire sizes, Schwinn adopted the accepted standard this time rather than introduce their own size.