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10 Aug 2011

Thoughts on tires, part 1

It's always a hot topic on every 'bent forum. At what rim, which tire rolls the best at what pressure. Everything focused on one thing: rolling resistance. I like reading these tests, but hardly use the outcome. Finding the tire which is best for your personal circumstances involves so much more than the lowest rolling resistance on one type of road surface.

I can come up with quite a list of relevant factors
  1. weight
  2. suppleness
  3. grip when dry
  4. grip when wet
  5. grip on sand
  6. sideways stiffness, for proper cornering
  7. width, it should fit, often with fenders or wheel wells
  8. height, same reasons as width
  9. comfort
  10. pressure range
  11. maximum load
  12. price
  13. durability (can be relative to price)
  14. puncture resistance
  15. reflective side walls or not?
  16. how easy is it to change the tire? (with cold hands)
  17. noise
  18. availability
  19. rolling resistance (varies with weight of rider)
  20. air resistance (less important for a velomobile)
I can't possibly explain everything and mention tires with everyone of these 20 factors. What I can do is sum up my own experiences with tires I've ridden with. Hopefully this will help people understand how complex this subject can be.

Vredestein Monte Carlo
These where on my FAW when I bought it. Hard to change, little grip, not comfortable, didn't roll well, heavy for it's size. Availability was good back then. Garden hose with innertube.
rated: not good

Tioga Compool
Replacement of the MC. Very comfortable, fast, and easy to change. No puncture resistance, that improved with tire liners. Durability was good enough for a 62kg rider. Relatively cheap, bought via friends and webshops. Some had carcass problems and didn't last long. A classic, modern stuff better.
Rated: I liked them

Schwalbe Big Apple
Heavy but reliable. Cheap and last very long. Grippy enough, also works on sand. Turns bricks into asphalt at lower pressure, though needs at least 4 bar to roll good. Liked it on the back of the FAW and under the Pioneer. Easy to change too.
Rated: liked and recommended.

Schwalbe Stelvio
A long time friend of mine. Was the choice for all my fast Nazca's. It's now called the Durano S, but not yet available in 406. With that name it carries my Thivasca. It corners so nicely at 8 bar, with it's grip and sideways stiffness. Reliable enough for fair weather riding. Could last up to 4500km. Easy to change. Comfortable enough under a good steel bike. Rolls good and being only 28mm width, doesn't come with an aero penalty.
rated: I like

Schwalbe Marathon
Had it on the front of the Mango for over 6000km. Not fast, not supple. Easy on and of, puncture proof and grippy. Last long, corners well. Probably the most alround/middle of the road/average tire. If you don't know what to buy, get these. Won't disappoint you. Good for up-right town bikes too.
Rated: I recommend

Avocet Fasgrip
Wide and fast fast, just like the Compool, but last longer. Hard to get when it was still made. Has no grip at all on even a slightly moist road. Possibly dangerous with catastrophic under/oversteer. Really fast on a track though. I survived 7000km with them on the front wheels of the Mango. Puncture fairy magnet when it's wet.
Rated: if you dare

Schwalbe Marathon Racer
Faster more supple cousin of the Marathon. Rides much nicer, rolls way better. Last long enough on a 2-wheeler. Too expensive if you're a corner happy velonaut. Puncture proof enough before, let's say 2/3 of their life span. My mom commuted 6500km on them, with 1 puncture. Easy on and off, but often needs 'easy fit'.
rated: recommended fast tourer

Schwalbe Kojak, 35mm
I first had these for my red Fuego. More supple and faster than the Racers. Lower pressure meant cornering was not as good as the Stelvio's. They have enough grip, as long as you stay far away from sand and alike. Last pretty long too and are easy to change. Puncture resistant enough. Great fast and comfortable tourer, but has no sidewall reflection. I wouldn't put a high load on these. In a roll-out test I did on rough asphalt, they where quicker than Duranos. They also last longer, and give a more pleasant ride. My 1st pair of 35mm Kojaks now is on my Classic Cruiser. I had them on the front of the Mango for almost 5000km.
rated: recommended and liked (more people should use these instead of Marathons)

Vredestein Perfect Moiree, 47mm
Supposed to be fast on 6 bar. 1.5 bar over their recommended and comfortable pressure of 4.5. I tried them on my Mango, and really didn't like them. Felt slow, sluggish, noisy and cornered vague. Was nice as a rear tire though. At 4.5 bar, they are comfortable, as long as you're not in a hurry. Last long, affordable. Good for heavy trikes, or on the rear of a VM. Makes funny noise, that could become annoying, especially in the wet.
rated: the Schwalbe Tryker probably is better.

Panaracer Minits Lite
Recommended to me by Fards, used now on the front of 'mi bella Fuego'. Very supple, comfortable at 7 bar. Stelvio corners better. Expensive, but easy to buy via Chainreactioncycles and Gingko. Nicest tire for the front of the Fuego. Rolls nicely. Extremely light, easy on and of. Highly recommended for fast bikes. Great on brick roads, feels like 40mm, so comfortable. No more than 300km experience.
rated: loved and recommended

Schwalbe Kojak, 50mm
A big fat slick! The tire for an urban cyclepath SUV like my Pioneer. Knows how to deal with German cycle paths. Doesn't care for potholes, saves your rims. Puncture resistant due it thick surface. Supple in it's sidewalls. Last long, corners good at 4.5 bar. Narrower than a Big Apple and a lot lighter. Cheap too, what not to like? That is has zero grip on sand. Grip enough on anything else. Side wall reflection is not there, so I use spoke reflectors, the little grey thingies. More people should use this tire. They don't need profile! You can't use in on snow either, but you can buy another tire for that. Aero penalty at higher speeds.
rated: liked and recommended

That was enough for one post. Remember, this is not science, it's my well based opinion. You can disagree with me, that's alright.


  1. Great review, thanks!

    Regards, Marc
    (Quest w/ Kojaks front & Marathon Supreme back, RaptoBike w/ Duranos front & back)

  2. You're absolutely right that tires are a matter of balancing choices. There is no one tire to make everyone happy.

    As to point 19: The rolling resistance not only varies with the weight of the rider, but also with the quality of the road - surface type and -quality. This might actually be more important than qualities of the tire itself.

    I'm quite sure that a raking on one type of surface can not be transferred to another. A tire that is great on smooth asphalt, might be bad at a rougher road, and vice versa.

    So where you ride makes all the difference. For me (velomobiel Quest with Kojak (35 and 50 mm)) a bad surface can cost me up to 10 km/hour on my cruising speed. And that is only different qualities if asphalt, I'm not even talking about cobblestones.

    (And I'll add the other bikes as well: Gaucho with Kojak 50-559 mm, Fuego with Durano 28-406 (front), Kojak 35-559 (rear), Folding bike with Marathon Racer (35-406 I believe), standard upright (35-622 continental and some other I don't remember. last change was eons ago).

  3. @Maarten,
    The road surface is a thing I could have mentioned better. You're absolutely right about it.
    The one proper roll test I once did was done on rough country road asphalt, for exactly that reason, it's an average quality road surface. (including bricks)

    This inspired me for a new blog post! Thanks.

  4. Thanks!
    Clear and proper.
    Referring to the Vredestein PM 47mm at 6 bar; I blew both new PM's on my Strada within two weeks running them on 6 bar (June/July 2011). My recommendation: do not run them above the recommended pressure.