Tandem Cycling - Tires for touring with a tandem
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08-21-12, 08:26 PM
My wife and I did our first mini tour on the tandem last week and had a spectacular time. We did the Petit Train du Nord through the Laurentians in Quebec. The path is 1/2 paved and 1/2 packed stone dust. Knowing that we'd be on hard pack I decided to use a pair of Cyclocross tires. The results were mixed. They worked well on the unpaved part, in that they gave good grip, especially on a section where there was new stone dust put down. However, on the pavement they felt a bit like mountain bike tires on asphalt. They were rated at 80lbs. max. The issue that concerned me most was that we were putting what may have been too much weight on the tires. At 80lbs., the front tire was mashing down pretty significantly. I imagine the rear tire was worse. I never felt us bottoming out, but I was very careful around bumps. I increased the pressure to 90lbs. which helped a bit, but didn't want to go higher than that. As a result, after 125 miles, about 70% of the tread was worn off the center of the rear tire, about 50% from the front. We're a big pair, so us, plus bike, plus bags was about 475lbs. of total weight. We're thinking about a longer tour in Nova Scotia next year. Any suggestions on what tires to look for that are suited to touring and can take high pressure?
08-21-12, 10:26 PM
Tandem tires are always problematic, since almost all tires are built for singles. My rule is to try not to inflate to greater than the max pressure on the sidewall. Max inflation pressures of bike tires do vary quite a bit.
Here's a little table of how much tire pressure in various widths of tires it takes to support the same load. It is possible to find tires with these approximate max inflation pressures.
There's also the maximum pressure a rim can take, which varies with tire width.
Perhaps not coincidentally, here's Mavic's chart of maximum tire pressures for each tire width:
From their chart:
23c = 138 lbs.
25c = 131
28c = 117
32c = 103
IME cyclocross tires really do suck on pavement.
08-21-12, 10:36 PM
I ride gravel surfaces with my Gran Bois Hetre tires without any problem whatsoever. They have a smooth tire surface. I realize you're probably not running 650B, but the point is that a gravel surface does not necessarily mean tread is needed. I have also ridden Panaracer Pasela tires on the same gravel surface without incident.
08-22-12, 06:57 AM
Our touring weight is not as extreme as yours, about 400 lbs on the tires, but we had the same dilemma. We used Schwalbe Marathons on our first tour. About 350 miles on crushed limestone and dirt/mud. They are heavy and ride like truck tires, but that is really only noticeable unloaded. The slight tread on them was helpful on this tour because of the soft surfaces. They have very heavy sidewall which gives some safety margin for damage by debris. We did have one flat due to a limestone chip that worked its way through the center of the tread into the tube. Our second tour, about 500 miles on pavement, we used Schwalbe Supremes. Much lighter, not treaded, and they roll very nicely unloaded. No flats and I didn’t see any significant wear afterward. The only downside is they are very expensive, but I still give them two thumbs up.
For heavy touring use the widest tire that will fit your bike. The maximum for us was 35mm tires. Be aware not all tires are sized exactly the same. To that point, the Marathon had little nubs sticking out from the molding process. They rubbed our chainstay enough to cut grooves through the paint into the steel. That was not a problem for the Supremes. Our inflation pressure for both tires was between 90 – 100 psi, slightly over the manufacturer’s recommended maximum. For your weight you may need to be on >40 mm tires to keep pressures reasonably close to recommended and not have excessive wear. If you are limited to narrower widths, then I would try a tire with a heavy sidewall, something like the Marathon and see if that helps.
08-22-12, 07:21 AM
I've toured with both Vittoria Randonneur Plus 35mm tires and Soma 32mm tires. Both have minimal tread patterns (water channels). Both were fine on the GAP/C&O combination in wet conditions and roll reasonably well on pavement. As noted above, don't worry about tread. Will you slide into a rut on occasion? Yes, but you're not going down as a result. Both tires can take 100psi without a problem if that's what you want.
08-22-12, 07:54 AM
Assuming you are using 700c tires, my preference is to use the widest slick tires that will fit (fenders,..) if you primarily tour on pavement. Pressure wise, I pump ours up to rated pressure. Schwalbe makes some fairly big (almost) slicks. The question is whether you can fit the wider tires into your bike. Treads are only useful if you expect to encounter loose dirt, mud or sand.
