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Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Bicycle Tires

Sometimes it is pretty easy to figure out what kind of tire you need for your bike. If you spend all your time riding on paved roads then you get a smooth road tire that will greatly reduce rolling resistance. If you spend your time on off-road trails then you buy a knobby tire so you get great traction. However, what type of tire do you get if you have to ride on a paved road just to get to the off-road trail? My favorite tire for this type of situation is the Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Bicycle Tire.

Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Bicycle Tire

Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Tire

The Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Tire has a semi-slick center tread that offers minimal rolling resistance while you are on the road, and slightly aggressive outer stability knobs on the sides so you get great cornering, even in wet weather. The 26×2.0 tire weighs 750 grams and is listed as having 60 TPI (threads per inch).

As an added bonus, this tire has Bontrager’s Hardcase triple puncture protection. First, there is an aramid (a strong heat-resistant synthetic fiber) belt that helps prevent tread punctures caused from glass or stone. Second, there is an anti-cut casing that also resists cuts from glass and other sharp objects. And third, it has an anti-pinch sidewall to prevent snake-bite punctures (this is the type of puncture you get from hitting hard objects like railroad ties or potholes).

Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Bicycle Tire Close-up

Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Tire

I have used this tire on one of my mountain bikes for a long time and would highly recommend it to anyone who rides a hybrid bike or uses their mountain bike for both road and off-road riding.

As a final note, Bontrager tires come with an unbelievable guarantee: “All aftermarket Bontrager tires are unconditionally satisfaction guaranteed for 30 days from the date of purchase. If you—for any reason—don’t like your new Bontrager tire, return it (along with your original sales receipt) back to the place of purchase within 30 days of purchase date for full refund or exchange.”

The Bontrager H4 Hard-Case Plus Tire is available in two sizes—the 26×1.5 tire retails for $40, and 26×2.0 retails for $45. This tire is available at local bike shops all over the United States and Europe, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding them in stock at a dealer near you.

 

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Michelin Pilot Sport HD Folding Bicycle Tire With Reflective Sidewalls

My oldest road bike is reserved for riding in inclement weather (rain and winter slush). For several years I used  Continental Touring Plus tires on this bike because they are lightweight, puncture resistant and have an aggressive enough tread pattern to make it easy to ride in the rain. Unfortunately, these tires are also very difficult to work with, i.e., they are hard to get on or off the rim. I know one experienced bike mechanic who broke three tire levers just trying to get a pair of these on a bike. For some reason it seems like I only get flats on rainy days, and fiddling with Continental Touring Plus tires in the rain is not a task I enjoy. As a result, the last time I replaced the tires on this bike I took a chance and switched to Michelin Pilot Sport HD folding tires—and I am so glad I did!

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Bicycle Tires

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Bicycle Tire

Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires are a part of the Michelin City Trekking tire series and are made with their “Protek Compound rubber mix” which provides “antioxidant ingredients and a reinforced architecture.” These tires have anti-puncture reinforcement and are designed for urban fitness riding, i.e., for those who like to ride road bikes in places that are not usually desirable due to broken glass and road debris.

I only have about 1,000 miles on these tires, but have been extremely impressed with how well they handle on both wet roads and dry pavement. They hold the road extremely well and corner better than any other tire I’ve tried. I’ve used these tires during many hours of heavy rain and have found that the inverted tread pattern helps move water out from under tire in a very efficient manner.

Michelin Pilot Sport HD Folding Bicycle Tire

Michelin Pilot Sport HD tread Pattern

In my opinion this tire offers a very low rolling resistance considering that they are designed to run at a fairly low tire pressure. On the sidewall of every bike tire you will find both the minimum and maximum pressure the tire is capable of handling. If the tire pressure goes below the minimum you run a very high risk of getting a pinch flat; if the pressure goes above the maximum you have a good chance of blowing out the tire and will certainly have a very bumpy ride. The recommended minimum pressure for the Michelin Pilot Sport tire is 44 psi and it has a maximum pressure of 87 psi. The tire pressure you should use depends on your weight—light riders can drop the pressure down towards the minimum while heavier riders should inflate towards the maximum. In the case of the Michelin Pilot Sport tire they suggest that riders weighing 132 pounds or less inflate the tire to 44 psi; riders weighing 220 pounds or more should use 87 psi. Michelin has included a weight and psi chart of the side of the packaging for this tire.

