June 21, 2024

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Your bike tires are too thin. Riding on thick, flexible tires is best

Your bike tires are too thin.  Riding on thick, flexible tires is best

few months Way back when, my friend and fellow bike lover Eric prepared to ride 100 miles for the first time. Concerned about how much pain he would feel next, he wondered what he could do to make his trip better.

As a convert to the Church of Fat Tires, I was excited to share an idea I’ve learned from other cyclists: Fit the fattest soft-sided tires that fit your bike, then inflate them to a pressure that will seem surprisingly low..

I’ve been a volunteer bike mechanic in Seattle for nearly 10 years and have gently adjusted my midrange 1988 Peugeot To something modern and capable. However, nothing prepared me for the impact of fat tires with flexible sidewalls (aka “flex”) and inflating them to a much lower pressure than I was accustomed to. I remember being amazed as I rode up a big hill, listening to the different sounds my tires were making, and experiencing the sure, solid feeling the bike suddenly had. I felt more comfortable, more relaxed, less turbulent, and probably faster. In terms of cars, it was like going from an old, well-kept Camry to a modern sport utility truck. It was exhilarating.

“Tires are probably the most important component of your bike and the only part that touches the ground,” says Ross Rocca, who has 175,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel. Path less pedal, which focuses on having fun at speed and typically highlights bikes that can ride on gravel and pavement. “A wider frame means more volume and compact suspension. It makes the bike feel more stable.”

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Wider tires are more fun, Rocca says. “You’re not getting beaten to death. You’re not bouncing off every rock and pothole. It’s the most obvious upgrade you can make to your bike.”

This made sense, and I learned that not exposing my wrists to trauma helped prevent them from getting sore on long rides.

And yet, somehow, fat tires still seem like a bit of a secret. We cyclists put pads in our shorts and buy heavy-duty suspension systems for off-road bikes, but we’re somewhat reluctant to try the part of the bike that actually touches the road to help with a better ride. The major global bike brands are still unsure about embracing this trend, and may be trying to make sure you buy a slimmer road bike and a gravel bike rather than one “all-road” bike that can do both.

“Cycling has a lot of traditions, and sometimes we do things because they’ve always been done that way,” Rocca says. “The industry says Lighter equals goodwhich is easy to explain and sell, but selling on the ride and flexible tires is amorphous.

Additionally, wide tires are relatively new to the market. Models with soft sidewalls made of high thread count fabric and a layer of rubber thick enough to protect the fabric but thin enough to allow the tire sufficient flexibility have only become widely available in the past decade. Add to that the pandemic, and an industry that’s long been stocked, and you can understand why adoption hasn’t become more widespread.

Hidden in buyers’ reluctance is the belief that a wider, softer tire is slower than a thin, high-pressure tire, and that a fatter tire weighs more and has more rolling resistance. But this is not always the case.

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Last year, I took the time for my birthday and bought myself a fancy new car All-road bike From Rivendell Bicycle Works. Accommodates 40mm wide Nordic tires. (I currently use 38s.) The frame is steel, and the bike isn’t particularly light, but I like how it feels and how it encourages me to ride as much as possible — and fast. A lot of that has to do with tires.

At the end of the summer when I was riding a lot, I ended up at a stop light next to a rider in spandex on a skinny-frame bike. When the light turned green he fired, and I thought: what the hell.