Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On the Road in Stormy Weather

The clouds gathered darkly as Francesco and I set off on our fateful voyage. Braving the wind in my long tights, jacket, gloves and hat, I could not believe that in the third week of May the weather was identical to what it had been in November. No sooner had the flowers finally bloomed, than their petals were assaulted by harsh winds and pelting rains. Now they lay scattered all over the roads - a pink and lilac watery mush for everyone to trample.

"How fitting," said Francesco, "that it is on such a day you are taking me away to be left with strangers. For the dark skies reflect the darkness that will reign in my heart."

Oh Francesco! So melodramatic. In fact, we were on our way to the Ride Studio Cafe, who are loaning me a roadbike for the formidable paceline rides. Since the RSC is nearly 10 miles away and I can only get there by bike, it was agreed that I would arrive on Francesco and then swap him for the loaner bike. It will only be for a few weeks. And as soon as we arrived it was clear that my Moser was in good company: A pastel Pinarello beauty made eyes at him from across the storage room, whispering "Buena Sera" in a sultry voice. He forgot about me immediately, and with a light heart I began my journey home on a sleek titanium machine.

But my sense of relief was short-lived. The skies opened up within minutes of my departure and rain began to pour with a violence that even the forecast had not predicted.

Soon my 23mm tires were cutting through lake-sized puddles and skipping over slippery tree-roots that protruded from the cracked asphalt, as water came down in buckets from the ever-darkening skies. I could not see where I was going, and it was only thanks to the miracle of the homing instinct - aided perhaps by the bicycle's admirable handling - that I got back intact.

When I finally dismounted the bike, the sight that awaited me was gruesome. Every inch of the formerly pristine machine was now covered with sand, dirt, pine needles, and all manner of road filth. Even the minuscule saddlebag they took the trouble to assemble for me was now a soggy, grime-covered mess. Then I took a look in the mirror, and realised that the same could be said of me! Forget "skunk tail" - My entire back, my legs, and also parts of my face were covered with what I hope is just wet sand, but looked far more disgusting. Is this what normally happens without fenders? It is far more dramatic than what I'd imagined!

The rest of the evening was spent showering, loading the washing machine, and scooping bits of plantlife (please don't let it be anything more gross than that!) from under the brake calipers and off the brake pads. Later, the Co-Habitant came home and thoroughly examined my loaner steed... upon which he discovered a substantial gash in the front tire. Seriously? Argh! But I guess I should be glad - otherwise it could have failed during a paceline ride, which is one of my biggest fears. So I think I will be putting some tires with puncture protection on this bike. Continental GatorSkins might be a tad slower than the Michelin ProRace3s currently on it, but the gash in the rubber is enough to persuade me it's worth it. What is your favourite "fast" road tire with puncture protection?

The forecast promises pretty much constant rain and autumnal temperatures for the entire week, and the gloomy weather is really becoming difficult to take. I will probably be going roadcycling in the rain again, simply because otherwise I will never get back into a regular practice of riding. At least next time I will know what to expect.

58 comments:

  1. Pro Race3 are exactly that, a race tyre. I would go with the Conti's but maybe the 4 Seasons or GP4000s. Good training tyres but a little lighter than the ever reliable Gators

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  2. GatorSkins are great and SKS clip on fenders work wonders. I ride right thru the winter in Ct. and ride Brevets without a problem. GatorSkins Hardshells may be even better. I just can't seem to get used to fenders on a bike all the time.

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  3. I'm using Vredestein Fiammante Duocomps 700X23c on my Gazelle Champion Mondial semirace mixte. I really like them when it's been slightly damp (which happens a lot around here). No slips so far. They were also in a very good price point, being on the lower end.

    I've been wondering what racing tire is best for plus sized folks. They don't really say "220 lbs or less rider" anywhere-- it's just sort of assumed that plus sized athletes don't exist. So far these tires have done okay with me on them... so two cheers for a tire that can put up with a size 18 girl! lol

    Oh.. and I gotta say... I love that my semirace has very light plastic fenders. What ever they take up in weight and aerodynamics...they give back in not getting soaked. Any chance you can put a thin fender like the CRUD roadracer MK2 on there?

