Hey foldaholics...I'm back again with a new 20" tire review for you. This time, what I like to call, the most overlooked tire for 20" wheels: the IRC Metro.
First, some specs:
size: (406) 20x1.125
actual measured diameter: 19in
actual measured width: 33mm
The 2 things I immediately noticed about these tires out of the box were their weight and construction. These tires are light...about the same weight as the Primo Comet Kevlar 1.35. The tread is also very soft, and the sidewall very flexible. They almost feel flimsy. The tires went on the rims without help from a tire wrench. My first pre-ride impression of these tires is that they weren't going to survive these city streets without a puncture.
Having replaced the Kenda Kwest 20x1.50 tires on my Swift, the IRC Metros made my bike feel a half pound lighter (they are 148gm lighter per tire than the Kendas). The Metros with their soft, almost pliable tread, made them feel sticky to the ground. Out of the saddle, the Metros sprinted quickly, just like the Comet 1.35.
I was anxious to see how puncture-resistant these tires are. My neighborhood in SF has 2 active construciton sites within a block of my location, so it wasn't hard to find stuff that could potentially flat these tires. I picked-out a couple of patches of broken glass, followed by some small-to-medium gravel and broken concrete. Nothing. I checked the tread for any imbedded objects. Nothing. Hmmm. I rolled through the section again. Still nothing. I was expecting the soft tread and flimsy sidewall of the Metro to sustain SOME kind of damage. This is all obviously premature, with the real proof being in the long-term, which I will update you on as I rack-up the mileage.
For the ride test, I chose a 1/4mile section of brick cobblestone surrounding a set of rails thru the Fisherman's Wharf area. I rode half of the section at low speed and the other at a higher speed. Surely a narrow 100psi tire like this would deliver a bone-jarring ride. Surprisingly, only the opposite. They actually rode quite well over the bricks, and very well over the rails. I was impressed. Although not nearly as cushy as the wider, squishier 65psi Kenda Kwests, the Metros were actually quite comfortable over the rough stuff, moreso than expected of a narrow 100psi tire. Nice!
My first impression of these tires is fairly positive. I still have my doubts about their durablilty, for as I mentioned, the tires appear very flimsy compared to the other tires I've tested. I'm very pleased with their comfort, perfomance, and handling. I liken then to a lighter, narrower, softer-riding incarnation of the 100psi Kenda Kwest, for that is exactly how they ride. And at $17, these tires are a real bargain. Now if these tires pass the long-term durability test, they could possibly be the best overlooked 20" tire value on the market.