Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015: Road Tire Update

I have already covered our tandem tires for the 2015 season, so I thought I would cover my road bikes experiences.   This was the year I decided that one size does fit all for my road bikes. I had run 700x25 Continental Gatorskins on my Domane for last couple of season.  However, when it came time to replace them, just before TOSRV (2015), I decided to go with 700x28 Bontrager AW R2.   I made the switch for comfort, durability and some KISS convenience.

My tire test lab documentation.
First off, I was looking for little bit more forgiving ride on secondary, chip-n-seal roads, and for my road riding in general.   And the general conditions of road were a factor, wanting a little more insurance for the holes and patching on so many road today.  Combined with the general consensus that larger diameter tires have a lower rolling resistance, it made sense to make the change.

The other reason for the switch was to standardize my spare tubes and bike kits.  For some of my all-day endurance events riding the Domane, I swap the seat bag for an Arkel Randoneur rack and Tailrider rack trunk combo.  The Tailrider is normally on my Assenmacher, my full time sport-touring bike with a rear rack.  By going to 700x28 on both bikes, I didn’t have to worry about a tube miss-match when fixing a flat, or the hassle of moving the correct tubes between bags.

About the only downside for this was the need for a computer reset after changing the tire size. And even that is becoming less important in a GPS-based world. (And I will reset Domane’s computers once I have to change the battery.)

I was also curious to try the Bontrager AW series (I am basically my own tire test lab), having run a set of RL All Weathers on my Assenmacher until the spring of 2014.  So far, I have been very pleased  AW 2 (Hard Case Lite, Aramid bead, 60 TPI casing and 330 grams).  They are an easy mounting Kevlar bead tire, and have run flat-free for over 2,000 miles.  They have no significant cuts, and based on the siping wear, I am likely to see them go over 3,500 miles, especially after rotating the front to rear during upcoming off-season.

Anecdotally, they were a great riding.  Since I was riding the wired bead 700x25, the weight different was only 25grams per wheel.  They handled well for both club and endurance rides (4 centuries and a half dozen 50 mile plus rides) on just about every road surface from crushed limestone to new pavement.

The Hard Case compound has been very cut resistant, and does not "grab" stone chips.
The earlier RL AWs had a soft tread compound that allowed stone chips to embed, resulting in some annoying road flats as they pushed through case, or ended up causing cuts in the tread.

Softer compound tires can be problematic in that way, and is always one of the trade-offs in tire choice.  Prior to 2011, I had been running the Serfas FPV tires, a great value in steel beaded tires, running very high (3,000+) miles.  But then about 2009-10 Serfas switched to a softer compound and my subsequent sets began to regularly pick up stone chips, resulting in more frequent flats.  It had gotten to the point were I was inspecting the tires every couple of weeks, and using a the edge of knife to pull stone chips out of tread before they could cut through the Kevlar flat prevention band.

While I still inspect tires regularly, the newer, harder AW series (and the Gatorskins) do not require this regular vigilance.  One more bit of maintenance I mentioned in my tandem tire article, I am going to rotate tires front to rear during the cold weather season this year.  Im expecting an extra couple of riding months per tire set, along with cutting down my collection of "leftover" high mileage front tires.

My Domane with Arkel rack and Tailrider, TOSRV 2015
As a side bar, how have I kept track of the tires I am using? I have pretty simple method, and it is not tied directly to my extensive bike logs.  When I mount a new set of tires (or install any new component), I write the install date and the bike on the packaging  (or just the cut out details), and that is tossed into into a file drawer on the bottom shelf of my tool bench.  At one time, I had a complete collection of empty component boxes almost every component I had purchased.  But over time, it became impractical to explain this large quantity of empty boxes to my more sensible spouse, who also did not want a large collection of empty boxes packed and moved, regardless of the origin and history.

And now that the 2015 riding season is officially closed, I can share this; I decided to pickup CO-2 inflators for 2015.  And then I went the whole season without a flat on the road*. When tires run trouble free for 4,000+ miles, the bicycle life is good.

*Tire karma will prevent me from EVER mentioning this again.

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