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Tandem bicycle tires, winter tires, cross tires. There's always more to learn!

"The right bicycle tires are cheap insurance."

We'll explore the different types of bicycle tires and uses. The entire gamut of tires will be covered here and on other pages linked to this page. Please choose from the list below to get information on the type of tires you are interested in. Links will work as site it built up.
  • Tandem tires
  • Road Bike Tires - Clincher
  • Road Bike Tires - Tubular (Sew Ups)
  • Mountain Bike Tires (Tubed and Tubeless)
  • Winter Tires (studded)
  • Trainer Tires - yes, trainer specific

Tandem Bicycle Tires

Why would tandem bicycle tires be different than regular bike tires?

  • More weight bearing
  • Must dissipate more heat from rim brakes
  • Must be more cut resistant because you don't want to strand your wife :)

What width?

Think back to when you were a kid. The bikes that you rode didn't have any choice over light or heavy tires. They were just tires. As you moved into a more "task specific" bike the tires changed. Some were drawn to the road tire, skinny, harsh (unless you knew about tubulars) and smooth. If you moved into the cruiser bike, wide, soft and fairly smooth, maybe some inverted tread. Mountain bikes weren't around when we were really young (depends on the reader I guess though). Now, efficiency and weight are being seen as something that can be achieved with not only lighter bike frames but reduction in rotating mass (thus the 26" wheels on my Davinci). Your needs and uses really should dictate the tire.

Mark Johnson from Precision tandems distilled this thoughts on bicycle tires down pretty good by stating in this article (text seen below):

"Most of us want to go fast and do so efficiently making it natural to contemplate narrow, light and expensive bicycle tires. Selecting the proper tire width for the weight and task is probably the most misunderstood element in the determination process."

There are certain questions you will need to ask when you want to choose the correct bicycle tire for your single bike, tandem or even quadracycle. Color shouldn't usually be your first choice (white tires on the Barbie™bike, remember them?)

You first must decide what kind of tandem team you are. Are you the type that is going to hammer every mile of every ride or are you going to tour long distances at an easy pace? There is a trade off between super light weight tires that will roll fast versus very durable tires that will have a higher rolling resistance. Generally, both are not available at once.

Next you will want to consider just how much weight will you be putting on those bicycle tires. This is something you don't really consider on a single bike (unless you are going to be touring or are super fat, but then you have more than just the tires to worry about. There are weight limits on wheels too).

If you are of the first persuasion, the type that wants to race to every stop, corner to the extreme and count every gram (have a gram scale at home to weigh parts? I do.) you'll want to look for a lower profile tire. 25 or 28 mm works well (700c is the most common size unless you have a Davinci who uses a 26" tire on most of their bikes). If you are on a tandem, you'll also want to make sure your stoker (or captain) are into that as well or it will be a long talk at the next stop)

A folding tire will be the most likely choice for you as you probably won't be carrying a rack trunk or bags, so something with a Kevlar bead will work well for you.

We have Continental tires on our tandem. They are readily available at our local shop and theybicycle tires came our our Joint Venture so we are sticking with what we have had good luck with. The Ultra Sport and the Ultra Gator Skin are both good lightweight bicycle tires. We have the Sport Contact on right now but when they wear out (go through about a set per season) we will put the Ultra Gator Skin on so we can have the piece of mind that the super tough Gator Skin series gives you and a lighter weight, folding tire.

If you are of the second persuasion and like to bomb the less than perfect roads we have in the Northern half of the United States and hit the railroad tracks really hard, you'll want a tougher tire with a higher sidewall. Think 28mm or 32mm sidewall. Stick with the Continental Gator Skin. The tough sidewall will take the beating and won't let you down if you don't quite see all of the stuff in the road a slower team might see.

Take into consideration the local road conditions. Do you ride mostly on the beautiful roads where there is no frost cycle and they last forever? Are your roads more like a lunar landscape? Do you hammer across the railroad tracks at full speed or do you pick your way across? Either way, hopefully you let your stoker know what is going on. See the captain and stoker pages for more information on proper communication.

If the conditions are less than ideal, you might want to consider the Continental Gator Skin (not the Ultra). These bicycle tires are very well known in the Southwestern US because of all of the bicycle tire, goatheadgoat heads (think really nasty prickly ball). I was turned onto these in 2002 when I was riding in Death Valley. (photo used with permission of Klickitat-trail.org)

Another choice would be the Vittoria Randonneur Pro. If I were riding in the Southwest a lot, these would go on the tandem in a 26x1.5.

The only downside I have found with Continental Tires, every one of them I have ridden is they tend to wear more "square" than other brands. Haven't figured this out yet.

