Greetings! I'm planning on buying tires for our bikes and
probably sold on the Schwalbe XR - but that's not the
question. The question is to do with width:
For a long term (months), fully loaded journey that will include
daily changing terrain from pavement, to dirt, to gravel, to off-road
and who knows what else, what width would you go with. For example,
the XRs seem to run from 1.75 to 2.25. What would be a good width
for all around? We're not in a rush, but also don't want to feel
Another idea is to pick one all around width/tread and bring spare off
road tires or spare slicks and change up depeneding on what happens. But
the extra cost, weight, and hassle seems like a worse option...
[edit: just wanted to add that this will be in Central/South America where the road conditions can and will change quickly depending on country, as will our last minute change in routes day to day]
I've touried on dirt for some time now. Paved roads suck most of the time. If I want to asphyxiate myself on fumes, I can just do it in my garage. The nice thing is that there are lots of rides that are part paved and part dirt. Even a short dirt stretch really clears the cars out. That said, I've used everything from 1.75s to 2.25s. 1.75 is not quite enough on climbs or coming down curves. 2.25 is too much - especially on pavement. I usually get 1.95s with a bead or fairly smooth center and not-too-extreme knobs on the outside. I got some Vredesteins on sale this summer and I swear by them. I picked up a nail moving at about 18 mph and took a while to stop. It was right in the center of the tire, but didn't get past the kevlar.
As for spares - I've never needed one when I had one - and the only times that I've split a sidewall I haven't had a spare. If your really doing tough trails, yes, a spare - otherwise just get sidewall savers.
I used 1.75" tires on my 3-month tour this summer. I hit all kinds of terrain: trails were the only other bikes were DH MTB's with like 6"+ of squish and roads that were just washboards. I was using 26x1.75" Conti Travel Contacts and I could get away with 1.75's on 98% of what I hit. I'd agree with Jamawani about the 1.95" (I have those on my MTB tourer) width as a good compromise if you don't really know what you're gonna hit. Choose the tread you think is an appropriate mix of speed and handling.
Don't bother with the double set of tires and stuff. When you're standing at the side of the road, looking down at your dusty or muddy tires, squinting into the distance to see what the road'll look like, you'll realize that the conditions could easily change in an hour. You'll get lazy or just decide to leave just one set of tires on... making the other dead weight.
I my tires into the ground by the time I reached Newfoundland: the black rubber was all gone (along with the tread) and I was starting to hit Kevlar mesh I think (fabric pattern). Without a spare tire (sent home in a moment of stupidity with other stuff) I was so worried I'd hit one of those fist-sized jaggy rocks on the nasty trail and blow my tire in half... obsessed about it for 100km of trail. I'd say take at least one spare tire. It'll take a load off your mind when you're in a remote area and it's just prudent planning.