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  1. #1
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    What a difference tires make!

    Last November I bought an old hybrid that came with a set of aftermarket 38mm Specialized Nimbus Armadillo tires. I've ridden the bike with those tires until a couple of days ago when I noticed that the rubber on the back tire was split wide open, about 4" long, showing the casing underneath. My wife rarely rides her bike so I just swapped her wheels/tires over to my bike and wow, what a difference!!! Her bike is a Trek 7.1 FX with what I assume are relatively cheapo tires. However, the suppleness, light weight and handling characterstics, compared to my Armadillos, blew me away! The last two rides have been the most fun since I bought the bike.

    Before noticing the split in my tire, I had ordered a set of Vittoria Randonneur Hyper tires and they will be here tomorrow. I'm really excited to see how different these will feel. I'm hopeful that they will be even better than my wife's Bontragers (they are much lighter and probably higher TPI) but I'm also worried that the triple protection will result in dead-feeling tires like my Armadillos. If these tires are yet another improvement, I'll be ecstatic but I'm still considering a set of Gran Bois Cypress from Jan Heine's company. Those sound like really nice tires.

    Anyone care to share their experiences with light, supple, performance tires for hybrids? I'm a Clydesdale so I prefer to stay in the 32mm + range. I'm slowly retro-fitting the frame with mostly new components but I didn't realize how much difference tires make and now I'm really excited to pursue this area of performance.
    Currently riding a 2013 Handsome Devil custom build and an 80's Takara Highlander (MTB built in the style of an 82-84 Stumpjumper).

  2. #2
    Senior Member Lazarus Short's Avatar
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    The right combination of hubs/rims/spokes/tires will enable you to almost coast uphill. I still remember my finest moment in my personal cycling - coasting past a jogger on a gentle upgrade on one of the early outings on my custom wheels and w-i-d-e tires.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    I had those same tires in 35MM on my 2008 Globe when I got it.
    What SLUGS!
    The bike was more work to pedal than my 86 RockHopper which was equipped with a rack, baskets & fenders and (at the time) 26X1.5" tires .
    Globe now has 26MM tires and the 'Hopper has 26X1.25".
    Much more fun to ride.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    I had those same tires in 35MM on my 2008 Globe when I got it.
    What SLUGS!
    The bike was more work to pedal than my 86 RockHopper which was equipped with a rack, baskets & fenders and (at the time) 26X1.5" tires .
    Globe now has 26MM tires and the 'Hopper has 26X1.25".
    Much more fun to ride.
    That's encouraging because I'm also worried about how much effect the wheels have. My front wheel is the original 17 year-old wheel that came on the bike. I know most of the components on my 1995 bike are better than those on more recent bikes in the same price range so I'm guessing the old wheel is at least as good as that on a new 7.1 FX. My rear wheel is custom built and it's about 3 oz heavier than the stock rear wheel it replaced.

    The craziest thing is that right now I'm spinning out gears I hardly ever used until this week. My highest gear in the middle ring is 83.5 gear inches (34 x 11) and I can count the number of times I've used that gear on one hand. This week, the slightest downhill grade or tailwind and that gear is spun out. I may have to re-think my drivetrain rebuild and go with a larger crankset.

    Now, my biggest fear is that the Vittoria tires I will get later today will be more like the Armadillos.
    Currently riding a 2013 Handsome Devil custom build and an 80's Takara Highlander (MTB built in the style of an 82-84 Stumpjumper).

  5. #5
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    I used the Nimbus Armadillo on my commuter bike for a number of years. At the time I was distracted by other things, but I did notice that the bike wasn't so enjoyable to ride as I remembered. I bought a full suspension mountain bike, partly because of the Ritchey's rough ride, partly because of a demo ride on a friend's suspension fork mountain bike. My plan was to use the suspension bike for everything; with that in mind, I bought some Specialized Hemisphere tires and mounted then on the Turner. The combination worked well, but then the Turner started having problems (components, not the frame) that seemed to preclude using it for longer rides.

    I remounted the knobbies on the Turner, which left me with a set of Hemispheres. Pretty much on a whim I mounted them on the Ritchey commuter bike. Yowza! The bike was well behaved again. No longer were my hands shaken off the bars when riding on rough pavement. Hemispheres may not be ideal, but they work well enough for me.

    Flat protection is well and good, but not when the tires ride like rocks. I can put up with repairing the occasional flat for the sake of better traction and ride quality.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Try a set of Continental Top Contacts. Not cheap but well worth the price IMHO. I've got a set of 32's on my Coda Elite right now. I wore out the Vittoria 28's that came on the bike, then wore out a set of gatorskins 25's, then wore out another set of 28's, also gatorskins and decided to try the slightly larger Top Contacts. Comfortable ride, very comfortable indeed.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  7. #7
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    I am also thinking of replacing my stock Trek FX 7.2 tires 700x35 to 700x28 Continental Contact Sport .. hopefully it'll make riding more enjoyable!

