Thursday, March 26, 2009

Commuter Tires

By request (I'd say popular demand, but that's a bit pretentious, and there was only one request) I'd like to say a few words about tires for commuter bikes.
I used to work for the research and development branch of Michelin North America, and now I have a  fondness for tires. I cannot help but notice them on cars (my wife used to laugh about this, now she just rolls her eyes and nods politely), and I am a firm believer in paying for quality.
If you've read this blog before, you probably know that I devote many of my posts to describing my experiences with my Dynamic drive-shaft bicycle. If you've read my reviews of that bike, you may know that I was disappointed with the quality of the tires that they supplied with it. In particular, because I have fenders and because removing the rear tire is less than convenient, the puncture resistance of those tires was unacceptable. I was having to repair a flat on at least a weekly basis.
That led me to one of the best $30 purchases I've made for my bike. I visited my LBS (Clown Dog Bikes) and requested Kevlar commuter tires, and the guy there handed me a pair of CST Selecta Kevlar tires. These tires have a steel bead, a Kevlar carcass (forgive the tire-nerd lingo, that's the weave inside the rubber that provides the strength and shape for the tire), and a reflective strip in the sidewall. There is a very light, directional tread pattern, which for a road bike doesn't serve a whole lot of purpose. The tread pattern is designed in such a way that it does not induce a vibration or noise during rolling (as a mountain bike tread would do, for instance) and may provide some help with water evacuation (although in my experience with tire design, the swoopy directional patterns tend to be more marketing hooplah than functional features).

What's to say about a bike tire? Well, in 6000km, I have had to patch my inner tube precisely two times: once because of bad rim tape, and the other time because of a nasty sharp nail that could have pierced plate armor. Note that when I ride my wife's bike (to which I retired the original tires provided by Dynamic), flats occur on about a weekly basis, more or less, over the same route. The Kevlar works.
What else? The reflective strip, after two winters' worth of riding through dirty sandy black road water, is still visible in my car's headlights (and this camera's flash). There is at present no sign of that strip separating or coming out of the sidewall.
Last of all, the tread. I see only modest signs of chunking. There is still plenty of tread depth left. The photo above is of the front tire, which spent 5000km at the more aggressive rear axle. I'm guessing these are only about halfway through their life on this bike. I ride moderately aggressively and with a heavy backpack.

1 comment:

Raiyn said...

Thanks for the review, I'm looking at a set of these for my town bike and was curious as to how they stacked up against the "name brand" competition which can cost double or more for a comparable tire. (Kevlar shielding, reflective strip, etc,). From what I've seen here I'll pull the trigger and order a set. Thanks again!

One nit to pick: You really shouldn't rotate your tires unless it's from front to back with a new replacement tire on the front. It's not just my opinion, it was shared by arguably the master of bike geekery Sheldon Brown.
His tire rotation article here.