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  1. #1
    Senior Member marmot's Avatar
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    Why are bike tires so crappy?

    Looking through tour logs and You Tube videos, there's one all-too-familiar refrain: "Here's Joe outside Buffalo, fixing a flat." "Here's Nigel in Leeds, repairing a puncture." etc. etc. Every tour seems to be plagued with tire and tube failures, and everyone here seems to think nothing of it. But I wonder: Why can't bike tires and tubes be reliable? Car tires carry tons of metal thousands of miles at 80 miles an hour and almost never fail. I haven't changed a car tire in 30 years. Bike tires, it seems, can't carry 200 pounds down a country lane without pooping out. Are there ANY decent bike tires?
    BTW, has anyone tried those foam-filled non-pneumatic tires? Are they any good at all? I must say, I find the whole thing rather ... er, deflating.

  2. #2
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    The can be either very reliable or ride very nicely, but not both at the same time. Most shoot for somewhere in the middle
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  3. #3
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    If you want a bicycle tire built like your car tire, there are some available...

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    For several years, I've been riding on Schwalbe Marathons with Kevlar. They're fabulous tires. I can't even remember the last time I had a flat. They ride and grip well. Wear well, too. No complaints here.

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    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    Are there ANY decent bike tires?
    Lots.
    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    BTW, has anyone tried those foam-filled non-pneumatic tires? Are they any good at all?
    Haven't rolled a solid tire since I was a wee tyke. I haven't tried the foamy ones either.
    I've run Specialized Armadillos which rode pretty terribly for a $50 tire.
    I just put Mr. Tuffys in my tires nowadays. Flats are rare.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  6. #6
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    About those foam tires... the foam degrades, they can soak up moisture, the "psi" may be too soft or hard and they're heavier. I don't think it's a good option for touring.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LesterOfPuppets View Post
    Lots.

    Haven't rolled a solid tire since I was a wee tyke. I haven't tried the foamy ones either.
    I've run Specialized Armadillos which rode pretty terribly for a $50 tire.
    I just put Mr. Tuffys in my tires nowadays. Flats are rare.
    I put Mr. Tuffys in Marathons and flats are rare.

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    BTW, has anyone tried those foam-filled non-pneumatic tires? Are they any good at all?
    A friend tried one for commuting. The foam was not as good as air in isolating shock and vibration. The bike frame broke from the road vibration after a few weeks.

  9. #9
    Pokemon Master Darth_Firebolt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve View Post
    I put Mr. Tuffys in Marathons and flats are rare.
    flats would have to be an act of god at that point.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I was actually thinking about this while riding today, but in the context of a past thread on here about carring a spare tire on tour. I was on my road bike with the winter tires (25mm), and it was still light years ahead of my LHT with 32mm Marathons. Last summer is the first year we toured on anything other than 28mm Continental Ultra gatorskins. The difference between the 28mm and 32mm is really noticeable. I'm almost thinking I'd rather ride the 28s and carry a lightweight foldable spare, than have all that "bomb proof" rotating weight on my wheels. However, I have to admit that last summer's trip was the first tour in about 10 years that I did not have a flat tire.

  11. #11
    Newbie tidi_bear's Avatar
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    you cannot compare bicycles to cars

    it's like saying "yesterday i had to push my car, it was so heavy! why cars aren't as light as bicycles!"

    car tires are thicker, made of different materials (tpi is not the same), pressure is different, cars and bikes ride on different part of the road (the side of the road is full of gravels and other crap and in fact most of the flats i had happened outside of the road) etc...

    sometimes you can have a flat on a bicycle but nothing went trough the tire.
    for example if you ride on a sharp stone or if you hit the edge of a sidewalk, it pinches the inner tube.

    car tires don't have inner tubes, and mtb equipped with tubeless tires have less flats than those mounted with inner tubes.

    pressure is important too: for a long time now i inflate my tires 5 or 10 psi above the recommended max pressure and even with standard (non kevlar) tires i have really less flats.
    it is known that flats occurs more often if your tires have low pressure.


    concerning kevlar tires, i had bad experiences with them:
    i've been touring from geneva to bangkok and i had to change tires in tehran.
    i was so happy to change for 'punchproof kevlar tires' (i can't remember the brand i got then)
    but the second day, after less than 200km i had my first flat with those tires...
    it was the dry thorn of a desert plant that can pierce almost anything i guess (i had a few other flats with this particular plant actually)
    then i discovered two things:
    • plants in tropical dry climate have thorns really tougher than elsewhere.
    • kevlar is over-rated due to its use in bulletproof jackets: these jackets stops bullets because bullets rotate and stop by entangling in the kevlar mesh. But thorns pointy enough just go through the mesh!

    also tiny sharp objects (like glass chips) get caught in the little scratches of the tire and finally go through because of vibrations.

    quality of the tires and the weight carried are certainly also very important.

