This and That

I just ordered new tires for my road bike.  I’ve been running Continental GatorSkins on it for the past several years, and the front tire has lasted almost 4500 miles, with the back not too far behind.  I’ve had maybe 2 or 3 flats on these tires the entire time I’ve had them, but the sidewalls are starting to wear through to the threads, which means they’re about done.  I’ve been extremely pleased with the longevity, durability, and ride quality of these tires.  I’m replacing them with a very similar tire, the Continental Gator Hardshell.  The Hardshell purports to have even better flat resistance, so we’ll see how they do.  The GatorSkins set the bar pretty high.  Size-wise, I was initially going to go with 700c x 25, but I ended up staying with 700c x 23.  I’m running full fenders on this bike again, and it’s enough of a challenge keeping them from rubbing with 23s.  Wider tires would only make it worse.

I’ve had to shelve my fixed-gear bike for a while.  I think I threw out my hip riding it.  My left hip has been bugging me for a while now, and I noticed that riding the fixed seems to aggravate it.  My doctor says it’s a muscular thing and not doesn’t seem to be joint (arthritis) or nerve (sciatica) related.  I can manage it pretty well by stretching and paying very close attention to my riding form.  Lowering my seat a bit also helped.  I stopped riding the fixed altogether for around 6 weeks, and the hip was improving.  I tried the fixed again around a week ago, and it immediately flared back up.  Not a good sign.  We’ll see where it goes from here, but I may be looking at some time off from riding to rehab the hip, and possibly getting rid of the fixed gear bike.

The Great Tire Showdown

Summer’s over, and that means that the joys of cold weather bike commuting are right around the corner.  I’m still trying to find an all-season commuting tire that provides the best combination of speed and resistance to flats.  And of course, nothing provides a better test bed for tires than Maryland roads in the winter.

The ultimate tire for flat resistance (at least in my experience) is the Specialized Armadillo.  I’ve ridden a set of these for over 3000 miles, until the sidewall wore out, without a single flat.  They’ve worked as advertised for me.  The only problem with them is they’re heavy and somewhat slow.  I’m not racing with them, so that’s not a huge problem.  But if I can find something a little lighter and faster with the same resistance to flats, so much the better.  If not, I have no problems sticking with the Armadillos.

Last winter I ran a set of Vredestein Fortezza SEs.  These are more known as racing tires than as all-seasons, and they also have the advantage of being relatively cheap at under $30/tire.  The Vredesteins rode well, but the back tire only lasted around 2000 miles before it started flatting on me regularly (the front tire is still going strong).

After buying a second bike this past summer, I now have 2 bikes to use for commuting, so this winter I’m putting 2 different tires through their paces:  Continental Ultra Gatorskin on the road bike, and Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase on the fixed gear/single speed bike.  Both sets are 700x23C, and both are new as of this writing.  I’ll be running both sets at 110psi, give or take.  NB – I never seem to get flats on the front tire, so I’m only comparing performance for the back tires.  The fixie has a set of 2 Bontragers, and the road bike has a new Continental on the back and an older Vredestein on the front.

It’ll take a little more time to get the results in, as I’m now splitting my commutes across 2 bikes, so it’ll take longer to rack up miles on the tires.  But I’m looking forward to seeing which tire lasts longer under similar conditions.  Took my first ride on the Continental this morning, and surprise surprise, it rides a lot faster than the Armadillo it replaced.  Stay tuned!

New road bike tires

Last Friday I broke a spoke on the back wheel of my road bike.  Murphy’s Law #1 of broken spokes says that they will always happen on the back wheel, so you have the extra fun of removing the gear cassette to replace the spoke.  But that’s not really my point..  Since I had to take the tire off the wheel, I seized the opportunity to install a new pair of Vredestein Fortezza SE road tires that I picked up at Performance Bike a couple months ago.  The tires had a lot of good reviews, and the price was right, and my old tires were pretty badly worn down, so I couldn’t resist.

Mounting the tires was a mixed bag.  The back tire went on easily, but I had to use my “Quick Stick” plastic tire lever to help get the last bit on the front.  Never had to do that before, but it could just be that the tire was new and still needs to stretch out a bit.

My old tires were a mismatched set.  A Hutchinson on the front and a Specialized “Armadillo” on the back.  I ran the Hutchinson at 110psi and the Specialized at 120psi.  The Vredesteins are rated at 160psi max, which is considerably higher than my old ones.  I decided to try the rear at 140 and the front at 125.  So I pumped them up and headed out for my first ride, a short 8 mile commute to work.

During the ride, it seemed apparent that the new tires had a lot less rolling resistance than the old ones.  It seemed like I was going faster on straightaways and not getting out of the saddle as often.  I didn’t really turn it loose on the downhill sections..  new tires and all that, I need to give them a couple rides before I fully trust them.  At the end of the ride, I checked my computer and I couldn’t believe it..  I was almost full 1mph over my usual average speed.

This is my first set of new tires on this bike.  The old ones have been on the bike since 2002, but the bike has seen only occasional use (under 500 miles/year) up till this year.  But I really had no idea a new set of tires would make that much difference in overall speed.  We’ll see how well they wear, etc., but they certainly seem nice after one ride.