Tire Talk

This can't be good

A recent tire inspection has caused me to believe there is a very good chance I am courting disaster.  Please see the above picture for the cause of my concern.

My rear tire is missing pieces of rubber.  I’m pretty sure this isn’t how it is designed to operate.  There is clearly an impending crisis in my life and I am struggling to decide how to avert it.

I really like my Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase tire.  After suffering a plethora of flats in 2010 and another flat this February, I purchased the Hardcase for my back tire and rode trouble-free all year until a few weeks ago when I slammed into a rock at high speed and caused a pinch flat.   The Hardcase performed brilliantly and gave me a summer blessedly free of tire related issues.  Another year of chronic flats may very well have driven me away from cycling, so it is not too much to say that this tire kept me in the hobby.  It was a very good tire, but I am afraid it’s time has come.

You might think pea-sized holes in your tire would virtually guarantee a puncture within minutes.  The fact that hasn’t occurred is a testament to the sturdiness of the tire.  Under the rubber is a Kevlar band which is now unfortunately seeing the light of day.  Still, the Kevlar is doing its job and the tire bravely soldiers on, puncture-free.

I’ve read that some people attempt to patch these holes with Shoo Gloo or other rubbery shoe repair glues.  If you look closely at the photo, you can see the remains of my attempt at this sort of repair, which did not last 20 miles.  It doesn’t appear this is the solution for me.

Initially, I was disappointed that the tire wore out so quickly.  When I read reviews of this tire, I saw several satisfied owners who claimed to have ridden 5,000+ miles on the Hardcase.  When reading the reviews, I neglected to consider two factors:

1.  Online user testimonials are often outright lies perpetrated by vendors masquerading as consumers.

2. I am larger than the average cyclist and therefore tend to wear parts out faster than normal.  So even if the testimonials were legitimate, I could not reasonably expect to see the same lifetime out of my tire.

Tonight I googled, “Average lifetime of a bicycle tire” and discovered several sources which suggest a typical lifespan is 1,000-3,000 miles, depending on the type of tire, road surface, and style of riding.  My tire is currently at 2,800 miles so perhaps I shouldn’t be so disappointed at its performance.

At this point I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “Steve, you dolt, the tire is clearly spent.  Please buy yourself another one before you find yourself stuck in the wilderness in subfreezing temperatures, you cheap miser!”

You have an excellent point.  It’s just that I would rather not buy new equipment for my bike in the middle of winter unless I absolutely have to.  Winter puts a great amount of wear and tear on bike parts and it would be a shame to arrive in the springtime with “new” tires that look far older than they actually are.  So I’m hoping to squeeze a few more weeks out of the old ones, which I strongly suspect will lead to another blog post which will chronicle the results of my folly in extreme detail.  Stay tuned!


47 thoughts on “Tire Talk

  1. Steve, you took the words right out of my mouth (except the ‘dolt’ part, I would never be so presumptuous)! You are a braver man than I am to ride on a tire with kevlar showing. I’d have that thing changed probably before a hole even though about forming, but I’m overly cautious.

    • I’m overly dimwitted, I’m afraid. Thanks for not calling me a dolt, although I note you did not disassociate yourself from the word “miser!” 🙂

  2. Steve,
    My experience has been that 3,000 miles on a rear tire and 5,000 miles on a front tire is good. Yes, sometimes even 3k miles is too much, especially on the roads you ride. I have a different take on winter than you. I want my best tires in winter, new ones at the beginning of the season to handle all the junk on the roads. I don’t want to deal with a flat in the cold, especially when it is so cold that my hands and body get cold from no exertion. It is worth riding the best stuff you have in the winter. I like Continental 4 Seasons tires. They are expensive but very durable.

    • That logic actually makes a lot of sense to me, now that you’ve laid it out in a manner that even I can understand. Are the Continental 4 Seasons tires the same as the “Contintental Grand Prix 4 Seasons” tires? That’s the name that keeps popping up online, so I suspect they are.