  8. #8
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    OP, those new tires will very likely make a big difference even with the triple protection. I have ahd two different kinds of Specialized puncture protection tires and did not care for them. I have used Conti, Bontrager Hard Case lites and Halo flat protection tires with VERY satisfying results.

  9. #9
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    Armadillos are one of the most puncture resistant tires out there. Almost anything is going to ride better than them (except the Schwalbe Marathon Plus which are even tougher.) Touring tires are a good option since they generally offer good to great protection. I had good luck with Gator Hardshells which come in 700x32. IME, any tire with good puncture resistance is not going to be as supple as an unprotected tire. Some people also buy a supple tire and install a tire liner but I've never done it due to the possibility of the tire liner chaffing the tube and causing a flat.

  10. #10
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    I got the new Vittorias installed and went for a short test ride. There is a definite improvement over the Armadillos but they don't have the soft, cusioning effect the cheap Bontragers had. I'm guessing this is a result of the puncture protection. Also, the Vittorias are 32 mm while the Bontragers are 35. Don't know if that's enough to make a difference.
    Currently riding a 2013 Handsome Devil custom build and an 80's Takara Highlander (MTB built in the style of an 82-84 Stumpjumper).

  11. #11
    just pokin' along desertdork's Avatar
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    At some point when you're considering tires again, take a look at the Pasela TG or T-Serve PT. I've put many miles on TGs. Reasonably light, supple, and puncture resistant. At 32mm and 75f/80r PSI, I find they provide a smooth ride with low rolling resistance (me=160lbs). They have gumwalls, though, that are somewhat vulnerable to damage. I've never abraded or otherwise cut a sidewall in 15k+ miles on them, but I've had a few rear tires with a slight bulge in the sidewall when the tires were at the end of their life. The T-Serv is close to the same tire but has black sidewalls that are reportedly more resistant to abrasion and UV damage. At 200+ lbs, I'd opt for 35mm.

    Rivendell markets their Jack Brown tire which is made by Panaracer, too. Comes in a "green" version and a "blue" version,...and very much equates to the regular Pasela and Pasela TG, respectively. TG = "tourguard" = kevlar belting under tread. Comes in a bit silly "33.3333mm" size designation, but your final width will vary with rim width. Tread is checkered which some really like, vs the Paselas which have a shallow tread.

    Any of the above are considerably less money than the Grand Bois Cypres. I've considered the Cypres, but the prospect of less puncture resistance and less life combined with higher price than a tire with similar performance hasn't moved me yet.

    As for your new tires, watch your pressure. I like to inflate until a get near that optimal sidewall deflection (~15%?) when the tire is loaded down. For me, that always comes well under the PSI ratings listed. Besides less rolling resistance and increased comfort, another benefit I enjoy from not over-inflating my tires anymore is longer tire life. With a slightly wider and larger tire footprint on the road, more of the tread is sharing in the burden, and I don't wear the center down to the casing as quickly.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by corwin1968 View Post

    The craziest thing is that right now I'm spinning out gears I hardly ever used until this week. My highest gear in the middle ring is 83.5 gear inches (34 x 11) and I can count the number of times I've used that gear on one hand. This week, the slightest downhill grade or tailwind and that gear is spun out. I may have to re-think my drivetrain rebuild and go with a larger crankset.
    .
    It's easy to get fooled about how much you are spinning out.
    A few years back (when i first went to smaller (1.5") tires on my mountain bike, I thought I was spinning out and did a cassette change. Went from a 13T top cog to 12T.
    Simply stated, I couldn't use it.
    It turned out, I was basically "spinning out" by about 3 RPM!!!
    It sure seemed like a lot more at the time.
    Now, when I get the rare tailwind that puts me in the same situation, I just smile and enjoy being able to leave a little reserve "in the tank" for the return home.

    EDIT- I notice you said spinning out on the middle ring, which infers you have a larger one? Maybe it's time to use it.

  13. #13
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    +1 to desertdork above; I've been using Pasela TGs (folding) for years, both 26x1.5 and 700x32c. Excellent tires. I'd also +1 dd's suggestions re. tire pressure.

  14. #14
    His Brain is Gone! Tom Bombadil's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Terrierman View Post
    Try a set of Continental Top Contacts. Not cheap but well worth the price IMHO. I've got a set of 32's on my Coda Elite right now.
    That's what I'm running on my Fuji Absolute 1.0. I like them a lot. They are a popular touring tire - they roll well and have some flat resistance. They run a little small for their advertised size. My 32mm measures at 29mm on my rims. The 37mm tend to measure at 33-34mm. The lesser priced "Contact" is also a good tire.
    "Too often I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen." Louis L'Amour

    There are two types of road bikers: bikers who are faster than me, and me. Bruce Cameron - Denver Post

  15. #15
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    BTW, Hi Tom, good to see you're still posting here on BF.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  16. #16
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    Thanks for all the comments. You guys have given me some more tire options to research. I'm not above using my allowance to buy new tires just for the sake of experimentation.

