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  1. #1
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    Biking Fast Across America

    I am planing to do another fast Across America bike tour. These tours are fully supported by tour operators such as ABB, PAC and RAAM.
    I have done this twice with ABB in 2006 and 2008. It is 120 miles per day for 25 biking days.
    My bike was a Trek Madone with 23 mm slick tires.
    The quality of the roads is terrible in places. Chip seal, broken pavements and just generally lousy roads.
    Flats are an issue. Lots of wires from steel belted car tires. We will be biking on the side of expressways also for several hundred miles.
    Fatigue from the pounding of bumpy secondary roads is an issue.
    I have since bought a Cyclocross bike by Stevens. Therefore I can use any tire size which gives me best performance. The roads will be very good in places and very bad in some.
    I want to be able to bike as fast as possible to keep up with good bikers.
    ------------------------------
    Question for this forum:
    Does anybody have performance data of various tire sizes and brands with all other factors held constant?
    In other words: How does a 23 mm slick tire compare in speed to a top of the line tire with larger section like 30 to 35 mm?
    -----------------------------
    I guess I can buy some tires and just do my own testing but perhaps someone has done that?

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    Try Panaracer Pasela TG foldable 28, and see how they slow you on good roads, then see how they ride on some industrial roads. I think this would be a good compromise tire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AndrewP View Post
    Try Panaracer Pasela TG foldable 28, and see how they slow you on good roads, then see how they ride on some industrial roads. I think this would be a good compromise tire.
    Thanks. I will try this. Someone recommended Marathon Extreme and Dureme. I guess I could spend significant money and time testing that.
    I am not a racer and as such have no link to racing forums. Is there no tabulated data for different tires under controlled conditions?
    I sort of think there should be.
    Has someone used different tires on a trainer and checked heart rate or watts with a torque meter?
    Perhaps some other forum may have that data?
    I am puzzled.

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    Senior Member nubcake's Avatar
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    Go ask around in the long distance forum, lots of guys over there have proven that on very long rides wider tires can be just as fast if not faster. I would also check into the panaracer pasela's as well.

    good luck
    Follow me as I prepare for the 2010, wait no 2012, maybe 2013 Tour Divide, ahh hell I will do it one day...
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  5. #5
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    Does anybody have performance data of various tire sizes and brands with all other factors held constant?
    In other words: How does a 23 mm slick tire compare in speed to a top of the line tire with larger section like 30 to 35 mm?
    This isn't a meaningful question unless you specify both road surface and wattage. A narrower tyre's real advantage is very marginally reduced air resistance - the wider tyre of the same rubber actually can have lower rolling resistance depending on pressure (despite idiots thinking that RR is friction and therefore reduced by narrow tyres). Then you have energy losses due to bumps, which wider tyres reduce (if the pressure isn't too high)... And, critically, all these losses obey different power laws for speed. So what is optimal for a power output of 100W can be wrong for 50W or 200W.

    For what it's worth, professional teams race Roubaixs on 28mm tyres. If your energy output is lower than a professional rider's or the road is rougher,or you weigh more, then basic physics says a wider tyre again will be faster for you. Too many cyclists are victims to TDF wannabe fashion, trying to copy bike configurations designed for exceptionally athletic and light and flexible 20-30 olds who race in completely different conditions.

    The only way you can really determine what is right will be via realistic testing - realistic mixture of roads and power output.

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    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    Thanks. I will try this. Someone recommended Marathon Extreme and Dureme. I guess I could spend significant money and time testing that.
    For the conditions you are describing now, I'd count out the Extremes, and Supremes will probably be more appropriate then Duremes. It's hard to say - the description is so damn vague!

    I am not a racer and as such have no link to racing forums. Is there no tabulated data for different tires under controlled conditions?
    I sort of think there should be.
    Yes there is- somewhat - google for it. It doesn't exist for each brand and model of tyres but you can see trends.

    Has someone used different tires on a trainer and checked heart rate or watts with a torque meter?
    That would be useless for your purposes - trainers don't simulate air resistance correctly, still less energy losses due to road conditions.

    Perhaps some other forum may have that data?
    I am puzzled.
    Using the type of raw data you are after requires a sophisticated understanding of the cycling physics model that very few cyclists have; there is simply no reason for makers to go to the expense of providing it.

