This Space for Rent

I sing the praises of the cheap bicycle tire

After I gave up on using 650b wheels on the MLCM, I first replaced them with the pair of el-cheapo Cheng Shen tires ($12 for the pair, and the puncture resistance of wet kleenex was thrown in for free) I’d purchased for the “are 700c wheels faster than 650b?” ride test, and then with my spare pair of xtracycle tires (Pasela + Vittoria Randonneur) after the second time in a week where I ran over something and punched holes in both of of my tires. But the xtracycle tires are both 28mm (nice for carrying heavy loads, but possibly overkill for what I consider to be a heavy load) and have a pronounced tread; the latter is screaming overkill for my bike riding (the only case where I’ve found a tread to be useful is when there’s snow on the ground, and, alas, the tread on the VRs and Paselas isn’t enough to work when the snow gets deep enough to encase the bottom part of the tire. There was a week last year where I didn’t ride at all because there was a layer of icy snow at the base of the snowfall, and my tires would sink into it and spin on the ice. A pair of Nokian A10s would probably do the trick, if I could fit them into the bicycle frame, but I don’t think any conventionally treaded tire that would fit under the trek would actually work.)

So, in december I went looking around online for bicycle tires, and (aside from the usual crop of people recommending $100 tires that “last 2000 miles!” – thanks, but I’d bought a nice pair of Ruffy Tuffy tires that lasted me about 2000 miles before one got punctured in too many places during the Verboort Flat Tire Extravaganza! last fall, and the other had the sidewall shredded by a bottle when I was in the middle of doing an in-town errand a couple of weeks later; $96 for the pair makes an expensive two months+change of riding) saw a couple of recommendations for the (expensive at list price, but it’s Nashbar so they’re almost always on 40-50% sale) Nashbar Duro tire. The tires happened to be on sale, so I bought a pair, stuffed them onto the bicycle in January, then bought another pair in February after I’d put 600 miles onto them.

Sometime in April I swapped out the rear tire because it had gotten a fairly severe gash through the sidewall (it had actually cut all the way through the tire, but, oddly, had not punctured the inner tube; I only discovered it when I was moving the tire over to a new rear wheel a week or so before the first running of the Eden’s Gate 400k, and I swapped the front tire some time in May because it was starting to look a little bit worn.

But since then I’ve ridden the bicycle somewhere over 3000 miles under the same tires, and aside from a few flats and the complete disappearance of the ornamental herringbone tread, they’re still happily wheeling along.

They’re creeping up on the milage I got from my first pair of Vittoria Randonneur tires, which were at about 5500 miles before I wore them down to the protective belt under the tire surface, and they’re now head and shoulders above the milage I got from the much-more-expensive Ruffy Tuffy tires.

Not bad for a cheap 290 gram folding bead tire. I should think about putting a pair of them onto the xtracycle.


Schwalbe Marathon Plus – at a fairly reasonable price point, 126 CAD for a pair – are what I’ve had recommended as long distance tires. Should the touring bike arrive, I’ll get to have a direct opinion about them.

Nimbus Armadillos have now gone two summers in Toronto for me without getting a flat; this is much, much better than any previous tire managed for me. (Well, ok, technically there have been two flats. But it’s not the tire’s fault if the user pulls off the value stem fighting with the pump attachment.) I don’t ride anything like as much as you do but my previous rate was generally over four flats/summer. Pretty good in the wet, too.

Graydon Sun Sep 5 16:44:45 2010

I don’t know if there are any puncture-proof tires (except for solid tires) that would be proof against some of the things that have punctured my tires this year. The front tire flat I had last friday was a big chunk of glass that stabbed into the tire and stuck there, only to be driven deeper with each subsequent revolution until it went all the way through and into the tire. The last two rear wheel flats were when I ran over jagged rocks (and one of the unfortunate side-effects of narrow tires is that the contact patch is really tiny, so it’s a lot of “I will cut your tire now!” force when I hit something sharp.

And on the other side of the coin, I ran over a nail last week and only noticed it when it started going whiiisk whisssk against my fender. But it didn’t dig in deeply enough to actually get the tube, so I was able to just pull it out of the tire and keep going.

The Vittoria Randonneur is supposed to be a fairly bombproof tire, but I still get a flat every thousand miles or so on the one on the rear wheel of the trek. I’d hate to spend twice as much money and keep getting flats.

David Parsons Tue Sep 7 11:15:43 2010

I am certainly highly empathetic to the desire not to spend twice as much money and keep getting flats!

So far as I’m aware, it’s a tradeoff between ride-ability – low rubber mass – and puncture resistance – high rubber mass – on the one hand, and traction (use rubber) and toughness (use something else) on the other. Carbon nanotube bike tyres are a ways off, alas, so nothing always works for flat prevention.

But, well, I’m 110 kg; another 30kg of stuff + bike, and I’m going over all kinds of glass and random road crap and gravel path and getting away with it. This is admittedly on 28mm tires, but it’s also 28mm tires at 100(front) and 120(rear) psi. So – aside from karmically dooming myself to multiple flats next time I try to take birding gear somewhere on the bike – it seems like there is some value to some of the more expensive tires.

Graydon Tue Sep 7 16:49:52 2010

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