    but...
    in australia i bough a new bike equipped with schwalbe marathon kevlar and i had some thorns that made flats also (but riding in the bush in a straight line is not the best idea maybe... )

    in carnarvon i bought some punchproof bands to put inside the tire.
    that was a very good idea... the pointed corners at the ends of the band can also pierce the tube!
    then i rounded theses corners... and the overlapping of the ends of the band pinched the tube and made another flat!
    then i put duct tape to stick the ends together... and the melted glue of the duct tape corroded the tube and made another flat...

    hopefully, in bali, after 7.000 km my back tire exploded because it was too worn.
    then i could change for the schwalbe marathon XR i was carrying from perth.
    (in fact i put this one on the front and put the former front marathon kevlar at the back)

    i've heard some cyclotourers saying they had flats with marathon kevlar, but none with marathon XR.

    everything has his own problems, i already hear people moaning about XR because they think they are too sticky to the road

    flats are part of the trip, my flats made me met people i would never have encountered with perfect tires!

    well this post is becoming to be too long, see you later!
    (now, i have two of my bikes to repair: 2 flats, including one on Hudchinson kevlar)
    geneva to bankok & perth to kuala-lumpur + tips for cyclo-touring on:
    cyclolivier.jimdo.com

  12. #12
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    pocket flask of single malt is an important part of the patch kit.
    to take time and just cope with the puncture.

  13. #13
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    The op focus is skewed, he should complain about riders dificulty in embracing tires that weigh only 1000 grams.

  14. #14
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    There are a range of options ranging from extremely light tires with flexible sidewall low rolling resistance and a lively feel to heavier tires with stiff sidewalls, higher rolling resistance, and a dead feel. So you can choose tires that rarely to almost never flat if that is what you want. It comes at a cost in weight and ride characteristics, but you get to choose one that strikes the right compromise for you.

    If you want to avoid flats at all cost buy some Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. If you are really serious you can even add Mr Tuffy liners and slime filled thorn proof tubes. I think they ride like anchors, but some say they don't even notice the difference.

    I'd rather ride on tires with a nice lively ride even if it means fixing a flat once in a while. To me riding on a lively tire is a joy and fixing a flat once in a while just isn't a big deal. My tires of choice for touring are 28mm Ultra Gatorskins, they provide a great ride reasonable flat resistance.

  15. #15
    Fred-ish rogerstg's Avatar
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    I don't understand why some have a hyper aversion to flats- not just this thread or the fine folks here. It takes about as much time to change one as it does to apply sunscreen to oneself or to lube and wipe a chain.

  16. #16
    Senior Member marmot's Avatar
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    Hi, I'm the OP. I know car tires are different. I just mention them because they face such extreme stress, strain, heat, weight and speed, and have a failure rate that approaches statistical insignificance. Seemingly with an infinitely easier job to do, bike tires fail all the time. I'm new to this touring biz, so I am genuinely curious about the reasons for this.
    Also, I'm not sure what is meant by a "lively ride" versus a "dead feel." People covet steel bikes because of their cushy ride. Why would they then equip these cruising vessels with tires that maximize road feel? I'm not arguing or advocating anything. I just don't know.

  17. #17
    Godfather of Soul SBRDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    Hi, I'm the OP. I know car tires are different. I just mention them because they face such extreme stress, strain, heat, weight and speed, and have a failure rate that approaches statistical insignificance. Seemingly with an infinitely easier job to do, bike tires fail all the time. I'm new to this touring biz, so I am genuinely curious about the reasons for this.
    Also, I'm not sure what is meant by a "lively ride" versus a "dead feel." People covet steel bikes because of their cushy ride. Why would they then equip these cruising vessels with tires that maximize road feel? I'm not arguing or advocating anything. I just don't know.
    Like everything on a bike, it comes down to weight because the rider has to move the bike with his own power. Tires could be made with different materials to make them stronger, but those materials would make the tires heavier and also less comfortable. Comfort is a hard thing to describe, but think of what shoes you find comfortable and why. A heavy pair of hiking boots are long lasting and can put up with lots of abuse, but they aren't as light and supple as a pair of lightweight running shoes. If you're running or walking on pavement, you probably want the comfort and feel of a running shoe. If you're hiking up a rocky hillside, you probably want the hiking boots.

  18. #18
    Godfather of Soul SBRDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rogerstg View Post
    I don't understand why some have a hyper aversion to flats- not just this thread or the fine folks here. It takes about as much time to change one as it does to apply sunscreen to oneself or to lube and wipe a chain.
    For me it's because I don't like to stop my ride and deal with mechanicals. I do it when I have to and I reserve the right to complain about it!

    Dealing with flats also means dragging along the stuff to fix them, and wouldn't it be nice not to have to have that stuff on every ride. And, for anyone who has suffered a nonfixable flat, it's more like getting a bad sunburn than just having to put on sunscreen.

  19. #19
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    Looking through tour logs and You Tube videos, there's one all-too-familiar refrain: "Here's Joe outside Buffalo, fixing a flat." "Here's Nigel in Leeds, repairing a puncture." etc. etc. Every tour seems to be plagued with tire and tube failures, and everyone here seems to think nothing of it. But I wonder: Why can't bike tires and tubes be reliable? .