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    1. if you're over 220lbs you need to be riding 32mm tires... 23 is WAY too small for you... you're fuck your wheels up real quick.

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  4. Wow ! They loaned you a Seven, that's so cool. The Ride Studio is a great shop. I like the Panaracer Tourguard tires in 700x25. Get the all black version.

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  5. Good luck with the loaner bike for your paceline rides. I'm really looking forward to hearing how you get on with a different bike!

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  6. Don't put on Gatorskins -- this is supposed to be your "go fast" bike -- put on fast tires -- if the weather is foul and tire slashes are likely ride another bike -- for sunny pacelines ride this one with fast rubber!

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  7. congrats, seven??

    BF has gatorskin 23's on his road bike and likes them a lot. they are fast enough to ride high speeds long distance with the group he rides with.

    i too have been going through the same dilemma as to what roadie bike i want for faster paceline rides my riding buddy and i are training to join.

    i think i have it narrowed down to lighter steel frame with all new lighter modern componentry.

    best of luck tonight!

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  8. I've been running 25x700 Specialized Armadillo All Condition Pro's on my commuter for the better part of the last 2 years and have nothing but good things to say about them... yeah, they currently have about 5000 miles on them and desperatelyneed to be replaced (they are threadbare and the seams are splitting :P )but I have never gotten a puncture related flat while I have been on them. The one flat I did get was as a result of all the salt corroding the valve-stem of the tube, causing it to disintegrate.

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  9. Most of my riding pals have those Michelin tires. Four flats in total the other day -- I think I'll stick with my Marathons for now & try the GatorSkins when I build up the other bike. Thank you for posting this question today because I need suggestions for "fast" road tires with puncture protection, too.

    I wouldn't sneeze at a titanium bicycle, even though I leave one in the dust without fail. I can't wait to hear about the next ride.

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  10. I have used Gatorskins, and they're pretty good. But I'm currently using Vredestein Fortezza SEs from Performance Bike. Less rolling resistance than theGators, and in five months of riding them, not even one cut on the tires. Much cheaper than Gators, too.

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  11. The Gatorskins are great tires. They grip the road, ride smooth, and I don't know if they're fast or not but have yet to have a puncture with them in over a year of constant road riding. Stay safe and enjoy!

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  12. Also, I'll be interested to hear your thoughts on those size tires, I'm not sure I have any desire to ride less than 28 mm. They just beat you up, and I think the difference at the speed your group is riding is probably negligible.

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  13. I had no doubt that you'd return to the paceline, and I have confidence that you'll do well on your next ride with this fast new steed.
    Your loyal readers are anxiously awaiting a full report. I ride by myself most of the time, but I've always enjoyed the feeling of being "pulled" forward when riding in a group.

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  14. well, snails, just think snails ... yummy brown snailparts dangling all around ...
    But who rides without fenders has to suffer from time to time ...
    And because that is so gross, I installed fenders. Only when you can afford to swap bikes in a second I'd go for a no-fender-setup.

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  15. This is why I love bicycles with fenders. My oldest like racing and getting muddy, but... So far, it's not my thing. I have really enjoyed reading about your progression from beginner commuter to pace line trials. I'm still running a year and a half behind you, looking for a touring bike. Maybe I'll get there eventually.

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  16. Specialized Armadillo's have never given me any trouble. They're the best I've tried. I've heard mixed reviews on the Conti Gatorskins. My local shop likes Halo Twin Rail tyres. Wiggle carries them here in the UK and London bike messengers like them: http://www.wiggle.co.uk/halo-twin-rail-courier-road-tyre/

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  17. Hey, cool. You got your fast bike. I want to hear about how it handles, especially whether you find it faster with the skinny tires. I have always been suspicious of those tests that show wide tires are just as fast as skinny ones. There must be some trick.

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  18. There's nothing incompatible about a go-fast bike and fenders.

    Rivendell has this lovely bike called the roadeo that can do just that.

    Or even a less expensive surly pacer or a VO Rando bike.

