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Goodyear returns to bicycle tire market

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PARSIPPANY, N.J.—The Goodyear brand bicycle tire is back.

Kent International Inc., which bills itself as the second largest producer of bicycles and accessories for the mass market in the U.S., has signed a pact to become a licensee of Goodyear's bicycle tires and tubes in the U.S., its territories and Canada.

It has begun outsourcing production of the tires and tubes overseas, according to Kent President Scott Kamler, who said the license agreement with Goodyear covers five years. The boxed products are expected to be available for purchase at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Dunham's Athleisure Corp. stores this spring.

Kamler said the pact “will revolutionize the bicycle industry and meet the growing demands of cycling. We look forward to offering Goodyear brand products to the consumer with one of the best known and most respected names in the tire business.”

Bicycle tires were among the first products Goodyear manufactured after it was founded in 1898, said Nancy Ray, Goodyear's director of licensed products. “We're excited about our licensee agreement with Kent and that bicycle tires will once again be sold under the Goodyear brand.”

A Goodyear spokesman said the company stopped making the tires and tubes in 1979.

He said that once the tires and tubes are manufactured, they are folded into smaller boxes about the size of a softball and shipped.

“This agreement was born out of consumer demand and serves as a natural extension of our core business,” Ray said. “We couldn't ignore the statistics on the growth and popularity of cycling and look forward to working with Kent International.”

Kent's Goodyear product line will include all new tread patterns marketed and designed by Kent. Product specifications include: all tires are folded; regular and self-sealing tubes will be available; and sizes will range from 12 inches to 29 inches.

Kamler said initially adding Goodyear tires to its mix will help the firm build its bicycle accessory business. “But we are working on some models for the future, which will feature the Goodyear name on the bicycle tires.”

He said the agreement with the tire maker broadens the company's presence in the tire sector “with a solid brand that has greater consumer awareness specific to the category.”

Kent has been outsourcing production and importing bicycles and tires into the U.S. since 1958 and will continue to do so, he said.

It will import about 3 million bikes this year, he said, but the firm also plans to build approximately 170,000 bikes in 2015 at a plant it purchased and refurbished last year at a cost of about $4.3 million.

Kent expects to double the output from the factory next year and build more than a million bikes over the next four years. It hopes to source as many as 60-70 percent of the components in the U.S. by 2018.

Kent's new plant, which spans about 200,000 square feet, is located in Manning, S.C., and employs about 67 workers. The company plans to hire another 130 employees as the operation matures over the next three to four years.