Home Tech Your bicycle tires are too thin. Driving with thick, flexible tires is simply better

Your bicycle tires are too thin. Driving with thick, flexible tires is simply better

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 Your bicycle tires are too thin. Driving with thick, flexible tires is simply better

a few months On the way back, my friend and fellow bike enthusiast Eric prepared for his first 100 mile bike ride. Worried about the pain he would feel next, he wondered what he could do to improve his gait.

As a convert to the Church of Fat Tires, I was excited to share with him an idea I had learned from other cyclists: Put on the thickest soft tires that will fit on your bike, and then inflate them to a pressure that seems surprisingly low..

I’ve been a volunteer bike mechanic in Seattle for almost 10 years and have gently modified my own midrange. Peugeot 1988 into something modern and capable. However, nothing prepared me for the impact of fat tires with flexible sidewalls (aka “flexible”) and inflating them to a much lower pressure than I was used to. I remember my amazement going down a big hill, hearing the different sound my tires made and experiencing the feeling of security and solidity that the bike suddenly had. It felt grippier, more comfortable, less nervous and maybe even faster. In car terms, it was like going from a well-kept old Camry to a modern sport utility vehicle. It was exhilarating.

“Tires are probably the most important component of your bike and the only part that touches the ground,” says Russ Roca, who has 175,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. The path less traveled, which focuses on the enjoyment of speed and generally highlights bikes that can ride on both gravel and pavement. “A wider tire means more volume and built-in suspension. It makes the bike feel more stable.”

Roca says wider tires are simply more fun. “They are not going to beat you to death. You won’t bounce off all the rocks and bumps. “They are the most noticeable improvement you can make to your bike.”

This made sense, and I would learn that not having my wrists and keister shaken helped prevent them from hurting on longer rides.

Yet somehow, fat tires still seem like a secret. We cyclists put pads in our shorts and buy heavy suspension systems for off-road bikes, but are somehow reluctant to experiment with the part of the bike that actually touches the road to help make the ride more pleasant. The big global bike brands still seem hesitant to embrace the trend, perhaps trying to make sure they buy a road bike with thinner tires and a gravel bike with wider tires rather than an “all-terrain” bike that can do both. things.

“Cycling has a lot of tradition, and sometimes we do things because they have always been done that way,” says Roca. “The industry says lighter equals goodwhich is easy to explain and market, but selling ride feel and supple tires is more amorphous.”

Additionally, wide tires are relatively new on the market. Models with flexible sidewalls made with high thread count fabric and a rubber layer thick enough to protect the fabric but thin enough to allow the tire to be quite flexible have only become widely available in the last decade. . Add to that a pandemic and an industry that has a lot of inventory, and you can understand why adoption has not been widespread.

Hidden in buyers’ reluctance is the belief that a wider, softer tire is slower than a thin, high-pressure tire, that the thicker tire weighs more and has more rolling resistance. But that is not always the case.

Last year, I had a milestone birthday and bought myself a fancy new Mountain bike from Rivendell Bicycle Works. It has capacity for tires over 40 millimeters wide. (I currently wear 38). The frame is made of steel and the bike is not particularly light, but I love the way it feels and how it encourages me to ride as fast as possible. A lot of that has to do with the tires.

Toward the end of a summer of heavy riding, I ended up at a stoplight next to a spandex-clad racer on a skinny-tire bike. When the light turned green he took off and I thought: What the hell.

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