    I rarely have flats. I ride quality tires/tubes and don't ride in spots where I'm likely to get flats. My buddy rides the same products and get 10 times as many flats. I watch him ride 3' more to the right on a highway shoulder and think to myself here comes another flat...frequently we'll be stopping that day to fix a flat on his bike!

    Right now I'm riding daily in the desert on and off road with a ton of thorns. I've fixed one flat in nearly 3 weeks and I knew when I took a short cut off the main trail that it was a bad idea.

    Bottomline I don't think bike tires are crappy. I think there are crappy products for sure, but there are great tires out there. There are also riders who ride so as to get more or less flats. It's not always the tire's fault!

    In a typical year or nearly daily riding I'll fix between 1 to 3 flats. Hardly worth thinking about.

    BTW - I don't use flatproof tires [ie. Marathon Plus] or slime [except in my MTB in UT/AZ].



    Photo above is me waiting while my buddy fixes flat #10. I started to wonder if I should bring a Rubick's Cube along on rides. I started fixing flats for him just to avoid getting overly bored.
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

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    well you could always give him a hand to fix the puncture.

  21. #21
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by antokelly View Post
    well you could always give him a hand to fix the puncture.
    Quote Originally Posted by vik View Post
    I started fixing flats for him just to avoid getting overly bored.


    You have to be careful - you don't want to encourage poor riding skills!
    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  22. #22
    Silly Party Member
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    Our family rode from Boston to Seattle last summer/fall.
    Our bicycles had Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. They had 0 flats!
    Our trailers had Schwalbe Marathon tires. They had 5 flats.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by marmot View Post
    Hi, I'm the OP. I know car tires are different. I just mention them because they face such extreme stress, strain, heat, weight and speed, and have a failure rate that approaches statistical insignificance. Seemingly with an infinitely easier job to do, bike tires fail all the time. I'm new to this touring biz, so I am genuinely curious about the reasons for this.
    Also, I'm not sure what is meant by a "lively ride" versus a "dead feel." People covet steel bikes because of their cushy ride. Why would they then equip these cruising vessels with tires that maximize road feel? I'm not arguing or advocating anything. I just don't know.
    Marmot, bicycle tires don't have an infinitely easier job to do nor do they fail all the time. Your assumptions are not accurate and the comparison isn't appropriate anymore than comparing a truck tire and motorcycle tire makes sense. Because something is round and made of rubber/fabric doesn't mean all round/rubber things are the same and can have the same characteristics.

    The difference has to do with the size of the motor where efficiency isn't as critical as durability and contact patch for safe handling. A 100hp engine can handle wasting 5hp getting power to the wheels, a .10 engine will want the most efficient tires possible so light weight will be emphasized. That light weight and small contact patch makes for a higher psi rating on the ground than the car. In other words there's more pressure per square inch on a bicycle tire than a car tire. That bicycle tire will be lighter to ensure maximum efficiency for the tiny, tiny motor driving it. The car tire needs a larger contact patch to safely control it's weight and direction on the road. So the car uses up a lot more hp pushing that heavier tire and that heavier tire is a lot thicker to handle the weight. The bike tire is a lot thinner and lighter but the load on the rubber is greater. So when you drive over a 3/16" glass sliver in a car tire that's 3/4" thick it is being driven with less pressure than a bike tire with 1/8" tread and you don't get flats. Do you see that a bicycle tire doesn't have an infinitely easier job?
    So go ahead and get a tire with 1/4" tread and protective layers. It'll weigh 700grams instead of 350grams. With your teeny tiny .10 hp motor you'll notice less rolling speed than the thinner/lighter tire. But you'll get a lot less flats. Now get a bike tire made with very hard rubber that will last a long time. Then you'll slip and slide like nobodies business on wet roads. With your teeny tiny motor you won't like the heavier tire if you like to ride hard and with a hard rubber compound you won't like sliding in turns or wet roads.
    A "lively ride" means the bike is light and the vibrations/shocks from the road can be dampened by your body. A "dead feel" can be anything from a heavy bike that transmits shock to your body to a well dampened one that doesn't. People covet a lot of things, don't take marketing fashion or subjective terms as objective comparisons.
    Steel bikes don't have a "cushy ride". Depending on the geometry type and weight of steel the ride can be dead, heavy, springy, noodly, responsive or whatever. So can an aluminum, carbon or titanium bike. A steel bike can have some "spring" to it that can be perceived in some configurations compared to other materials but that doesn't make it comfortable. That's going to be more a factor of geometry and tires.
    So if you want mondo durable tires, you can have it. If you want mondo durable tires that will last 50,000 miles your teeny tiny motor might whine about the effort to accelerate them every one of those miles.

  24. #24
    Senior Member marmot's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies and the insights, everybody. Thanks especially for the specific recommendations. I don't mind fixing a flat once in a while, I guess, but I surely would prefer not to.

  25. #25
    Mote of Dust degan's Avatar
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    I think part of the reason why you see a lot of pictures with tags like "stopping to fix a flat" or something along those lines is because that is when people are able to stop and take pictures.

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