Friday, February 5, 2010

What Tires ...?

I’ll ride a 200K permanent tomorrow, the weather looks like it is going to cooperate. This from NWS:  Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 52. Calm wind becoming south southeast around 6 mph. Which is about as close as we get to “sunny and 72 with tailwinds out and back” this time of year. I’m not complaining, it appears that my friends in the mid Atlantic region are bracing for a couple feet of snow.

But the question this morning is what tires to put on for the ride tomorrow? It will be on typical rural roads; lots of chipseal, lots of seasonal potholes, and this time of year lots of junk, car parts, limbs, bark from log trucks, gravel. In other words not the conditions for lightweight racey tires, nor well worn tires.

Last month I discovered, on closer inspection that my tires were shot. Actually Cory, the mechanic at the LBS brought this to my attention. So I went to the tire pile and sorted through that stack of used but not used up tires and found a couple that appear appropriate to the task. I know I‘m not alone in this. All my bikish pals have a stack, pile, or jumble of tires that still have something to give. These things don’t store well and if you have someone in the family who has a greater appreciation for order and neatness, this pile can be a source for ‘discussion’. You know what I mean.

I found a pair of Rivendell Jack Browns (the green version) that appear suitable. I gave them a close inspection and though the tread is worn in the center, (that part that constitutes the ‘contact patch’), there are no cuts, no serious abrasions, and no embedded shards of glass, stone, or truck wires. I looked closely. They will do, and if I pay reasonable attention I should get around the course without a ‘tire problem’ (you know that word I’m thinking but not saying).

But is ‘good enough’ good enough? ‘Tire problem repair’ is never fun, but in crappy weather, bad does not describe it. So I did a little tire shopping earlier in the week. I considered getting a pair of cyclocross tires for the remainder of the crappy season. They always look so ’rough and ready’. But the truth is though there is plenty of dirt road riding in our area, I don’t get out on those roads much. Cross tires really cut into speed on paved roads, even these low grade country roads we have here. It would just be nice to have a little more tread for the wet leaves, those slips onto the gravel shoulders when the big rigs come by, and for powering through the occasional mixed dirt and gravel washout. Probably the reasonable compromise is that pair of 32mm Panaracer Paselas that currently grace the Quickbeam:

They aren’t new, but would definitely be at the very top of the used tire heap.

I will buy new tires to start the coming brevet season. I’ve learned that the quality of tires is only one factor contributing to the frequency of ‘tire problems’. Tire condition plays a big role. Even before they are officially worn out, the frequency of ‘problems’ starts to go up. And in adverse conditions, well, need I say more?

I had an epiphany some years ago in this regard. Up to that time I had a policy of buying low cost tires. My rationale was that these things just wear out so what is the sense of putting big money into them? Then, as I was fixing a ‘tire problem’ on a particularly wet, cold, nasty winter ride, as my friends with their higher quality tires waited patiently, I had this thought: Right now, squatting in this cold rainy spot, fingers numb, and coated with cold gritty road water, would I pay money to avoid fixing this flat? The answer flooded the inside of my skull like a flash of light.  Then I went grudgingly back to the miseable task at hand.  From that point on my tire choices have consdered cost less and performance and durability more. I’ll buy another pair of those Rivendel Jack Browns; they are pretty much the sweet spot for me and my bike.

By the way, I've heard that Riv is planning to stop offering the Rolly Pollys and RuffyTuffys. If these are your ‘sweet spot tire’ you might consider stocking up. I may buy a pair, they are a nice fit on the tandem as are those 28mm Paselas.

PS: Looking ahead I notice that Oregon Randonneurs will host a 200K on the first Saturday in March, and SIR will host their season starting 200K the following weekend. This means that the R-12 hunters have pretty much come through the 'death zone' and keeping the streak alive becomes progressively easier (instead of harder) as time passes. 


  1. I just replaced the 3/4 worn Conti Gatorskins on my brevet bike after a couple months of frequent "tire problems" on my R-12 hunt, and pretty much any other ride longer than 15 miles. (i.e. Anything more than my daily work commute)
    I decided to move up from the 28mm width after talking with a couple people on the 100k social last weekend who were riding 30mm or wider tires. I'm a big guy, so I thought moving up to a 32mm tire might be in order to smooth out the road chatter, absorb some excess chip-seal rattle, and generally make things more comfortable for myself.
    The Panaracer Pasela TG folding bead was dirt cheap at one of the online retailers, so I thought them worth the experiment. They're relatively light in the overall spectrum of puncture resistant 32mm tires. Well over 100g difference between them and the similar sized Schwalbe Marathon or Conti Top Contact.
    I've only managed to just put them on and fall prey to a head cold, so I haven't put any miles on them aside from a quick jaunt around the parking lot, but I will say this much so far:
    They were an easy mount for a folding bead tire. The sidewalls seem a little on the thin side, but I rarely get sidewall issues so I don't think this will be problematic. They take 95psi, so they're a higher volume/faster rolling (I hope) tire than other 32s which top out at 85 or 80psi. They don't measure up at 32mm on a 14mm interior width rim. I ride DT RR1.1 rims, and at 95psi the Pasela TG 700 x 32 measures up at 30.2 - 30.4mm.
    Now, my Gatorskin 700 x 28 only measured up at 26.6mm on the same rim at 112psi, so I did get the 4mm addition I wanted; but I was hoping for a true 32. Oh well. I'll see how they do, and maybe get a pair of 35s to replace them in a few 1000 miles.

  2. Good move, I support your 'wade in not dive in' approach. The Paselas are not as tough as those other tires you mention, but then again they ride a little more comfy.

    The next step in the 'wade in' strategy is to get one of those lower pressure wider tires when your Paselas wear out, you might be suprised.

    I am not going to engage in the debate about tire pressure/size vs rolling resistance but I ride those Jack Browns (33.3mmm) at 70psi, which is also where I rode the Gran Boise on PBP and I gotta tell you, it is worth a try. I suspect you will notice the (huge) improvement in comfort more that any difference in rolling resistance. But no science here, I am a datapoint of one, YMMV etc etc.

    One thing I am SURE of: Your NEW Paselas should result in fewer 'tire problems' than your old Conti's.

    PS: A dollop of gin in that orange juice may not help get over that cold, but it might make it a little less noticeable.


    Yr Pal DrC

  3. You might try Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase which come in 700c x 23, 25, 28, 32, 27", and 650x25. There are faster tires but these are very "problem" resistant. I have 3000 miles on one set with no repairs. I switched my other bikes from Gatorskins to Hardcase this year.

  4. "Toughness" is pretty subjective too. When I ran Gatorskins, any time it rained I would seemingly pick up more glass. The rubber on the tires had an almost adhesive quality. It might take longer to puncture the tire, but if I wasn't checking them every single day, I would end up with random tiny glass shard flats. On top of that, they rode like *insert favorite cuss word* anyways.