If you are riding on dirt roads with rocks sticking up (rather than just pebbles or gravel), then you may need to increase air pressure above beyond the rated pressure and go for the absolute widest tire you can. If you get snakebite punctures, then you know your tires are too narrow.
We are currently using Schwalbe Kojak (26x2) which is available as 700x35 rated at 100Kg per tire. That is a bit light for your touring weight. We use it for road riding with sections of hardpack dirt thrown in there.
We've used 32mm Gatorskins @100 psi when CC touring on rail trails with no problems. IMO treads aren't needed unless you're doing extreme stuff like mud or mountain biking in steep terrain. The Petit Train du Nord is on our "someday" list and I'd run our Gatorskins on it without a second thought.
08-22-12, 11:29 AM
ProfBob, you didn't say what size your tires were. There's good info in the answers here, but it's all relative to where you started, even from the rest of us wishing to learn something.
FWIW: My wide and I did our first one-night tour a month or so ago running on 32mm Pasela TGs. Only 90 miles total, total weight about 365lbs. Absolutely no problem.
08-23-12, 12:29 PM
Jimmuller, I was running 700X32 Bontrager Cyclocross tires. They're rated at 80lb. max and I ran them up to 90. To be honest, there was no real problem, aside from treadwear and the fear of bottoming out. I usually use Conti Ultra 2000 700x28 at home at 120lbs. (One of the catalogues had a blowout sale when they were discontinued and I bought a dozen.) Never a problem. I run them until I wear all the way thru the outer tread and i can count the number of flats I've had in the past 10 years on one hand.
DCwom, I hadn't thought about Gatorskins. I run them on my single road bike and love them. They might be the answer that I'm looking for! i just checked Conti's website and they are rated at 102lbs. max. And I might add that we had a wonderful time on Petit Train du Nord. We took the bus to Mont Laurier then rode back down to St. Jerome in 4 days. I pre booked b+b's (very necessary in August) and the bus reservation (also necessary). The northern section is quite remote but there's always something to see. As you move more southward, the views become more expansive, more lakes, rivers, and mountains. There are rest stops with rain shelters, tables, and water about every 10 miles or so. I must say that they really did this trail right. Go and enjoy!
08-23-12, 12:40 PM
Jimmuller, I was running 700X32 Bontrager Cyclocross tires. They're rated at 80lb. max and I ran them up to 90. To be honest, there was no real problem, aside from treadwear and the fear of bottoming out. I usually use Conti Ultra 2000 700x28 at home at 120lbs. (One of the catalogues had a blowout sale when they were discontinued and I bought a dozen.)...
Hmm. We've run 1800 miles on our 32mm Paselas, not nearly so loaded though and almost all on medium quality roads, and we've never seen that kind of wear.
I would suggest that using the term "blowout" w.r.t. tires, even when referring to a sale, is not a good idea! :D
08-23-12, 05:10 PM
I think the wear comes from the section of trail that was on asphalt. Small knobs from the CC tires that aren't used to being on hard top.
09-02-12, 08:22 PM
We used Schwalbe Marathon XR for a good fraction of our (nearly) coast to coast (self-contained) tour. Did have trouble with a couple of them having sidewall failures - warrantee case. But that is now discontinued. At one point we had to use whatever we could find - something from Bontrager - and they actually worked OK. They guy at Schwalbe recommended either the Marathon Supreme or Marathon Plus - one being more durable, and the other being available in Kevlar bead - our preference.
But we have 26" wheels, so our choices are different from yours.
09-02-12, 10:07 PM
As we've begun venturing off the pavement and onto gravel roads we've just switched from Panracer Ribmo's to the new Schwalbe Marathon Dureme Tandem tires. On both surfaces we are very pleased (especially on gravel and areas of loose surfaced repairs in the pavement). They're relatively heavy but they seem to roll just beautifully on smooth pavement; the ride is a tad harder (at full recommended inflation) than the Ribmo's but far from unpleasant. On loose surfaces the ride is fine and we feel confident for the first time. With extra-strength sidewalls they should be ideal for touring with a heavy load. With them on the tandem we feel ready for anything. We've only got a couple of hundred miles on them so far, and they are very expensive; if they last they'll be worth it.
We too have 26" wheels (and a 2" tire). They come in a folding 700x40c as well.
~ David and Cathryn
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