It is now time to unveil my tire purchase for the year. In 2010, I conducted my first foray into high-end tires and purchased the supposedly indestructible Armadillos for my hybrid. I made it 40 miles before I flatted. In 2011, I bought Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase for my Trek’s rear wheel and loved it. Sadly, the tire wore out and I needed to get some new ones.
This year’s winner is Continental Grand Prix 4 Seasons.
Since liked my first Hardcase so much, I considered buying some more. After absolutely none of you spoke up on their behalf and other online reviews referred to them as “lead weights,” I thought perhaps I could do better.
I considered Continental Gatorskins, but the Grand Prix is a comparable tire with a reportedly smoother ride made by the same company. I figured that if I was going to get a nice Continental tire, I might as well go all in. Reports of problems getting the Gatorskins seated properly on the rim were also mildly troubling.
Schwalbe Marathons were my runner-up. If the 4 Seasons fail me, I will probably turn to them. I have no good reason for not getting them, other than I saw the Continental factory in the Robert Penn movie, “Ride Of My Life,” and thought it was an interesting bit. So now I have a tire from the same place. Yippee.
At 220 grams apiece, the 4 Seasons are 50% lighter than the Hardcases. They get very strong reviews from almost everywhere, including commentators on this blog whose opinions I have grown to respect. They are light, grip well in all weather conditions, and reportedly last a long time. Continental is a well-respected company that has been making bicycle tires since 1892. It’s hard to argue with any of that, so I began my search for a store where I could buy them.
In theory, these tires can be bought in local bike shops. In practice, that wasn’t so easy. Visits to two stores and a phone call to a third had negative results. A phone call to a 4th store finally tracked down a pair at a cost of $79 per tire. When I asked the shopkeeper if he would match an online offer of $46/tire, he said only if it came from a “brick and mortar store.” The website was PhattTire.Com, so he could not match the offer.
And that is how the local bike shop lost my business, which is sad. I would like to support them, but not at a near 100% markup over what I can find online. My desire to help sustain the local bike industry only goes so far. At the reduced price, I could still only expect to travel on these tires at a rate of 65 miles per dollar spent. By way of comparison, I get about 265 miles per dollar on my automobile tires. I never did that calculation until this week and was surprised at the figures. If you ever thought bicycle tires are expensive, you’re right and now you have the facts to prove it.
The tires came in the mail yesterday. Those who are not as incredibly experienced as I am may be surprised to learn that nice tires often come in small boxes and are folded. Such was the case with the 4 Seasons. I posed the boxes for the picture you see on the right, then set about putting the tires on my wheels.
If these tires are easier to put on than Gatorskins, then I thank the cycling gods that I didn’t get Gatorskins. They don’t exactly form a lovely circle when removed from the box. The Hardcases easily accepted a slightly inflated inner tube and went over the wheel rims with only the slightest challenge. Not so with these tires. Keeping the inner tube inside the 4 Seasons tire was a largely aspirational notion and getting the tire over the rim was a titanic struggle which I eventually won after many tense moments and occasional muttering on my part. I was worried my frantic and increasingly blunt efforts to mount the tire would tear the inner tube. Fortunately that didn’t happen. After 75 minutes, both tires were on the rims.
If I have to do this on a ride, I’m just going to hide my bike in a bush and walk home.
So that’s that. The tires are on the bike and I’m ready to go. It was pouring rain so I eschewed a quick test pedal. I should be getting in a few rides in the coming days so stay tuned for my first impressions.