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Category Archives: Bicycle Tires

Mud, Snow, Rain, Road and MTB tires for bicycles.

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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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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Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires For Winter Cycling

When the snow starts falling you only have a few choices if you want to avoid gaining 20 pounds during the winter. You could set your bike up on a trainer in your basement or garage, but within 15 minutes you are going to feel like a hamster when he is running on the wheel in his cage. The best solution is to man-up and buy a pair of steel studded bicycle tires so you can ride all winter long. Unless you live north of the Arctic Circle cycling in the snow is a blast! While there are many good brands of studded bicycle tires available, last year I chose a pair of Innova (26 x 2.1) snow tires and used them all winter long.

Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires

Innova Steel Studded Bicycle Tires

Unlike the more expensive Nokian or Schwalbe tires that use carbide studs, the Innova tires use steel studs, so yes, they are going to rust (see the photo above). However, the Innova tires are at least half the price of Nokian or Schwalbe tires. The Innova snow tires have 268 replaceable steel studs and an aggressive tread. I rode with them all last winter and found them to be a pleasure to ride on. While it is very common to lose a few studs during normal use every winter due to friction, the best I can tell I didn’t lose a single stud in over 500 miles.

While the side of the tire says the maximum air pressure is 60 psi, I would recommend you don’t go above 50 psi. At 60 psi I just didn’t feel like the studs were gripping the snow and ice as well. I hate to admit it, but I did a face plant into the snow last year while riding with these tires. I was cranking along at about 20 MPH on my street which only had a bit of ice on it when I turned into my driveway that had six inches of snow on it. My front tire came to sudden stop, but my body didn’t. I should have shoveled my driveway before I went on my ride, but where is the fun in that?

Innova steel studded bicycle tires are made in Taiwan. While I have not had any problems with these tires, I think that if I had it to do all over again I would opt for a more expensive Nokian tire simply because I love riding in the snow and I think that in the long run the Nokian tires would be a better buy. However, if this is your first year to attempt riding in the snow I would suggest you try out a pair of Innova tires—even if you only use them for two years you will get your money’s worth out of them.

If your local bike shop does not carry Innova tires, you can buy them from Amazon.com for around $60.

 

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Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

The beauty of having several bicycles is that you can configure your older bikes for riding in inclement weather. I’ve outfitted one of my older road bikes specifically for riding in the rain and light snow. In addition to fenders, reflective tape and a few mechanical adjustments, I added a pair of Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tires.

Continental Touring Plus road bike tires are lightweight, puncture resistant and have an aggressive enough tread pattern to make it easy to ride in the rain. I bought a pair of these tires (700X28) and have them inflated to the maximum recommended pressure, which is 100psi. My “sunny day” road bike is a Trek Madone with Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase tires inflated to 120psi. Surprisingly, the ride on the Continental tires is very similar to the Race Lite tires, even though there is a substantial difference in tire pressure.

Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire (note the reflective stripe)

I’ve put around 2,000 miles on these tires and all of them have been in the rain or light snow. As you probably already know, rain has a tendency to bring all sorts of debris up to the surface. Even with the road debris these tires felt very secure on the road. I have also found these tires to give decent traction in light snow.

One of my favorite features of this tire is the highly visible reflective sidewall. Riding in the rain almost always means you are also riding in low-light conditions. The reflective sidewall on this tire is incredible! I wish every bicycle tire had this feature. After 2,000 miles in the rain and snow the reflective stripe on the sidewall looks rather dingy when it is in my garage, but it still shines bright when an automobile headlight hits it.

Tread On The Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

Tread On The Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

In addition to the 700×28 tires, Continental Touring Plus road bike tires are also available in several other sizes, including: 24×1.75, 26×1.75, 28×1.25, 28×1.5, and 28×1.75. The 700×28 tires retail for around $45, but several online shops offer them for around $37. However, consider the cost of shipping you might be better off buying them from your local bike shop.

 

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Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bicycle Tires

When it comes to cycling we all have different skill sets. One of the things I am really good at is patching bicycle tires. This skill was not acquired by choice, but by the fact I used to get puncture flats at least once a week. When I finally wised up and put Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires on my road bikes my tire patching days pretty much came to an end.

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bicycle Tires

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bicycle Tire

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires offer triple flat protection: a Kevlar belt provides puncture resistance, anti-pinch ribs stop pinch flats, and bead to bead woven construction dramatically reduce your chances of cutting your sidewalls.

My Trek Madone uses 700 x 25C tires and I keep them inflated at 120psi. I’ve used these tires for over 10,000 miles on this bike and have only had two flats during that time. Since this tire is a bit stiffer than your normal bike tire you will find it takes a bit more effort to change (not impossible, just a little more work). I’ve been able to get around 2,500 miles on a set of these tires, but your mileage will vary depending on tire pressure and road conditions.

The most common complaint I’ve about these tires is their increased rolling resistance. That might be a valid complaint, but honestly I’ve not noticed it. While it is possible to get a faster ride on different tires, any savings is eaten up with your first flat.

While these tires do offer great protection against flats, it is still possible to puncture a tire under the right conditions. Nearly every training route of mine crosses a road that leads to the county landfill and garbage trucks have a tendency to drop a lot of debris on their way to the dump. Last year I hit a piece of shaved metal that was as sharp Marine’s KA-BAR knife and it cut right through my rear tire and tube.

The downside of this tire is that is it not very responsive in the rain. In fact, during a hard downpour they can be rather scary. If you ride a lot in the rain I would suggest you either choose a different tire or just ride a different bike when it rains (that’s what I do). If you do get caught in a downpour just slow down a bit and allow a little more room for braking.

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires retail for around $43 at your local bike shop. While it is still possible to get a flat while using these tires, the chances are very remote. While these are not the tires I would suggest for a race, I would highly recommend these tires to any other cyclist.

 

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