Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Tires - more important than you think

Watching today's Giro stage over the white roads of Umbria (the photo is of 2010's Strade Bianche event in Tuscany as we're not yet in Italy) made Larry think about tires, especially after reading the June 2011 issue of Velonews. Various editors tested 4 bikes in the "Endurance" category. These bikes are designed for the type of riding most of us do vs the cut-and-thrust of criteriums or dropping your rivals on an endless mountain climb. These used to be road racing bicycles before marketing baloney pushed that terminology and technology into a description meaning bikes you need a follow-car to enjoy and you'd better not venture onto anything less than glass-smooth pavement. Of course the pros do just that on these unpaved road sections, a throwback to the days of Coppi and Bartali, but if YOU want to do this, they want to sell you yet another bike. Besides the typical "laterally stiff but vertically compliant" claptrap, VN "tested" these bikes on a sort of vibrating machine to rate their bump-eating abilities. It wouldn't be a bad guess if you figured the bike company with the biggest ad budget's product "proved" to be best, but what was interesting was the mention that the worst bike in their "overall vibration results" category scored almost as high as the winner with nothing but a simple exchange of wheels! That's correct, just putting the wheels from the winning bike on the loser made them rate almost the same on their testing gizmo. The biggest single difference was tire size, 25 mm vs 23 mm. The VN boyz noted the loser "was unduly hurt by poor tire choice."
In a sidebar they offered some excellent advice - "when you want a more comfortable ride, put on bigger tires and go easy on the floor pump." How easy? Their vibration measuring gizmo went off the charts with any more than 90 psi in the tires.
What should you look for in a tire? The largest size that will fit on your bike is a good place to start. But you need to measure to be sure - the Torelli tire shown here is one of our favorites, a supple, high-thread count casing (120 tpi or more) lightweight folding bead and hand-made to boot! What we'd REALLY(hint to Todd at Torelli!) like is a larger size, as this "23 mm" measures just 22.5 mm when mounted on a Torelli Triumph rim. Larry's current favorite tire is Vittoria's CX Evo in the same 23 mm size -- but the actual tire on the same rim measures 23.3 mm, almost a full millimeter larger. Doesn't sound like much, but the larger air volume can be felt! If Torelli offered the same tire as in the photo but in a 24-25 size that would still fit on most modern bicycles, we think he'd have a winner! If it had the classic brown (or honey as Torelli calls it) sidewalls we'd chip-in on the development/molding costs! They could call it the TORELLI "Lorenzo" instead of Arezzo! It would be the new "official" tire of CycleItalia,, what do you think?


  1. I have the Vittorio Rubino Pro clincher on my ride, and I must say the do ride nice for 145 lb inflation tire. Tough to seat on the rim, but once there, the have been bullet proof and handle well.

  2. 145 psi? Unless you weigh 300+ pounds that's way too much pressure! With a 25 mm tire 90 is plenty -- Larry uses 90 psi with 23 mm Vittoria CX or the Torelli tires with excellent results -- including riding the unpaved Colle Finestre the Giro will tackle next week.