Thursday, August 7, 2008

Supersize me...

Big is in. First VeloNews had a review of big, cushy sew-ups just after Paris-Roubaix. Now, in the issue I just got today (I wrote this a while back…), Greg Bagni, marketing guru, was asked “What’s the coolest product you’ve seen recently?” His initial reply was the CrankBros. wheels. When asked if there was anything else, he replied “any tire wider than a 25." All right! Now there’s someone who’s been hipped to the joys of real rubber meeting the road.

And in the June 16 issue of VeloNews, there is a letter to the editor from Grant Peterson of Rivendell, who responded to the review of fat tires I mentioned up in the first paragraph. He mentioned that most race bikes use an axle to brake hole distance of 354mm and that 359mm would still enable the use of short reach brake calipers but would greatly enhance a race bike’s ability to accept fatter tires. Interesting that most readers of VeloNews are probably riding bikes that can’t accept the tires they are reviewing. Also sad that the 27mm Conti Competition tubular isn’t available (although a 25 is and a 27 Challenge Parigi-Roubaix is now available in the States).

My main ride is my cross bike. I’ve got 38c tries on it. On the road, it’s a wonderful feel. It feels like the bike’s floating (edit: I usually run these tires at about 55-60psi for combo rides). That 38c cushion is an incredible ride. I think the proliferous use of 700x23 tires on road bikes sold today is probably the biggest disservice that can be done to new road riders. That and the mindset that 23c tires should be inflated to 120psi and up. Why do riders want to make the ride of their bike so harsh?

I attended a seminar for Look back in the early 90’s. Bernard Hinault was a guest and answered questions at the end of the meeting. One of the questions asked was “how much air pressure do you run in your tires?” His answer, and I can remember this like it was yesterday, was “seven bar – no more, no less.” That’s 100psi. Since then, I haven’t run more than 100psi in my road tires and sometimes drop it to 95 when I feel like having a little extra comfort. And when I run 25 or 28’s, I run them between 90-95 all the time.

Not only was the Greg Bagni quote in the May 19 issue of VeloNews, but today (like I said, I wrote this a while back…) on , Andy Hampsten’s favorite bike is shown shod with 33c Rivendell tires. Now if there’s someone who knows about riding on paved and dirt roads, it’s Hampsten.

I think all this recent talk about 25+ tires is too much to ignore. So, anyone out there still riding on 23’s, well, it’s time to start laying down rubber with some sweet skids and wear those skinnies out to justify the purchase of some nice fat 28’s. If you just can’t quite bring yourself to go all the way from 23 to 28 tires, take baby steps and set yourself up with 25’s.

The fatter tires aren’t only about riding comfort, but they will also increase rider confidence on the road. With the fatter tire comes more air volume in the tire and, therefore, better pinch flat protection, better ability to mow through road debris (they’ll still suffer the same fate if you roll through glass and other sharp objects), and they’ll make you a better rider.

Why will they make you a better rider? On descents the increased tire contact with the road will give you better road gripping through the corners. They’ll be less skittish rolling through that inevitable gravel patch on the side of the road. And you’ll also be able to maintain a better line as you won’t have to be swerving all over the road to avoid stones, potholes, and road inconsistencies. Motor vehicle drivers will also appreciate your newfound ability to hold your line.

When you first hop on your bike with your upgraded from 23c to 28c tires, they’ll feel pretty fat down there wrapped around your rims. A couple rides later and when you see 23’s on a bike, you’ll think, “wow, those are some dang skinny tires!” And once you get out on the road and experience the silky, smooth ride of those new 28’s, you won’t be going back.

All that being said, I actually have seen more roadie bikes recently with 25c tires and I have been selling more 25c tires recently.

(What's playing: Jethro Tull Aqualung)


Guitar Ted said...

Amen! Wow, I was just looking at my road bike, (yes, I actually have one. Just one!) and was thinking about how I had foolishly put 25's on it. Good thing it is a 1984 Colnago Super though, because I can put some fatties in there without any issues.

Well, that is, if I ever quit riding rediculously wide tires on the road! (29"ers)

The air pressure thing and the width thing is really ingrained in the "common man's" current thinking though. It is pretty hard to get those guys, (and yes, some gals) not to reach for the 23's and not to pump up their tres to 120-150 psi around here. Amazing, but true.

Head Honcho said...

My favorite is when customers come in with their Trek 7200's, with the stock 38's, and air pressure well over 90, and close to 100.

Freakin' ROCK hard.

I then lay into them about pressure, volume, comfort and performance. They then see the light.

CX Magazine had a nice feature on tire pressure this issue too.

Jim G said...

I've been LOVING the 700x35s on my new bike. Fast cornering is a new-found pleasure for me now!

Might want to also mention that, when shopping for tires, buyers should NOT trust the sidewall labeling. I've had 700x23s that are actually 25mm wide, and 700x28s that are 26mm wide. A tire's width also depends on the width of the rim it's mounted on. Best to invest in a cheap pair of calipers and learn how to use 'em!

blackmountaincycles said...

I'll leave the mentioning to you Jim ;-)

And, yeah, about those 28's

I've got a set of WTB 25's on a bike right now that actually measure out at 26 - go figure...

Antoine said...

I'm loving the 35s on my new bike too, but after four years riding a Pugsley with 100mm tyres 35 sure seems skinny!

I haven't ridden a "road" bike since my 10-speed in the 70s and can't imagine what a high pressure 23 or 25 might feel like.