Tire Talk

Ok, I got ’em on.  If these don’t solve my flat problem then I will not be responsible for my actions. 

I now own a pair of  top-of-the-line puncture resistant tires: the Specialized Armadillo Hemisphere.  Each one costs as much as a cheap car tire.  In the September issue of Bicycling Magazine, there is an advertisement for the Armadillo in which professional cyclist Jens Voigt declares, “You will die before this tire does.”

We’ll see about that.

I was interested to see how my bike’s performance would be different with these tires.  At 38c, they are actually less fat than my old Continental Boroughs’ 45c (By most standards, this is still a “fat” tire.  Most roadies will use something closer to 25c).  Less surface area means less rolling resistance which means faster rides.  The tire is rated up to 100 PSI, which is 15 PSI more than the Boroughs.  More pressure means harder tires which means less resistance.

Countering this is the fact that the Armadillos are heavy.  Very heavy.  900 grams, to be exact, against the relatively svelte 585 grams of the Boroughs (again, both tires are massive compared to a typical roadie tire which weighs about 150 grams).   There is also a tick more tread in the center of the tire, perhaps adding to rolling resistance.

To find out the difference in performance, I set out on a 13.6 mile route I have done many times as a sprint workout.  This test would not be optimal because it was a breezy day and this would cut into my time.  I also hadn’t cycled in two weeks so I would not be in peak physical condition.  Thank you for not laughing.

The results are encouraging, but still inconclusive.  My average speed of 15.5 mph was one of my slowest times ever – almost dead even with a nighttime ride I completed three weeks ago.  But I hit a lot of stop lights, so if you use my average moving speed of 15.9, I’m only about .7 mph off my fastest-ever ride on this route.  I believe the wind and my decreased aerobic fitness level can account for most (if not all) of this difference.

But let us not lose sight of the most important fact in this test – my tire remained fully inflated at all times.  It is hard to put a value on that except to note that my average moving speed while flatted is 0 mph, while my heart rate (due to very high levels of annoyance) remains extremely elevated.  So, with uber puncture-resistant tires and a sturdier set of double-rimmed wheels, I am once again ready to hit the open roads.

People of Northern Virginia, you have been fairly warned.

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6 thoughts on “Tire Talk

  1. Good, just one interesting but totally irrelevant note, that back tire alone is heavier then my back wheel, tire, tube. That makes very little difference if you are enjoying rides flat free. I had a flat today, first one in months. A small piece of wire caused it. Had it fixed and was underway in ten minutes.

    • Yeah, the weight troubles me a bit too, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I WILL have a durable bike. Period. If my bike begins to resemble a battle tank, then so be it. We’ll see how I feel when I take it out for a longer spin, but so far I don’t feel any difference from the original tires. Even if I did feel a difference, if the stupid things stay inflated I will still be happy!

  2. So glad you are traveling ‘flat free’.
    My own theory on the weight issue is that we aren’t racing, so it doesn’t really matter, right? I mean what’s a couple of seconds because your tires are ‘heavy’? The fact is, I can bike commute 23 miles in 1.25 hours, bare bones, and the exact same time fully loaded! That’s with lots of hills;0)
    It’s just the joy of riding that really matters.
    I’ll be in Md on Sat. doing the Civil War Century. Pray I survive and have fun.

    • I’m not hung up on the weight either. More weight means I need to be in better shape to push it. That’s what I tell myself, anyway. Having said that, I don’t go out of my way to make things heavier. You won’t see me tying a cinder block to my bike!

      The Civil War Century is on my “To Do” list for next year. I’ll be very interested to hear how things go for you – good luck!

  3. I must say that you have inspired the entire IT department at work, and I’ve begun writing the necessary persons required to nominate you for a Pulitzer Prize.

    Throughout this post one thing remains constant…

    You go nowhere with a flat tire. Not all of us are NASCAR crew chiefs like Matt. Changing a flat in under 10 minutes is impressive…Coming from this guy, who knows absolutely nothing about bicycling.

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