I’ve now had my main bike for about 9 years. Although there have been quite long spells when I’ve gone without cycling, we have clocked up quite a few miles by now so perhaps it’s unsurprising that the tyres were beginning to show serious signs of wear earlier this year, to the point that they needed replacing.
Last year, a friend of mine who is a keen biker (and bike mechanic) was clearing out his shed in preparation for moving away from the area and he gave me a couple of pairs of spare mountain bike tyres. Both are classic off-road tyres – i.e. wide with deep treads (the sort of thing another friend refers to as “tractor tyres”). They are great for riding on muddy off-road trails but not ideal for riding on the road. They have quite a lot of rolling resistance (due to the large surface area in contact with the road) and tend to throw up quite a lot of spray in wet weather. Apparently they are also less good for the road surface than tyres with less aggressive treads (I think it’s that rather than the width which makes the difference), although I’m sure that a single bike doesn’t make that much difference to the road in any case (and a few of our local roads are well overdue for resurfacing anyway).
Although these tyres are not ideal for the type of riding I mostly do (i.e. on-road), it seemed a shame not to use them when I needed to replace my tyres. The original ones were probably about 2 inches wide with moderate treads and I certainly noticed the difference going up to 2.3″ tyres with heavy treads, mostly in terms of the added resistance (I didn’t particularly find these tyres to throw up more spray than the old ones).
The other day I decided to treat myself to a new set of tyres, and this time I’ve gone for Schwalbe Marathon, a brand and model that apparently have a very good reputation (as well as a really cool reflective stripe on the sidewall and some heavy-duty protective enhancements to reduce punctures and stuff). The new tyres are 1.5″ wide, which is significantly narrower than my original tyres, to say nothing of the replacement pair, and they have a much less knobbly tread pattern (more like typical car tyres than tractor ones).
I fitted the new tyres on Saturday and it’s been quite windy ever since, which makes it difficult to draw a fair comparison, but the new tyres do certainly seem to make a difference. I’ve been able to select higher gears for the same amount of pedalling effort, which translates to moving faster and indicates that less energy is being wasted. On the downside, the narrower tyres (which are also run at somewhat higher pressure – about 90 psi instead of 60) are less effective as shock absorbers, so all the bumps in the road are much more noticeable. As I mentioned before, some of the local roads are definitely in need of resurfacing!
I’m planning to keep the other tyres as they could come in handy if I want to do more serious off-road riding (for which the new ones would be less well suited) or to act as a temporary spare, should the need arise.