  3. That is certainly what you would call a well worn tyre (alternate spelling). I think you have answered your own question. However I do look forward to your tales of survival stuck in the wilderness with a flat. I’m a Yorkshire man and can’t resist the temptation to get the last bit of use out of everything, even when head tells me its folly. So I’m not the one to criticise anyone else.

    • It’s interesting to ponder that I am somehow psychologically compatable with Yorkish culture. I’m not sure what the implications of that may be, but I’m sure they are all quite interesting!

  4. Steve, you dolt, the tire is clearly spent. Please buy yourself another one before you find yourself stuck in the wilderness in subfreezing temperatures, you cheap miser!

  5. Buy the tire! But I review almost every equipment I buy online, every restaurant I eat in, to give voice to quality and to assist others in avoiding poor service or craftsmanship. I don’t often buy without checking reviews on products and I review products on my blogs. Lots of reviews are not bogus.
    That being said, my Schwalbe Marathons have 6,000 miles on them, and to look at them, you would think they are new. You know the cycling year that I’ve had. They have crossed the state of Wisconsin on trail, and they have carried me the entire 400+ miles of the Great Allegheny Passage, as well as the C&O canal Towpath. The average life of a standard tire is very different from the life of a kevlar tire. I would encourage you to look at Continental Gatorskins or Schwalbe Marathon tires. Find the tire you want online at Treefort bikes and order them, or print the page and take it to Performance, as they will price match.
    I have but once, had a flat on a kevlar tire, and it come from the inside, when someone removed the rim tape on my wheels without me knowing it.
    Preserve the peace of your cycling by keeping your equipment in excellent order;0)

    • Thanks, Cherri. I’ve read that Gatorskins are “notoriously difficult to put on.” My thoughts therefore turn toward the Marathons or 4 Seasons. Thanks for the website. I shall carry a hardcopy into my local Performance shop and demand appeasement!

  6. You really don’t want to be stuck outside changing a tire in cold weather. It’s probably cheaper to repkace the tire now. If you have one flat (and you’re lazy and replace the tube) you’re out $5 or $6. Put that money to a new tire instead.Good luck.

    • Good point on saving $ on inner tubes. I am the sort who tends to replace tubes rather than repairing them. This is primarily due to the fact that my failure rate on patches is near 100%. Perhaps I am simply too lazy to learn how to properly patch a tube, but I have reached a point in my life where I will happily spend a few dollars to avoid hours of aggravation, which brings me back to the wisdom of your original point about being stuck in the cold.

  7. If God hadn’t wanted you to ride on bare Kevlar, He wouldn’t have invented it in the first place.

    What’s that you say? DuPont developed Kevlar?* And it was invented by a girl??** This heresy can only mean one thing–buy a new tire.

    By the way–I have Schwalbe Marathons, too, and really love them. Had a rash of flats and they solved my problem. I ran across this industrial video of theirs as I was researching them–it’s fascinating, but I like that sort of thing–and I was shocked at how hands-on the construction of tires still is, and how far they come before they get to us here. It’s no wonder they cost as much as they do! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9RzJAWvOMQ


  8. I can match anyone for miserliness, but one thing I will spend money for is a quality tire. If you want to save, check the prices at ProBikeKit in England. Free shipping to the U.S.

  9. I did some quick checking on the internet for you. Since 99% of the tires we use are vulcanized, buying a tire and not using it much (aging) will not be better for a tire so scratch one reason to buy a tire this season. Seems to me that what may be the real reason you don’t want to buy a tire is that you’d really like to discover if your “holy” tire will flat out on a ride. OK, so just carry a foldable tire, some dollar bills, or some power bars (to eat and then use the wrappers) in your back jersey pocket and good luck. However, I would not be that interested in performing that experiment. I’d be curious to hear what the little voice in your head is advising you to do. I think I already know the answer to that question and I’ve learned the hard way to give weight to that little voice. Also, you may be riding more this winter than you think since I think you’ve got the same addiction as the rest of us. The New Year has started and you’re the only one who can move the miles on your cycle computer to 4,000 or more.

    • It’s like the Seinfeld episode where Kramer wants to see just how far he can drive his car with the gas meter on “Empty.”