Like the Continental Touring Plus tires, the Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires have reflective sidewalls which increases visibility in low light situations. A ride in the rain almost guarantees that you will also be riding in low light—and when a the headlights from a car hit the sidewall of this tire the reflective strip can be see from at least a quarter of a mile away.

Michelin Pilot Sport HD folding bicycle tires retail for around $40 each and are available in four sizes (700x28c, 700x32c, 700x35c, and 26×2.3). These tires all have a thread count of 30 TPI (threads per inch). A low thread count usually means a less supple tire, but one that is more puncture resistant. The 700x28c tire weighs 402g. You should be able to find this tire at just about any bike shop—if the shop does not have it in stock they can order it for you.

 

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Topeak SmartGauge D2 Bicycle Tire Gauge

You probably already know that having under-inflated tires on your car will cause you to burn more gasoline (i.e., use more energy). The same thing is true for bicycle tires—if the tires are under-inflated it will take more effort (i.e., use more energy) to peddle the bike. On the sidewall of every bicycle tire you will find both the minimum and maximum pressure it is tire is designed to hold (usually measured in PSI, pound per square inch). If you are a heavy cyclist you should probably keep your tire pressure at the maximum PSI for your tires, while lightweight cyclists can often run their tires down to the minimum pressure (though this is not always advisable). While low tire pressure will force you to use more energy as you ride, if the tire pressure is too high it usually results in a very bumpy ride. One of the best ways to accurately measure your tire pressure is with the Topeak SmartGauge D2 tire pressure gauge.

Topeak SmartGauge D2 Bicycle Tire Gauge

Topeak SmartGauge D2 Bicycle Tire Gauge

The Topeak SmartGauge D2 is a digital tire pressure gauge that works on both Presta and Schrader valves. This precision instrument is also useful for suspension forks, rear shock units, and even your car tires. The easy-to-read LCD display can show pressure in PSI, Bar, or kg/cm2 (it takes just a second or two to switch settings). This unit runs on a single CR2032 battery and weighs a bit over two ounces. The swivel head (Topeak calls it a SmartHead) rotates 180 degrees so you can easily read the gauge regardless of the position of the valve stem. This unit can measure a maximum tire pressure of 250 PSI (17 bar).

When I say this gauge is accurate, I mean that you can measure your tire pressure six times in a row and get the same reading each time. One of the problems with the cheap gauges found on most tire pumps is that they are not very reliable.

While the Topeak SmartGauge D2 is perfect for about 99.9% of cyclists, there is one small group that might have trouble with it, i.e., those of us who ride Fat Bikes in temperatures well below zero (Fahrenheit). The piston-plunger gauge on the SmartGauge and and the gauges on most bicycle pumps are affected by changes in temperature and humidity, but gauges with a Bourdon tube are not. In the winter most Fat Bikes run at 6 to 10 PSI in the snow and are extremely sensitive to changes in tire pressure—even a difference of one-half PSI can be felt by the rider. So, if you are riding your Fat Bike in extreme winter conditions I would suggest you try a low pressure tire gauge with a bronze Bourdon tube, like the Accu-Gage.

The Topeak SmartGauge D2 retails for around $32 and I highly recommend it. You should be able to find this at your local bike shop—if that fails you can find it on Amazon.com.

 

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Slime Lite Self Healing Bicycle Inner Tubes

Slime Lite Self Healing Bicycle Inner Tubes

Slime Lite Self Healing Tubes

If you are a Weight Weenie who enjoys patching flat tires then you can skip this product review. However, if you would rather spend your free time actually riding instead of waiting for the glue on a tire patch to dry, then you need to pick up a pair of Slime Lite Self Healing Bicycle Inner Tubes.

Slime Lite Self Healing Tubes are lightweight butyl inner tubes that have been pre-filled with Slime tube sealant. The company claims that this product will instantly seal most punctures up to 1/8″ (3mm), and in my experience the product works well. However, they warn that sidewall punctures and pinch flats might not seal.

If you travel much in Third World Countries you will see a lot of glass and litter on the roads. Well, I live in the far-north suburbs of Chicago in the People’s Republic of Illinois and we are pretty much a Third World Country! The main bike trail in my area has so many broken bottles on it that the locals call it the “Glass Highway.” A few years ago it was common for me to get flat tire on one of my bikes at least once a week. However, once I started using Slime in my inner tubes my problems with flats disappeared.

