Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tires, tires, tires.

Photo courtesy of Challenge Tire

After going on in past posts about a floor pump for putting air in your tires, what about the tires themselves? Larry's hands-down favorite tire is Vittoria's cotton casing "Open Tubular". But our friends at Challenge have one of the most informative websites about tires and their construction that we know of. Check it out HERE. Their tires are nice too, though we have yet to try their cotton tire. Their SuperPoly casing feels not quite as supple as Vittoria's cotton but the difference is small. Riding on handmade, "open tubular" tires will spoil you, so don't try 'em unless you dare spending more money than on cheapo, vulcanized tires. Even if you upgrade only to a higher thread-count vulcanized tire, say 150 tpi instead of 60, you'll feel the difference and enjoy the ride much more.

The current marketing trend seems to be towards "road tubeless" tires these days, though many of the venerable tire makers have stayed out of this market. Fans tout a great ride, no flats and the ability to run much lower tire pressure with no fears of the dreaded pinch-flat, also known as a "snake bite" since it leaves two holes in your tube like it was bitten by the fangs of a snake. The drawbacks seem to be much more challenging mounting, the need for some sort of liquid sealant that eventually dries out and must be replaced and the resulting mess if a major hole causes failure, meaning you have to insert a tube to get home. This means you need tools to swap out the valve stem and will need to carry a spare tube as well.

Larry's been doing some experiments with lower tire pressures since receiving the Silca Ultimate Super Pista pump with its 1 psi +/- accuracy and has been enjoying rides with Challenge Strada 25 mm tires inflated to 75 psi in back and only 65 psi in front. A comfortable ride, no pinch (or other) flats with none of the expense or drawbacks of the "road tubeless" setup.

Experiment for yourself with tire pressures. Larry bets you'll find more comfort and control with pressures far less than you've been led to believe are optimum. This assumes you're using a reasonable sized tire for your weight (at least a true 23 mm width) and that you don't blindly crash through massive pot-holes in the road. Anything less than 23 mm is asking for trouble, while doing nothing for rolling-resistance or comfort.

Disclaimer: CycleItalia gets nothing free or discounted from either Vittoria or Challenge, we buy 'em!

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