    In any case you should be able to get sensible-sized tires which:
    1. go fast
    2. go comfortable
    3. take fenders

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  19. Sometimes, mud happens. Just be glad you didn't end up looking like Big George here
    http://andyschleckbestbikeraceroftheuniverse.blogspot.com/2008/09/big-george-2001-paris-roubaix.html

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  20. If I am wearing cycling knickers and a jersey, I don't mind getting filthy in the rain during a training-specific ride. I'm not as much complaining about the lack of fenders as expressing surprise. I've never ridden without fenders in rain this bad before, and thought all that stuff about getting filthy was exaggerated.

    Jon Webb - This was the second time I rode this bike. First time was 10 days earlier, when I test rode it. Impossible to tell from it whether skinny tires are faster, because it is generally such a different bike. Too many factors. I rode with 23mm tires on a mixte I briefly owned and did not find the bike notably faster than with 32mm tires I later put on it. However, I rode a Trek 610 with 25mm Michelin Pro Race and did find it a bit faster with those than with the 28mm Panaracer Paselas I later fitted it with.

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  21. I don't know much about racing, go fast tires, so I cannot comment there. But I can comment on the rain and what people around here seem to do.

    When it is raining in Seattle (not an uncommon weather event in the Nov-July months) and I see people out on training rides, I have noticed that many of them are using those clip on race blade fenders if not something with even more coverage.

    Good luck with your next training ride. I look forward to the report.

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  22. Ann - I also usually feel that 23mm tires "beat me up" compared to 28mm tires. However, on the Seven I don't feel it. The bike is cushier with the 23mm tires currently on it than any 28-32mm tire bike I've ridden. My concern though is with things like getting the tire stuck in cracks and sewer grates, loosing contact on pavement during downhill turns, etc.

    I am surprised that so many of you think of the GatorSkins as not fast enough. Co-Habitant has them in 32mm on one of his bikes and describes them as "racy". I guess it's all relative. But they are faster than Pasela Panaracers in the same size, right?

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  23. Do. Not. Gatorskin.

    Nothing ruins a supple ride quality faster than putting one of these one. They're good for going in a straight line for a long time on a mule ox of a bike, and decent for turning at moderate lean angle. Once that lean angle is exceeded...well I broke a collarbone and separated a shoulder on a borrower. In a haze years ago I put Gatorskins on her bike. She endured them for 3k, still not worn out. When I switched to Michelins her confidence went up dramatically, as did her speed on descents. She considers the time on Gatorskins like wasted youth.

    The PR3 is an absolute race tire; with the conditions you rode in the combo almost guarantees getting a cut. When you put a puncture-resistant tire on you lose a lot of suppleness from the casing of a race tire and traction, def something you don't want happening in the front.

    A Conti gp4000 is very good but expensive. I made this suggestion in another post: Michelin Krylions. It's a very popular training tire with good feel and decent puncture protection at far less cost than a PR3. Don't feel you have to put a 23 there either; a 25 won't slow you down.

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  24. GR Jim - Between the Conti GP4000 & Michelin Krylions, which would you choose?

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  25. My "go fast" titanium bike has Serfas Seca tires. I didn't pick them; the shop did. I find them satisfactory, and they have a good reputation for being sturdy in the face of road obstacles. Plus, they have jaunty stripes along the tread wall.

    Some of that ride quality may be from the titanium itself. It seems to have lost the trend wars to carbon fiber, but it really does make for a nice ride. I live with a materials engineer who gets all geeked out over exactly why. I just ride the bike and like it.

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  26. Krylions sit on my IF and Mrs GR's bike so I'm voting for them with my pocketbook. On someone else's dime I wouldn't hesitate to try GP4000s but I'm not intimately familiar with how they handle in all conditions.

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  27. To everyone who says that fenders won't slow you down: yes they will. Lightweight plastic fenders may not weigh much, but they catch air like crazy. It's like putting a giant sail in front of the bicycle. Taking the fenders off my Shogun made a huge reduction in the amount of effort it took to keep up with my fast pals.

    I still ride a Retrovelo with huge fat tires and 3" steel fenders every day. But my "fast bike" will not ever have fenders, a rack, or even a kickstand again.

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  28. Lynne - I agree. I noticed a difference when experimenting with vintage roadbikes, and that's one reason I didn't install them on my Moser fixed gear and on the Bianchi.