Sometimes we have to make compromises while cycling. We want the lightest bike and components possible and we don’t want to add any unnecessary weight to the bike, especially rotating weight (like on your tires). A 700c x 19-25mm Slime Lite tube weights 158 grams (about 5.5 ounces). While this is three times higher than the weight of a Bontrager Race XXX Lite tube, I would rather put up with a bit of extra weight on my tires than have to stop to change a tube in a high-crime area on the “Glass Highway” (I know of several cyclists who’ve been robbed on this wonderful trail).

While I have nothing but good things to say about Slime, I noticed that many of the customer reviews on Amazon.com were negative. The only thing I can tell you is that my experience with Slime has been excellent. The only time Slime has ever failed me was the first time I got a puncture with it installed. I had a small sliver of metal stuck in my tire, so I stopped to pull it out (I should have kept riding). Since I had not taken the time to read the directions, I pulled the sliver out while it was facing up—which means all the Slime was on the bottom of the tube! If you get a puncture while riding with Slime in your tubes the best thing to do is to pull the debris out while it is facing the ground—this will let some Slime and air out, but the puncture will seal. Then, put some air back in the tube, get back on your bike and ride. The rotation of the tires will spread the Slime out and you should be “good to go.”

The Slime Lite tubes retail for $12 and you should be able to find them at your local bike shop. These tubes are available in a variety of sizes for both 26-inch and 700c tires, and for both Presta and Schrader valves. In case you were wondering, Slime sealants are made with environmentally safe, non-toxic, non-hazardous and non-flammable ingredients—if you spill any of it on you all you need is soap and water to clean it up.

 

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Surly Nate Tires For Fat Bike Fun In The Snow And Mud

One of the most highly coveted cycling products this year has been the Surly Nate Tire for Fat Bikes. If you are one of those guys who rides your bike in your basement on a trainer all winter, well, you can skip this article. However, if you own a Fat Bike and love playing in the snow and mud, the Surly Nate tire might end up being one of your favorite cycling purchases of all time.

Surly Nate Bicycle Tires

Surly Nate Tires

Both the Surly Pugsley and the Surly Necromancer Pugs come stock with 3.8″ Surly Larry tires on the front and 3.7″ Surly Endomorph tires on the back (often called the Larry/Endo combo). These tires are great for folks who are lucky enough to ride on groomed snowmobile trails and hard packed (consolidated) snow. Those of use who ride on loose and unconsolidated snow usually find this tire combination somewhat lacking—the Larry in the front is prone to washouts (especially if the path is off-camber) and the Endomorph in the rear often loses its grip in loose snow.

The Surly Nate tire has a large and aggressive knobby tread pattern that offers unbelievable traction in unconsolidated snow. While these massive tires have more rolling resistance than other fat tires, I’ve still been able to get my Pugs up to over 20 MPH on the pavement. I’ve also been able to cut a trail through five inches of fresh snow without any trouble—even on off-camber sections of the trail. In addition, I’ve been able to climb snow-covered hills while standing up out of the saddle—something I could never do with the Larry/Endo combo.

The Surly Nate is available with either 27 tpi or 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive. Lower tpi tires are generally heavier, more durable and offer better flat-resistance. The 120 tpi Nate weighs around 1500 grams, while the 27 tpi version weighs a bit over 1700 grams. The 120 tpi Nate is available with either a wire or Kevlar bead.

Due to an unseasonably warm winter I’ve spent more time on my Surly Pugsley Necromancer in the mud than I have in the snow this year. The first time I rode with the Nates was on a 35 degree day on an off-road trail that had snow and ice in the shady areas and several inches of mud and standing water in the areas exposed to direct sunlight. When I started my ride I could see the tracks left by a mountain biker who had started out on the trail before me that day—the tracks turned around after about 30 feet! However, I was able to ride for over 30 miles on this muddy trail and my Nates didn’t slip a single time (but they did throw a lot of mud).