Rim width is a consideration when choosing your bicycle tire as well. If you have a wide rim and put a narrow tire on it you will "flatten out" the tire and the sidewall will be closer to the ground. This will increase your chances of a sidewall cut or a pinch flat.

If you are a laid back, take it easy, let's have a low and slow ride(not that you aren't getting that with the long wheelbase of the tandem) you'll want to go with a wide tire 30+mm. You're going to be in the higher weight realm but your ride will be smoother. And that just makes sense. Bigger tire, more weight. Keep in mind that as you get a higher sidewall, you'll get more "squirm" potential as you corner. The more sidewall there is, the more sidewall there is to move on you as you corner. Correct tire pressure will be very important here to prevent the "squirm" from happening. When you are coming into a corner and you get squirm, you learn about a frog's butt being watertight.

Now you have budgetary considerations as well. Figure if you really ride your tandem you'll put a set a year on the bike (not counting cuts etc). Schwalbee makes some nice bicycle tires. They aren't the cheapest tires in the world but they work well from what we hear. You can get some pretty wide versions of this tire though we don't have any problems with our 28mm x 26" tires on gravel rides as long as it isn't fresh gravel or for 100 miles. Another consideration would be going with tubeless tires. Stan's No Tubes makes a kit for 26" tires that I have used with good success on my mountain bike for years.

Tire Pressure Calculation

A quote that comes to mind is something Andy Hampsten told me once when we were going to leave on a ride in Tuscany. He said, "Most people put too much pressure in their tires. They think they need a rock hard tire but they really need is the right pressure. Most riders on road bikes need only about 90psi in their front tire but you see guys pumping them up to 120 all the time". He also said that many people pump up their tires every day but don't bother to really check the pressure. "Unless you are riding tubulars, you don't need to pump your tires every day"

The correct tire pressure can make or break a tire, literally. If you want to be very scientific about it click here for a chart about bicycle tire pressure from Precision Tandems.

Here is a calculation example to show how to calculate bicycle tire pressure needs from a post on Tandem and Hobbes by Mike Breaux on April 1st, 2004. (intro reformatted and edited by me for clarity)

Front weight = [(captain weight x (rear compartment + chainstay)) + (stoker weight x chainstay)] / wheelbase or more simply total weight - rear weight.

Condition one Captain 150 pounds& Stoker 150 pounds.

Rear Weight = [(150 x 24) + (150 x (24+27))] / 69 = 163#'s

Front Weight = [(150 x (27+18)) + (150 x 18)] / 69 = 137#'s

So on an evenly weigh[t]ed team, the rear wheel holds more weight [thus needs] more pressure.

Condition two Captain 170#'s & Stoker 120#'s

follow this link for the rest of the post on tire pressure calculation methods. If you don't want to get that scientific, just remember that the tire pressure on the sidewall (on most tires) is the maximum recommended pressure. Some tires will put a range of pressure that you can use. Unless you are carrying a great deal of weight, you don't need to be at the top end of this range.

As you can see, the tire pressure requirements are quite different for a bike depending on what the weight of the rider is.

Road Tires

There are two basic types of road tire construction, tubular and clincher.  You will find never ending debates on bicycle forums about which type of tire is "better".  Personally, I like tubulars for the supple ride and durability, but that is me.  I'll present the facts about their construction and give you views on how they ride, what they cost and some brands that have worked well for me.

 

Trainer Tires

Bicycle tires just for your trainer? Yes sir, tires just for your trainer . Why would you not just use your tires just for your trainer or regular bike tire that is on the bike now? Well that's a good questions, here's why.

If you are riding clincher tires on your trainer (let's assume you won't be using a mountain bike at all, just a road bike), the tire is not going to perform very well.

Riding on a trainer exposes a tire to extreme heat and wear. It was not uncommon for me to go through two tires in just a short winter training session (when using my clinchers). The tire basically dissolves while I ride. The resulting just plays hell on the carpet in my gym or theater directly underneath my bicycle tire. I can't get it out without using some extreme vacuuming.

I thought maybe I could ride my tubulars on the trainer and just use the one I had on at the end of the season. Let me tell you, this is a bad idea. The heat and stress the trainer (either my computrainer or eMotion rollers). The tread delaminated from the casing in just a period of a couple weeks (that means two weeks, really!!)

After seeing the ad for this tire in VeloNews, I figured I should give it a serious look. This tire is designed for indoor use only. It has a very grippy compound that dissipates heat well and is made just for a trainer. It really works!

The yellow compound will not dissolve on your carpet and leave a black dust or other nasty resiude. It is quite nice.

You can purchase all the tires I have listed on this page at our online store. Since it's powered by Amazon, you know you'll be getting the best deal possible.


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