    You might well want to use latex tubes and to vary your tyre pressure with conditions, if you are really serious. Most 30-40mm tyres can go to much higher pressures than they are marked for (see Sheldon Brown's article on tyre pressure and width) and this further reduces rolling resistance on smooth surfaces. Then you drop them on rough stuff - not just for comfort but speed (if a tyre is too hard to absorb small fast bumps - even very small ones - then each causes a loss of energy doing work against gravity - a rough road can literally be the equivalent of a hill, but this hill can vanish with the right tyres.)

    Unless you are a heavy rider then I'd start out by playing with 32mm Marathon Supremes. If you really feel that is too wide, then try something like an Ultremo R 28mm. Then,when you have learned about pressure and speed, try a size wider or narrower according to your intuition.

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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    This isn't a meaningful question unless you specify both road surface and wattage. A narrower tyre's real advantage is very marginally reduced air resistance - the wider tyre of the same rubber actually can have lower rolling resistance depending on pressure (despite idiots thinking that RR is friction and therefore reduced by narrow tyres). Then you have energy losses due to bumps, which wider tyres reduce (if the pressure isn't too high)... And, critically, all these losses obey different power laws for speed. So what is optimal for a power output of 100W can be wrong for 50W or 200W.

    For what it's worth, professional teams race Roubaixs on 28mm tyres. If your energy output is lower than a professional rider's or the road is rougher,or you weigh more, then basic physics says a wider tyre again will be faster for you. Too many cyclists are victims to TDF wannabe fashion, trying to copy bike configurations designed for exceptionally athletic and light and flexible 20-30 olds who race in completely different conditions.

    The only way you can really determine what is right will be via realistic testing - realistic mixture of roads and power output.
    Meanwhile,
    We are not idiots. Perhaps we are mentally lazy. It took me a week to study that link bernhansen.com you provided. Thanks, it helped.
    As stated before, I did 2 fast across America tours at 120 to 160 miles per day. Much of that biking was on decent paved roads. Because of that, everybody used road bikes with slick tires. Most had 23 or 25 mm tires. Most had CF bikes. Few had Ti bikes.
    Unfortunatly a significant portion of the tour is on chip seal roads which make your teeth rattle. Another significant portion is on the side of expressways. Very bumpy pavements.
    I am an older guy and that rattling does fatigue me to the point of not having fun.
    This is what this is all about.
    I do not want to be dropped by the fast bikers and I do not want to be exhausted by the rattling on lousy roads.
    I am listening to you and will get a pair of Marathon tires.
    Someone else recomended Panaracer Pasela TG fold-able 28 mm. What do you know about those?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    .....................................................................................

    You might well want to use latex tubes and to vary your tyre pressure with conditions, if you are really serious. Most 30-40mm tyres can go to much higher pressures than they are marked for (see Sheldon Brown's article on tyre pressure and width) and this further reduces rolling resistance on smooth surfaces. Then you drop them on rough stuff - not just for comfort but speed (if a tyre is too hard to absorb small fast bumps - even very small ones - then each causes a loss of energy doing work against gravity - a rough road can literally be the equivalent of a hill, but this hill can vanish with the right tyres.)