Surly Nate Tires after riding in the mud

Surly Nate Tires After Playing In The Mud

I do need to warn about one of the side effects of these tires. If you go out for a nice ride in the melting snow and mud with a pair of Nates you are going to come home covered from head to toe in mud. You will then find yourself standing out in your snow-covered backyard with a water hose and scrub brush trying to clean your bike. Your neighbors will never understand the smile on your face. In fact, I am not certain of its source myself. Does the smile come as a result of the fun you had on the ride, or from thinking about those poor guys riding their trainers in the basement because the weather is “too bad to ride in”?

The 27 tpi Surly Nate tire retails for around $80, and the 120 tpi version is around $120. You should be able to find these tires in the Men’s Department of your local bike shop. This tire is made in China by Innova.

Once you get your hands on the Surly Nate tire, make sure you look for the Easter Egg (hidden message) just above the bead of the tire. In case you can’t find it, it says, “Deep Fried Meat Fueled Natepocalypse.” I am not sure of the best way to translate this into English.

 

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Accu-Gage Low Pressure Presta Tire Gauge

Accu-Gage Low Pressure Presta Tire Gauge for Fat Bikes

Accu-Gage Presta Tire Gauge

Riders of Fat Bikes throughout the world can rejoice—an accurate low pressure tire gauge is now available! Those of us who spend winter riding in the snow on Fat Bikes usually try to keep our tire pressure between 5 and 10 psi. Unfortunately, very few tire gauges are accurate as such low pressures. The good news is that Accu-Gage has a professional grade low pressure tire gauge for Presta valves, and this puppy is dead-on accurate every time!

Those mammoth tires on bikes like the Surly Pugsley have a maximum tire pressure of only 30 psi, but most of us never inflate them past 15 psi, even if we are running on pavement. While the tire pressure gauge on your floor pump might be correct at higher pressures, I have found them to be very unreliable at lower pressures. You might think that a digital tire gauge would be the best alternative, but cold temperatures have a great impact on their accuracy—and some of us like to ride even when the temperature is well below zero.

When I say the Accu-Gage is “professional grade,” I am not simply parroting their advertising. These gauges are fully geared and have a precision movement with a bronze Bourdon tube. The piston-plunger gauges on most bicycle pumps are affected by changes in temperature and humidity, but gauges with a Bourdon tube (like the Accu-Gage) are not. Also, since you don’t need batteries for this gauge you don’t have to worry about the battery dying in the cold like they often do in digital gauges.

The Accu-Gage Low Pressure Tire Gauge is a 2″ dual scale dial tire gauge with a maximum pressure reading of 30 psi. Tech nerds will be interested to know that this gauge meets ANSI B40.1 Grade B specifications. For non-geeks, this simply means this gauge have been calibrated and is accurate to within .5 psi.

You should be able to get the Accu-Gage Low Pressure Tire Gauge (model #RPR30BX) from your local bike shop for around $13. The manufacturer offers the original purchaser a lifetime warranty against defects.

 

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Cobra Tire Tool For Easy Bicylce Tire Repairs

Changing a bicycle tire is not all that difficult a job—I ought to know, I’ve had to do it enough! I live in the far-north suburbs of Chicago and the “rails-to-trails” bike path near my house is affectionately known by locals as the “glass highway.” Even with puncture resistant Kevlar belted tires you can still get a flat. Unfortunately, puncture resistant tires are a bit harder to get off the rims than thinner tires. The good news is that the Cobra Tire Tool makes bicycle tire removal a snap.

The Cobra Tire Tool is a modified tire lever—on one end it has an extra hook in the shape of a snake about the strike. The end of the tool that looks like a standard tire lever is used to pry off the tire, while the larger hook fits over the chainstay or fork blade. After you get the tool in place you slowly spin your tire and in just a few seconds it will pop off the rim. If you want, you can patch the tube while the tire is still on the bike!

When I started writing product reviews I decided to never use photographs supplied by manufacturers. However, a still photograph cannot do justice to this tool, so I asked Jim Walls, inventor of the Cobra Tire Tool, to use his video of the tool in action. This video is less than a minute long—watch it and prepare to be impressed.

The Cobra Tire Tool is three inches long, weighs under half an ounce and is made of nylon and fiberglass so it should not mar your bike frame. It also comes with a lifetime warranty against breakage. The cost is only $6 (postpaid) and is available directly from the company Web site. This product is made in America.

At the moment the Cobra Tire Tool is only available for Road Bikes, Tri, and Hybrids. A tool for mountain bikes and fat tires is in the works.

 
 

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