Why are tyres dual marked ?

Have you ever been confused or wondered why tyres are often marked with multiple sizes on them such as 500/600x19? Or you order a 550x18 tyre and what arrives is marked up 525/550x18 or 550/600x18 on the sidewall?
The reason is much simpler than you might think. It's what we can only call "Marketing Bullshit"! And unfortunately more than a generation or two have been trained up expecting this.

In period there was no such thing as a "dual marked" tyre, as will be borne out from looking in original tyre catalogues, or knowing what the cars themselves were originally fitted with. So what happened?

Basically the tyre makers decided to cut the choice of tyre sizes available, but wanted to keep the illusion of having exactly the same range, for fear of losing sales of what they cut back on to a competitor. So as an example, not so long ago Dunlop stopped making it's 550x18 race tyre but continued to sell it's 600x18 tyre, but with the mould now re engraved to read 550/600x18. But this is their larger 600x18 tyre which is now just dual marked on the sidewall (and their brochure list). It is not too complicated to work out what happened here. It is what happens when clever management and accountants decide to maximise profit by making less sizes, while hoodwinking the end user. I became aware of this when a friend bought a single 5.50x18 replacement tyre and found it so much bigger! In reality Dunlop do not make a 550x18 tyre any more, but it is still massaged into their range!

In the earlier days of Blockley, Michelin made a dual marked "500/600x21" tyre, so if a customer asked a wholesaler like Vintage Tyre Supplies or Longstone Tyres etc for a 500x21, a 525x21, a 550x21 or 600x21, or mentioned some dual marked 550/600x21 or some other combination of sizes, they would get sold the very same tyre covering all those sizes marked on the sidewall 500/600x21, which was in fact a 600x21 tyre.  These tyre sellers advertise "Call us for expert advice" (one of them even advertised that they are the "Ultimate  Tyre Authority"!) and usually sell whatever makes them the most margin!

When Blockley made the 600x21 Blockley tyre (on the advice of Michelin who told me they would be withdrawing this size) it was suggested that I ought to dual mark the Blockley so as not to be disadvantaged in the market place by the "Classic tyre wholesaler experts", and reluctantly I did so, calling it "525/600x21". When Coker subsequently copied many of my Blockley tyres ("monkey see, monkey do")  in their attempt to shut the Blockley project down, they chose to call their copy of my tyre 550/600x21. 

The less tyre sizes you make, the easier stock management becomes with less money tied up in extra stock which means bigger profits. And with all this double or more sizing giving the illusion of a wider range, a different tyre size can be sold to someone asking for something else. This isn't just limited to tyres, but to inner tube sizes also which go to a whole different level in many instances. And profitability is what it's all about, and it works best by controlling the market, as a few handful wholesalers try so hard to dominate the marketplace. Blockley is the only company to have been started with a different ethos to all this, from a need to produce something truly wholesome, which is why we have come across so much pressure from those in charge of the Classic tyre market, and why we now tend to sell direct.

This same multisizing process works even better with inner tubes, where the range is now so multisize marked - that we reluctantly had to produce our own Blockley inner tubes, as we found the situation unacceptable, which would appear to be driven by profit and "brand" rather than quality. But that is another story. A 1950's Dunlop booklet covering this topic call their "Group marking" (ie more than one tyre size written on the sidewall) as a "development" because "some earlier tyre sizes tend to lose their original significance and popularity". That's the Corporate way of justifying why they cut out and dropped a slew of sizes, and pasted them onto existing tyre moulds! !

So when you see a multi size marked tyre, what size is it? A good rule of thumb is if a tyre has dual marking, the actual tyre it is the larger of the sizes quoted. So for example 550/600x18 is a 600x18 tyre out of the original 600x18 tyre mould. So as you can now appreciate, you cannot have 2 sizes of tyre in one tyre - or can you?

But with Blockley, and Blockley only, since we design and make all our tyres from scratch with brand new moulds we are starting from a clean sheet of paper, rather than those hunting down worn out scrap to revitalise. So for example in the case of Blockley a 4.75/5.00x19 is a 4.75x19, but nobody asks for a 4.75x19 (the original size for say a Model A Ford) because everone else making tyres has dual marked their 5.00x19 tyre as 475/500x19 - for 5.00x19 we make a tyre marked 5.00x19! Some of our dual marked sizes are an amalgam of the sizes unlike any other brand, although in some cases they are not. At Blockley we really abhor this dual marking business, but this is the way of the world and we try and do this to an absolute minimum. One of our latest tyre sizes produced is 440/450x21 which is a case in point, which we have had to do the dual marking on because this is what customers are asking us for. . . .