      The little voice in my head was quietly advising to buy new Hardcase tires. Based on the avalanche of commentary to this post, the voice is now much louder and is also suggesting that another brand may be in order.

  10. In reply to folksnake’s comment that Steve should buy a new tire because Kevlar was developed by a girl, I’d say OK to that except she was Polish-American which trumps the girl thing. That tire will last longer than your bike. He, he. 🙂

  11. I too love Schwalbe Marathons. I have done at least 4000 miles on my present set without a puncture, riding on some very poorly surfaced roads. I believe that they me reduce my average speed by 0.05% and I cry myself to sleep every night worrying about it.

    • You’re always obsessing over your performance, Tootlepedal. I suggest you take it easy on yourself and simply enjoy the ride. Maybe take a picture or two to capture the moment. 🙂

  12. PBK ftw

    Try a 700×25 for your rear, especially in winter.

    I like to have a set of new winter/spring tires, heavier thicker cheaper tires. There will be cinders on the road and they do more damage to a tire then anything. I save my Grand Prix PolyX 700×23 tires for about May.

    • Two sets of tires for one bike? I’m not sure I’m ready for that level of preparedness. That will make me dangerously close to being the sort of cyclist who swaps out his tires/wheels/gear group, etc… based on the competition he is about to enter. Yikes!

  13. Dude! Buy the tire before you have to call your wife at some inopportune moment and beg for an extraction!

    For what it’s worth, I’ve always been disappointed in my results of trying to stretch the life of a tire to the very end. My new motto is “When in doubt, swap it out!

  14. I can testify that roadside repairs in the winter are no fun. You may also want to consider that a tire blowing out catastrophically may cause you to lose control of your bike at an inopportune moment…

    • I defer to your expert assessment on all winter-related issues. However, it is probably worth noting that what I refer to as “winter” you would recognize as “spring.” Nuance aside, I think your point still holds!

  15. I would be worried that if my wife knew I was riding on that tire instead of buying a new one, that she would take extra long to come get me (or not at all) as punishment.

    Maybe craigslist has a cheapo tire you can wail on during the winter months and toss in the back of the garage as a “just in case” spare after this season?

    • Fortunately for me, my wife is not fully aware of the situation. I would simply say, “I have a flat. Please come pick me up,” and leave out any reference to a seriously worn tire!

      • Good thing she doesn’t read the blog! She does know that you write one, doesn’t she? 🙂

    • So you would have me follow my own military’s example and throw money at the problem? I would have thought you would have argued for a more British method and offered up a frugal solution that lets me make do with my existing kit! 🙂

  16. Not really, as our defence budget was a fraction of yours we ended up buying shed loads of kit for the field so we could live comfortably! Bless the MOD & the procurement bean counters!

  17. I think you’ve been told Steve mate…but in case you have forgotten, check out my entry from the late fall when I insisted on riding with the bulge in my tyre and eventually it exploded on me some 20 km from home. Luckily I was riding with a group that day and someone drove back to get me!

    • I have one tire explode on me when I accidentally overinflated it. It sounded like a rifle shot and caused all the people working in their yards to peek over the fences to investigate. Very embarrassing.

  18. What a popular post this is. Tyres must be important to us cyclists. Riding on pure kevlar isn’t a good idea Steve. I agree with what you say about punctures driving people away from cycling. When I first started I was plagued by flats on my commute, and I became the butt of quite a few jokes at work, after having to be rescued so many times. But I’m very dimwitted and just kept pedalling, eventually learning, the hard way, the need to have good tyres and at the right pressure. I’d confer also with one of the earlier commentators, that 3,000 back and 5,000 miles front is about right for good tyres.

    • Yes, it would seem that tires/tyres are something that most cyclists have spent time pondering. Flat tires was the subject I learned the most on earliest in my return to cycling in 2010. By extension, a working knowledge of tires was also necessary.

  19. Haven’t noticed that Gatorskins or Schwalbe are difficult to put on. I put mine on by hand, rather than with tools. Besides, you’ll only put them on once, and take them off once.

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