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  29. Ground Round Jim said...
    "Krylions sit on my IF and Mrs GR's bike so I'm voting for them with my pocketbook"


    Oh wow, I just checked the pricing. I see what you mean!

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  30. Michelin krylion tires! They're a fast rolling bike tire with good road feel and puncture protection. I've had these on my 82' Miyata 912 for over 4 thousand miles without a flat. I commute daily on urban streets with pot holes and occasionally in the gutter in various debris (heavy traffic conditions). Two of my friends chose to mount some on their wheels before our 120 mile trip from Los Angeles to Santa barbara and we arrived without a hiccup. I believe they were also less expensive than the gatorskins.

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  31. "It is time for stormy weather"

    Looks like you had a fun ride. I enjoy reaching the point where there's no saving myself from the elements. All that's left to do is enjoy the ride, rather than worrying about trying to stay clean or dry.

    I think you should keep the bike as pure a racing bike as it possibly can be for the sake of SCIENCE.

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  32. Getting stuck in a crack--done it in my own back alley way in the cobblestones and nearly fell into the wall. I agree with Jim... A 25X700 won't hurt any. When I got the gazelle it had a 25 in the back and a 23 in the front. I never noticed a difference.

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  33. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1mX8ptsmBM

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  34. Wait...I get it.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHhox4_SeHQ&feature=related

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  35. Naming your bikes is one thing; talking to them is quite another. =D As for the tires, I am pretty much incapable of going "fast", but I've done some time on 700x23c and 25c rubber. I've found that you can't have it all: ride quality, speed, durability/protection; these are all at odds with one another. Throw price into the mix, and things get even more complicated. I agree with GRJ re: gatorskins (and armadillos, too, although he hadn't mentioned them). These tires offer good protection in a skinny package, but they feel "hard" on the road, offering little grip.

    My most recent 700x23c tires were Vittoria Zaffiros. I had the ultra-cheap wire-bead version; they make a lighter, folding version which comes in white. (I know you get a kick out of that.) These have a very light cross-hatched tread pattern, are comparatively heavy, and are really cheap. On the other hand, they'll take 120psi, feel great, and i never flatted once in about a year of fat-guy riding on South Jersey/Phila streets.

    To be sure, some snob will scoff at these, b/c they're not "fast" tires. They're training tires; perfect for beginner training rides with advertised speeds of 12-15mph. If/when you're racing, look into something hotter and fancier. For now, regardless of which ones you choose, get training tires (as opposed to race tires). Better durability, better price, better suited for what you're actually doing.

    -rob

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  36. Well I like Gatorskins. I have them on all my road bikes. One puncture in the last three years/10,000+ miles. I found Paselas too soft, those that came on my Pompino wore out in six months. If you think Gatorskins are heavy/slow, don't go with Schwalbe Marathons.

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  37. Conti GP 4 Seasons or Conti GP4000. You get what you pay for.

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  38. My friend Joe, who's been racing for about a hundred years (not really, only a little more than half that) told me once he uses cheap Kenda tires, mostly Kontenders I think, for training. He uses lighter tires for racing (and even tubulars for time trials) but cheap and sturdy work fine for him.
    As much as I respect the guy, and his racing record (national titles in everything but mountain biking), I wouldn't advise you copy his aesthetic example though, he usually just buys "whatever color is on clearance" and ends up with some... um... interesting combinations.

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  39. Challenge Parigi-Roubaix tires if that bike will fit them. Real stretched out width is 29.5 mm. Fast. Very much like the late lamented tubular - Clement Campionato del Mondo. Also possibly useful on other bikes you own, or even as a light folding spare. Also just a plain beautiful traditional tire w/latex aging & browning on the sidewalls. Perfect complement to shellac.
    The narrow Challenge tires seem to be getting scarce.
    Any of the Veloflex tires.
    Vittoria CX.

    Fast rubber evades damage by flexing over the sharp points. I kid you not. Puncture protection strips destroy the ride of any good tire. If you really have to have flat-resistance for peace of mind, Conti GP4000. Widely available, good tread life, but mediocre ride, esp for a lighter rider.