    Unless you are a heavy rider then I'd start out by playing with 32mm Marathon Supremes. If you really feel that is too wide, then try something like an Ultremo R 28mm. Then,when you have learned about pressure and speed, try a size wider or narrower according to your intuition.
    Regarding your question how serious I am.
    Such a tour cost $10,000 including flights, motels, meals, equipment, maintenance support, SAG. I did it twice so far. Not many do it ever.
    For that kind of expense I do a little preparation. I failed to do that on the first tour and paid the price in the form of fatigue and discomfort.
    I used a Cannondale Aluminum frame bike with 28 mm 120 PSI Conti tires. Terrible vibration.
    Next tour I used a Trek Madone CF with 23 mm 120 PSI. Not much better on a bumpy road but much better on a smooth road.
    This time around I do a little more research and have the Stevens Cyclocross which can take any tire we want.
    Thanks for helping.
    BTW, someone suggested taking 2 sets of wheels. One for smooth road and one for chip seal or worse. Trouble is that with 35 bikers on the road the tour operator will not carry that many spare wheels. I could change tires however if that is the only solution we can come up with.
    You seem to think that 30 to 35 mm tires of an excellent quality will be almost as fast as 25 mm on a smooth road? If so, that would be a possible solution.
    Can always carry 23 mm spare foldable tires just in case.
    Oh, BTW, I am 195# (USA).
    Last edited by will dehne; 06-13-10 at 10:03 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by will dehne View Post
    Regarding your question how serious I am.
    Such a tour cost $10,000 including flights, motels, meals, equipment, maintenance support, SAG. I did it twice so far. Not many do it ever.
    For that kind of expense I do a little preparation. I failed to do that on the first tour and paid the price in the form of fatigue and discomfort.
    I used a Cannondale Aluminum frame bike with 28 mm 120 PSI Conti tires. Terrible vibration.
    Next tour I used a Trek Madone CF with 23 mm 120 PSI. Not much better on a bumpy road but much better on a smooth road.
    This time around I do a little more research and have the Stevens Cyclocross which can take any tire we want.
    Thanks for helping.
    I wasn't questioning your seriousness about the race, just about acknowledging that you might not want to get ultra-involved in tyre choice experiments! Three sets of high end tyres could easily cost $500, then there is the time you'd have to spend experimenting - which could interfere with other preparations for the event if it is at all soon.

    Also, re "idiots" and tyre "friction" - that was aimed at people who insist on applying Bad Physics (TM) in long threads instead of reading the bloody docs! Please don't be offended; it wasn't aimed remotely at you.

    BTW, someone suggested taking 2 sets of wheels. One for smooth road and one for chip seal or worse. Trouble is that with 35 bikers on the road the tour operator will not carry that many spare wheels. I could change tires however if that is the only solution we can come up with.
    Yes, I took it for granted that wheel changes weren't an option, otherwise you'd have mentioned them.

    You seem to think that 30 to 35 mm tires of an excellent quality will be almost as fast as 25 mm on a smooth road?
    Again, that depends on your power output and the tyre pressure. 23mm's would be a decisive advantage in a 10 or 20km time trial, helpful to a team of pros slipstreaming in a peleton (where speed is determined by the power to air resistance of the lead rider.) But my experience and understanding of the physics says that 32mm low RR tyres shouldn't slow you down at all on the road as long as you optimize their pressure - high for days on the smooth stuff, lower as it gets rougher (not just for comfort but for speed). Because at the speeds you will be moving the slight aero advantage of narrow fades away (it's a speed cubed law, compared to speed squared for energy.)

    If so, that would be a possible solution.
    Can always carry 23 mm spare foldable tires just in case.
    Oh, BTW, I am 195# (USA).
    I'm 220lbs of mesomorph (I wasn't joking when I said my trapped nerve had nothing to do with strength!). Hmm...

    Will you generally have day long stretches of mostly smooth or rough? If so, will the organizers carry spare tyres for you? If so you could use 28mm Ultremo Rs for the mostly-smooth days and 35mm Supremes or Duremes for the generally-rough ones. Obviously you'll want to get very comfortable with changing tyres for this tactic so that it isn't too much of a drag even at the end of a rough day. And I wouldn't bother doing this unless the rough stuff is *really* rough.

    Before experimenting with tyre pressure - and some degree of experimentation is critical - read

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tires.html#pressure -especially "Pressure Recommendations". But don't forget the lower-is-faster-on-rough experiment either.

    Find the pressure that is nest for each terrain type and memorize it! Obviously there will be days when you have to use a compromise setting, but the better your tyre pressure is adjusted to terrain, the faster you will go.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    .................................................................
    ..................................................................
    Will you generally have day long stretches of mostly smooth or rough? If so, will the organizers carry spare tyres for you? If so you could use 28mm Ultremo Rs for the mostly-smooth days and 35mm Supremes or Duremes for the generally-rough ones. Obviously you'll want to get very comfortable with changing tyres for this tactic so that it isn't too much of a drag even at the end of a rough day. And I wouldn't bother doing this unless the rough stuff is *really* rough.

    Before experimenting with tyre pressure - and some degree of experimentation is critical - read

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tires.html#pressure -especially "Pressure Recommendations". But don't forget the lower-is-faster-on-rough experiment either.

