Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: NJ, NYC, LI
Bikes: 1940s Fothergill, 1959 Allegro Special, 1963? Claud Butler Olympic Sprint, Lambert 'Clubman', 1974 Fuji "the Ace", 1976 Holdsworth 650b conversion rando bike, 1983 Trek 720 tourer, 1984 Counterpoint Opus II, 1993 Basso Gap, 2010 Downtube 8h, and...
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Yes, as long as the diameter is 597 mm the tires should fit. But finding 26 x 1 1/4 tires, especially good ones, is not easy; and if as you say they have to come from Europe, they're not going to be cheap.
If you're worried about it as a gamble, concerned that they might not fit, I wouldn't lose much sleep over that. There are enough people looking for good tires in that size that if you're not happy with them you can probably unload them through this forum (offer them for trade) or resell through ebay at little or no loss, perhaps even a profit.
Switching to 590's is not a bad option, especially if you can build your own wheels (Sun CR18's are nice lightweight rims) or get a pair off a used bike, either English or Japanese. As you say, there are a lot more tire options in that size.