    I went for my first real ride on the Vittorias and I'm quite happy. The tires don't have the cushion that my wife's Bontragers have but the overall handling is superb. Our subdivision has about 30 acres of greenbelt with sidewalks covering a good deal of it. The only wheeled access to the sidewalks is to ride thru the common areas or the gutters. The gutters end at the street in a curb so you have to enter the driveway closest to the gutter, ride down the sidewalk, turn into the gutter and then turn onto the greenbelt sidewalk. You have to repeat this process to get back on the street. With the exception of the initial turn into a driveway, each of these turns is a 90-degree turn with curbs on all side....pretty tight. On my Armadillo's I would slow down to a speed that barely allowed me to remain upright on the bike and then I would wobble thru the turn, white knuckles on the bars. With the Vittorias, I can make those turns at a much higher speed (still slow, but relatively speaking) and the turn is smooth and steady.

    Also, these tires are MUCH faster. On a good, windless day my average speed was generally in upper ranges of 9 mph. Today, in relatively high wind, my average was 12 mph and I hit 24 mph with a little help from the wind. On the Armadillos, 17 or 18 mph was tops.

    Finally, my bike just looks better with these tires.

    Currently riding a 2013 Handsome Devil custom build and an 80's Takara Highlander (MTB built in the style of an 82-84 Stumpjumper).

  17. #17
    Senior Member PatrickGSR94's Avatar
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    Ditto about the tires. I went from 2.1" knobbies to 1.5" smooth (inverted tread) tires a couple months back and couldn't be happier. Would love to try 1.3" or 1.25" tires, but on 26" rims I think the overall tire diameter would be a bit small. Really makes me wish I had 700c tires now.
    2011 Felt Z85 105 | Ultegra | KMC | Selle Italia | Vuelta
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  18. #18
    Senior Member Bill Kapaun's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickGSR94 View Post
    Ditto about the tires. I went from 2.1" knobbies to 1.5" smooth (inverted tread) tires a couple months back and couldn't be happier. Would love to try 1.3" or 1.25" tires, but on 26" rims I think the overall tire diameter would be a bit small. Really makes me wish I had 700c tires now.
    Unless you have some bizzare extra wide rims, 1.25" will fit fine.
    My MB rims are 21MM wide and the 1.25's I have on it don't look undersize at all.
    I think the tire is actually "designed" for std. MB rims.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by PatrickGSR94 View Post
    Ditto about the tires. I went from 2.1" knobbies to 1.5" smooth (inverted tread) tires a couple months back and couldn't be happier. Would love to try 1.3" or 1.25" tires, but on 26" rims I think the overall tire diameter would be a bit small. Really makes me wish I had 700c tires now.
    I've been reading a lot of back-posts at Jan Heine's blog and now I wish I had 650b wheels! His research has led him to state that a 650b wheel with a 38-42mm tire is a perfect blend of speed, comfort and handling but a 700c wheel with a 38-42mm tire is simply too big in diameter and the handling characteristics are lost. I've been devouring the Rivendell website and Grant Petersen's writings since November but now I'm more intrigued by Jan's stuff. He's a committed Randonneur and his research and writing is slanted toward that type of riding but it's all pretty transferable to a fitness cyclist like myself. Both guys emphasize comfort on the bike but Grant is all about utility and Jan is all about performance. Even though I'm a super-clydesdale, I want to squeeze every bit of performance possible out of my efforts.
    Currently riding a 2013 Handsome Devil custom build and an 80's Takara Highlander (MTB built in the style of an 82-84 Stumpjumper).

  20. #20
    Senior Member Terrierman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Kapaun View Post
    Unless you have some bizzare extra wide rims, 1.25" will fit fine.
    My MB rims are 21MM wide and the 1.25's I have on it don't look undersize at all.
    I think the tire is actually "designed" for std. MB rims.
    Agree. 1.25 x 26" tires were the second best upgrade I did to my comfort bike back when. First best was a solid seat post and decent saddle.
    It's all downhill from here. Except the parts that are uphill.

  21. #21
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    The Armadillos are famous for the rubber cracking and splitting. Mine lasted exactly one season. After storage after the winter they were cracked and had to be replaced.

    I use Vittoria Randonneur Pros, 700 x 32. I love them. With 32s you can handle some smooth dirt roads, but not roads with stones. For paved roads 32 is perfect. Just wide enough for a cushioned ride on bumpy roads, but narrow enough to be light.

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