    For gashes carry a patch kit w/fresh rubber cement a single edge razor blade and a strip of an old track tubular casing with the tread peeled off. These casing boots stick much better to the latex-coated tires listed above than to nylon tires but they will work on nylon. Some boots are get-me-home only, some will last the life of the tire & not be perceptible.

    In an absolute emergency US paper currency folded inside a tire gets you home. Mountain bikers do that all the time. The paper stock still has linen & cotton.

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  40. Velouria - I have often wondered if you got your nom de keyboard from Bossanova.

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  41. The biggest factor influencing punctures is weight. Light riders get many fewer punctures and can get away with lighter tires. Race tires are very narrowly designed for pro-weight riders. Velouria can enjoy any race tire she wants while Co-Habitant should stick to Conti and Schwalbe.

    In ordinary engineering practice unsuspended weight counts double. On a bike the rider, with the springs in legs and arms, transforms himself into suspended weight, while the bike itself is unsuspended weight.

    Bicycle engineering is always a little different. Skilled riders can turn part of the bike's weight into suspended weight. When jumping a pothole a rider clearly has "suspended" the bike's weight completely. The lighter the bike the easier it is to mate with it as suspended weight. You will notice the effect on the Seven.

    Weight carried in bags and on racks is beyond unsuspended. It lifts and comes crashing down. Count baggage times five on a bike. This is why commuters and tourists and utility riders have to have heavy tires. Twenty pounds of kit and grocery and your tires carry a load as if you had just gained a hundred pounds. It's why racers carry everything they need in pockets.

    Factor number two in flats is correct inflation. The American racing community is way overinflated. Greg LeMond did his entire career on Vittoria CX from intermediate category to retirement. Tires 22mm wide. Race weight 140-150 pounds. Inflation pressure 95 pounds front and rear. Less in the rain.
    Of course American Clydesdales who insist on using ProRace3s have to go to pressure of 130 to keep the rim off the ground but they are asking for trouble and they get it. The light riders who use 120 or 130 pounds have always been a mystery to me. Any trace of sand or moisture, they slide away, plus they get way more flats than they should.

    Get race tires and enjoy them. It's why you're on the Seven. Experience from the Gazelle is not much relevant. Different world of cycling. Dip your toe in the water.

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  42. hmm
    I have to chuckle as I imagine the faces of the ride leaders when the very beginning rider who showed up on a full touring bike last week for the intro to intro race cycling, shows up a week later on a seven :)
    The advantage of being a well connected blogger- they had no idea whose bike they were calling "inappropriate"

    I wish I could see them when you pull out a bigger gun!

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  43. ...At the same time, it will be truly pathetic if I still have a hard time on a Seven! which I think is a distinct possibility : )

    In the larger group (before we all split up into small groups according to riding ability) there were several cyclists on IF bikes and a few other local builders. In the beginners small group, it was all store-bought CF bikes in the low $1K range and one Trek Madone WSD (which I think is $2-3K).

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  44. I don't have a lot of experience with road bike tires, but from a newbie road bike enthusiast perspective my Specialized Ruby Elite Compact bike comes with Specialized Condition Pro II 700x23c tires. The tires are noted for having Flak Jacket protection (hey if it's good enough for the military I'll take it), aramid bead (for tubeless conversion?) and the inner casing has 120 threads per inch (TPI). I read that for racing 60 TPI's is ideal for race level riders?? I've ridden through pot holes, puddles, broken glass, (not intentionally btw), and sand. Granted, not at high speeds, but still I've had no issues. High speed for me is mostly when I'm going DH at 25 mph-which has been my max. From a newbie perspective, I have felt safe on these tires and they roll nicely.

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  45. Oh, and I got the Michelin Kryllions in 23mm. No one had the 25mm within a 10 mile radius, so I went with the narrower version.

    Tonight's paceline ride was canceled due to rain, but I went on my own ride on the new tires. I now have a computer on the Seven and it is indeed faster than my Rivendell. It was pouring, so I didn't exceed 20mph; I will have to go in dry weather to really test it. Maybe one of these days we will actually have dry weather!

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  46. I agree with Cycler, I sure would love to be that fly buzzing around when you show up with the Seven :).

