Any item used and enjoyed suffers from wear over time. This week, my trusted two-wheeled steed cried out that it might be prudent to take a look at the rear tire. So look I did. The tire was worn in such a manner that instead of a nice rounded surface, it had worn flat and squared off.
A new bicycle tire is designed to do several things. It will cushion the rider over bumps and cracks in the road surface. When making turns, the tire grabs the surface and keeps us tracking true through the corners. Tires are designed for off-road use as well, for mud and water, sand, gravel and (pardon the four-letter word) snow.
Since I buy tires that match my performance requirements, a cursory look at my rear tire told me that there was only one performance requirement that tire was still meeting: It held air. But for how much longer was questionable.
Every rider has his own manner of riding, encompassing the bike, the terrain, weight, comfort and style. Remember, it doesn’t really matter how well you ride, as long as you look good doing it.
In this case, the tire in question was on my road bike. The tire size was 700/23 millimeters. After the size, choices become personal preference. Example: There was a time when I believed in buying tires that had very high puncture resistance. They still got flats now and then, but less frequently.
A decade later, I no longer buy these tires because they are very difficult to take off and put back on when a flat does occur. When I’m out somewhere and suffer a flat, I want to be able to change the tire in minutes instead of fighting to get it off and on. My favorite tire now is very pliable. I can get it off and on the wheel with my bare hands — no tools required.
Contrary to popular belief, tires are not constructed of rubber. They’re made of nylon covered in rubber. That inner nylon casing has a thread count — threads per inch, or TPI — that has a large impact on the tire’s performance and durability. A low thread count tire (below 80TPI) utilizes larger threads and more rubber. This makes the tire heavier and a little more sluggish to ride, but it also means better puncture protection and a longer life.
A high thread-count tire (more than 100 TPI) has finer threads and less rubber. This makes the tire lighter and more flexible, gripping the road and performing better. Because the threads are a bit more delicate, the tire will wear out sooner. The tires I prefer are 120 TPI, so they perform well but are dead within 6,000 miles.
Tire pressure, measured in PSI (pounds per square inch), is another component to think about when buying tires. My off-road bike tires hold between 25 and 45 PSI, adjusted depending on the terrain I’m riding. My city bike holds about 65 to 85 PSI, and my road bike performs best for me at about 115 PSI.
Tires are designed for a range of pressures. Put too much air in and they can blow off the wheel rim. Too little, and flats and damaged rims will occur. So read the tire guidelines embossed on the tires and stick with them to prevent a very unnerving and potentially expensive experience.
Finally, tires come in different colors — solids, stripes and even whitewalls. I have a red bike, so my preference is a red striped tire, which for some reason seems to be currently in short supply. Unfortunately, they needed to be ordered since apparently non of our local bicycle shops carry them.
More information on tires (yes, there’s more) can be found at MissionBicycle.com . Now go out and look at your bicycle tires. If they look good, then answer the question ...
Did you ride your bike today?