    Find the pressure that is nest for each terrain type and memorize it! Obviously there will be days when you have to use a compromise setting, but the better your tyre pressure is adjusted to terrain, the faster you will go.
    I hope that I do not give too much information. OTOH there could be not enough information from me. Such a tour has a number of challenges. Here they are in order of priority:
    1) Inadequate nutrition combined with food poisoning and infections from food handling.
    2) General fatigue with danger of bonking and dehydration.
    3) Accidents.
    4) Flats. Some had 4 flats per day and 20 flats per tour.
    5) Wrong tire choice. Wrong size, pressure, type.
    6) Wrong bike frame for the conditions.
    Therefore this discussion is only a small part of the concerns.
    --------------------------------
    There are many days of mostly rough roads because the organizers are choosing low traffic roads which are secondary roads and therefore of low surface quality.
    ------------------------------------
    I can change tires efficiently but there is always a chance of damage to the tube for each change. Murphy's law raises its head! It is possible to pack spare tires and tubes.
    --------------------------------
    I will try to use a compromise tire and change the pressure as you recommend. I have plenty of time to test 30, 32 and 35 mm tires and see what the difference is. I have a 50 mile trail here which offers gravel, bumpy pavement and smooth pavement. I will just make many test runs on that trail and record my findings.
    I can tell you that the Stevens floats over that trail at average 17 MPH and top 24 MPH. This is with the "cheap ass" Conti City tires.
    We will compare that with Marathon tires and let you know.

  11. #11
    Senior Member meanwhile's Avatar
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    Well, you have the right frame - and from the photos in another thread it looks like an excellent fit. If handling based accidents on rougher stretches are a problem, then wider tyres will help. Ditto for punctures - especially with the Supremes/Duremes.

  12. #12
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    Will,
    The 32mm Marathon Supremes are what I had on my gray bike at the RRTrail. They have the reflective sidewalls. We could always put my wheels/tires on your Stevens some time for you to try them out. (My wheels are probably a little heavier than yours though.)

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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by billydonn View Post
    Will,
    The 32mm Marathon Supremes are what I had on my gray bike at the RRTrail. They have the reflective sidewalls. We could always put my wheels/tires on your Stevens some time for you to try them out. (My wheels are probably a little heavier than yours though.)
    Well, we will have to decide if we want to do that in Omaha, Rockford, Trempealeau or Lanesboro.
    Decisions, decisions?

  14. #14
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    I am loving the Vittoria Rando Hypers for all conditions. Light for 32 mm, supple, but great flat protection (never had a flat). I use them off and on road. They are a smooth tread.

  15. #15
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    Probably my final thought - given what you said about accidents, you could try a Dureme on the front and a Supreme on the back. The Dureme has some grip on the sides where you most need it for cornering and for countersteering to keep a bike upright. Because most of the need for this grip is at the front you'll get most of the benefit from having just one Dureme. And most of your weight - and hence rolling resistance - are at the back, so you'll pay only the most minor drag penalty. But again whether this would be a real win - eg by letting you ride faster on the worst roads - really depends on the balance of conditions and your riding style. Looking at Schwalbe's tyre ratings (another reason I like Schwalbe is they let you compare their tyres easily) you would pay a slight RR penalty for the front Dureme: http://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_tires/road_tires

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by meanwhile View Post
    Probably my final thought - given what you said about accidents, you could try a Dureme on the front and a Supreme on the back. The Dureme has some grip on the sides where you most need it for cornering and for countersteering to keep a bike upright. Because most of the need for this grip is at the front you'll get most of the benefit from having just one Dureme. And most of your weight - and hence rolling resistance - are at the back, so you'll pay only the most minor drag penalty. But again whether this would be a real win - eg by letting you ride faster on the worst roads - really depends on the balance of conditions and your riding style. Looking at Schwalbe's tyre ratings (another reason I like Schwalbe is they let you compare their tyres easily) you would pay a slight RR penalty for the front Dureme: http://www.schwalbetires.com/bike_tires/road_tires
    I understand and appreciate you suggestion.
    FWIW, the tour accidents were exclusive due to pace line issues. Going pace line all day long until fatigue sets in is a formulae for disaster. There were several such accidents. Some severe.
    I am not overstating the fatigue problem. I am a tough guy but the vibration on bad roads did get to me eventually.
    I attached a picture of the last tour I attended. I am the guy standing. These were the fastest bikers of that tour. Not all of these made it home safely.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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