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  47. You poor thing! Hope by now you are warm, cozy and in love with your new loaner.

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  48. On my re-built bike with 25mm tyres I've had a lot of problems with punctures so can really empathise with you. I've written about some of these problems on my blog.

    Weight does have an impact for sure (I'm 100kg) but the ease that an expensive tyre can be shredded is amazing. I was running Continental GP4000s but had constant problems even on reasonable surfaces, so gave up on them.

    I've just fitted Continental GP 4Seasons and although they are not cheap they are doing a really good job so far (touch wood). No punctures, no damage and I haven't noticed a difference between these and the GP4000s.

    I haven't tried Gatorskins, but a bit like your comments here, there are lots of mixed reviews.

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  49. Not to be a contrarian, but I have lots of friends who ride their fast bikes 150 miles a week or more and they don't complain about always flatting out. It happens, but not that often, and I am wondering if the slashed tire on your loaner was just an outlier. Also, what would happen if you flatted on a pace ride? I am sure it happens. Would they stop for you? Do they all have a team car riding behind them ready to swap out a wheel at a moment's notice? I guess that is the long way of saying don't worry about it!

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  50. Rivendell (panaracer) Ruffy Tuffy. Supposedly they have a protective strip in the tire and the round profile really amazed me when I first got them. They have been strong enough to handle a gravel towpath semi-loaded (C&O canal) yet are way faster and lighter than what I have used in a similar size (Vittoria Randonneur, Schwalbe Marathon). I don't think they are a "race" tire per se but I would think if you were serious about racing than you would have a dedicated race wheelset with race tires or sew-ups anyway. For my money, I prefer to have a fast rolling tire, with some puncture protection as I don't race anyway. Try the Ruffy Tuffys on something....I just can't say enough good about them and even if you don't use them on this bike, you'll use them somewhere.

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  51. I know nothing about the correct tires, but I do know about 'skunk tail', since I bike in Seattle. What I don't understand is that 90% of the bicycles here in this perennially wet environment have NO fenders! I've asked about this as several bike stores and have yet to get a good answer.

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  52. Interestingly, the only flat I've gotten on the tread portion of a tire was on a cheap $10 house-brand tire, supposedly with Kevlar protection (it was from Performance Bike). A sharp piece of flint penetrated it.

    All other flats I've gotten have been on vintage city bikes, and have been due not to poor tire design, but to defects in the wheel: poor or old rim strips, sharp spoke ends, or rust scale inside the rim. I think this is a big problem with vintage bikes, regardless of how puncture resistant your tires are.

    By contrast, I haven't gotten a single flat on any of my road bikes, in several thousand miles. One of my road bikes (a 1988 Trek 560) even has the original 23mm tires. They're supple, show no signs of cracking or hardening, and are among the smoothest riding tires in my fleet. About 1000 miles on that bike over the last two years, no flats.

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  53. Hmm..in the old days (70's and 80's) I'd never leave home w/o repair kits and pump or, in the case of sew-ups, a spare tire. Then kids and big, bulky, tires and now I can't believe how long lasting and puncture resistant most tires have become. My only flats have come, as somervillain says, from within.

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  54. BTW, it would be sort of cool if when you go back to the race group you acted like you weren't really sure whether the Seven was a good bike, everyone else has carbon, is titanium good enough, this was a loaner. Play it dumb. Then when they're drooling you can mention, oh yeah, you have a blog, you write sometimes about bikes, have they heard of it, etc.

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  55. Welcome to elegant world of TI! Enjoy the non-rusting and much safer and comfortable ride! Enjoy bike respect from the congnosanti.

    My TI bike uses, and I recommend, the widest standard Gatorskins you can get. I ride the potholed streets of Los Angeles daily. For long distances. No flats. Period. That such a plus for an urban rider. For me that's 32mm. Run a quite low pressure for a 15% deflection of the tire when loaded. For my 200lb that's 80psi. Slightly higher in the rear tire. Rolling resistance is very low, tires actually corner well, and quite comfortable...

    Suggest everyone read last years article and tests in Bicycle Quarterly on tire inflation. That changed what tire manufactures say about their tires. And definably your kind of bike geeks...

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