Monday, April 4, 2011

Techie Tuesdays - Tougher Tires

Yeah, say that 3 times fast! :-O

When at Bicycles Plus, reaping my 25% discount on the new Romin SL seat, I thought I'd check out their selection of Continental Tires. I was looking for the Ultra Gatorskins, as I had used those on my mtb as road tires before I got my road bike, and liked them a lot. A few friends who bike to work also like them for their toughness. I found an intriguing new tire that is lighter, and promises to be at least as tough - the Gator Hardshell. This from the mfg...

 After extensive market research, feedback from commuters all over the world showed us that a new type of tyre was in demand. Our Gatorskin race bike tyre had filled a gap for hardcore commuters but they wanted more; MORE casing; MORE breaker; MORE protection...

Taking the Gatorskin as our base, we've added a third Polyamide layer in the sidewall to make a unique 3-ply casing for the Gator Hardshell.

We've also added a wider Poly-X anti puncture breaker belt under the tread which extends down into the shoulder area for wider coverage.

Add this to the Duraskin anti-tear mesh on the outside of the casing and you are presented with a tougher commuter which is also fast and is available in 700x23 up to 28 and 27 x 1 1/4 from January 2010.
It provides a lot of extra protection (at least going by the specs), and weighs only 45 grams more than the GP 4000s - the latest version of this staple road tire featuring Black Chili rubber compound with googlephonic moonrock turbonanontubes.

OK, the GP 4000s looks like a great tire, and for Tri riders the GP4000 700x20 in black with Chili rubber and Vectran at 185gr should be of interest, but I had long training miles and double centuries in mind, so was looking at the weight and suppleness of tougher tires. I am wondering though, why Conti didn't use their top Vectran puncture protection on the Hardshell, instead of Poly-X?

I also checked out the Attack/Force front and rear tire combo. An interesting asymmetric approach where the front tire is 22mm and the rear 24mm, and each case and tread design is tailored to turn and push respectively. With the front tire at 195gr and the rear 205gr, they average 200gr. Again, Chili and Vectran.

Also of interest, Specialized has come out with an Armadillo Elite that weighs only 280gr - much less than the indestructible Armadillo at 405gr. I have refused to consider the latter, as they ride like a lumber wagon. Dead feel, and plodding slow, they are overkill for all but tandems and urban assault bikes. At 280gr, the Elites are about the same weight as the Gator Hardshell..

So, looking at the specs, it looks like to get a LOT of extra protection, you only need to add 40-80gr. Remember this range, as it will star in this show.

Mountain bikers have been migrating to tubeless tires for years now, and for good reason. Those giant inner tubes can weigh as much as 300gr, with more typical weights being 200-250gr. That's a lot of weight just to hold 30psi of pressure, add nothing to the sidewall stiffness, puncture protection, tread, or durability. By using that weight to build a more supple, stronger, tougher tire with better grip, that lasts longer, they make much better use of that weight.

Guess what? Stan's NoTubes, the leader in mtb tubeless systems, has now come out with a line of road wheels and rims, along with Hutchinson Tires (and many more starting this year). At 350gr, the rims are 90gr lighter than the standard bearer, Mavic Open Pros measured (not claimed) weight.

The tires are between 70 and 120gr heavier, but when you subtract 75-125gr for no tube, you can actually be ahead of the game, have a much tougher tire, AND superior road feel. Add the 90gr savings from the ZTR Alpha rims, and you are definitely ahead of the game.

You don't have to build your own wheels either. Stan's is selling handbuilt wheels weighing as little as 1200gr a pair for $1,100.00. I'm not a fan of American Classic hubs, in part, because they posture as being American, when in fact, they are made in Taiwan, but mostly because I don't like the design of the rear hub.

Chris King's gorgeous R45 rear hub - Made in America

I would build on DT Swiss 240 or Chris King's new R45 hubs with low spoke count drillings, and use DT AeroLite spokes to take advantage of these rims. R45s are super light, support radial spoking, are made in Portland, Ore, excellent quality, and great warranty.

I'm a big fan of finding a good local wheel builder, and using him/her for all of your wheels. Mine is Eddy at MadCat Bikes on Marconi. They can tailor wheels to your needs in ways impossible for factory builders. A good wheelbuilder you can communicate with is as valuable as a good dentist. (these flanges are sized to allow building with a single spoke length, saving you money)

In part, this post came about in response to thinking about problems friends are having with equipment riding double Centuries and Brevets. Flats are a serious problem, and Stan's NoTubes Tubeless road wheels are here to stay, and will eventually take the industry by storm. It's about time!

PS: 7/21/2011
It turns out that Michelin makes an asymmetrical tire set for the front and rear that is targeted specifically at long mileage riders. It's called the Pro3 Optimum. I don't want to run a 25mm in front, and they only come in 25mm, but for the back, a tire that is designed to last as long as a 25mm front tire would be fantastic. They are sold separately online, so I think I'll give this a try.

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