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Is anyone commuting on balloon tires (like Fat Franks)?

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Is anyone commuting on balloon tires (like Fat Franks)?

Old 03-14-10, 11:59 AM
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Is anyone commuting on balloon tires (like Fat Franks)?

I live in the upper midwest, where there's snow on the ground at least 4 months a year. And if it's not snowing, it's raining. I'm about to get my first bike, which I plan to use for light utility use (grocery getting and such). So, I know that my choice of bikes doesn't matter that much for such short distances. However, I might also want to try commuting on it (my route will be somewhere between 5-15 miles if I decide to try it, generally flat).

I was planning on getting a typical hybrid-type commuter, with 1.5" (approx) tires. However, the recent post about winter cycling on the Bikes For the Rest of Us blog got me thinking about larger tires- specifically, the Schwalbe Fat Franks or Big Apples.

As far as I can tell, here's the consensus on balloon tires:
Pros:
1) Very comfortable ride
2) Better traction on snow and slick surfaces
3) When inflated to lower pressures, they're less prone to flats

Cons:
1) Can increase rolling resistance. On the other hand, rolling resistance is affected by the tread pattern too, and the Schwalbes are generally fast.
2) Hard to find frames that can accompany wide tires


So, this leaves me with two questions:

1) Is anyone out there commuting with Fat Franks? What do you think?

2) Are there any other commute-friendly bikes out there other than the Electra Balloon that come with Fat Franks or Big Apples on them? I'm definitely going to try the Electra, but I'm wondering if there's anything else out there in the same price range ($400-$600) that's a little less relaxed.
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Old 03-14-10, 12:19 PM
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I will be commuting on some 26x2.5 Maxxis Hookworms in a week or two!

Secret Commuter Bike Project in the process.... ssshhhhhhhhh
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Old 03-14-10, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by frpax
I will be commuting on some 26x2.5 Maxxis Hookworms in a week or two!

Secret Commuter Bike Project in the process.... ssshhhhhhhhh
I've ridden on hookwoorms for a few months. Those tires are designed more for urban freeriding and they not very good for long distance commuting. If your commute is very short then you should be ok. Those tires are very heavy, and roll much slower then a narrower slick tires.
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Old 03-14-10, 01:48 PM
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For a few miles they'll be fine and you'll enjoy a nice cushy ride. For longer than that I'd want something different.

As someone who's commuted in the upper-midwest year round for about 5 years now I can tell you that wider in the winter is sometimes better but not always. It really depends on the conditions. If the snows deep and relatively undisturbed wide might be your best bet. Other times, cutting through the snow is preferred. Slick 23mm tires can work surprisingly well in these situations.

Regardless of width, if ice is a concern then you want studded tires. My favorite winter tires overall after trying everything from 2" studs to 30 mm studs, are 40 mm. They are a compromise, no doubt, but in my circumstances they have worked out the best. That doesn't mean that sometimes I wouldn't have more success with a wider tire or a skinnier one.
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Old 03-14-10, 02:07 PM
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I used 1 big apple and one ordinary 1.5 slick on my commute.Rolled OK,but when i ran over a stick it went bump! on the slick,and nothing on the BA.It was also fairly puncture resistant and easy to take off.Fat Frank is supposed to be very similar.
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Old 03-14-10, 04:48 PM
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Schwalbe Super Moto





I run big, thick downhill tubes inside them.
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Old 03-14-10, 07:13 PM
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My recommendation is to get a separate set of tires for winter use. You might want to consider studs for that, and you've got many months to save up for that set.

Having to fight the extra weight and rolling resistance of big tires the rest of the year just doesn't make sense unless you're riding on some really nasty roads.

Skinny tires work fine in the wet. It's the rubber compound that matters, not the size of the tire. Having big tires isn't going to help you when you hit an oil slick or wet road paint when you're out of the saddle.

I've been riding on the Bontrager RaceLite Hardcase tires in 700x32 that came with my hybrid, and they stick like glue in the wet. I'll probably go down to the 700x28 when I replace these.
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Old 03-14-10, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by wolfchild
I've ridden on hookwoorms for a few months. Those tires are designed more for urban freeriding and they not very good for long distance commuting. If your commute is very short then you should be ok. Those tires are very heavy, and roll much slower then a narrower slick tires.
Well, NSS...

6.5 mile (each way) commute. They will be inflated to their max, I'm sure. If I don't like 'em, I'll try something else...
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Old 03-14-10, 08:55 PM
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I commute on Big Apples, or Marathon Supremes in 40mm size. In the Summer.

Winter round here demands studs, I would not consider attempting to ride in snow or ice with Big Apples, Supremes, or Fat Franks.
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Old 03-15-10, 06:49 AM
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*dies laughing*

The rain in the upper midwest is no big deal. It's almost always nice rain, stuff in the misting to drizzle category. Thunderstorms aren't nice, but they're also brief, and you shouldn't be out in them anyway. It is very rare to have the multi-day moderate to heavy rains that mid-Atlantic and PNW folks are used to. (hurricane leftovers are a *****. forty days straight of rain... kinda sucks) Get a rain jacket, learn hypothermia first aid, and ride. You generally don't want rain pants unless it's in the 40F or lower range, because rain pants are really warm. When you want 'em, you want 'em bad, but I use mine far more often for snow than for rain.

Pretty much any tire in the 32mm on up range will be pretty comfy, and will handle "it is not ice". No tire (including car tires) handles ice well and does well on bare road. When it's icy out, I walk. A lot of Madisonians have the telltale buzz of studs instead.
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Old 03-15-10, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Torrilin
*dies laughing*

The rain in the upper midwest is no big deal. It's almost always nice rain, stuff in the misting to drizzle category. Thunderstorms aren't nice, but they're also brief, and you shouldn't be out in them anyway. It is very rare to have the multi-day moderate to heavy rains that mid-Atlantic and PNW folks are used to. (hurricane leftovers are a *****. forty days straight of rain... kinda sucks) Get a rain jacket, learn hypothermia first aid, and ride. You generally don't want rain pants unless it's in the 40F or lower range, because rain pants are really warm. When you want 'em, you want 'em bad, but I use mine far more often for snow than for rain.

Pretty much any tire in the 32mm on up range will be pretty comfy, and will handle "it is not ice". No tire (including car tires) handles ice well and does well on bare road. When it's icy out, I walk. A lot of Madisonians have the telltale buzz of studs instead.
I agree with everything you said except the part about no tire handles ice well and does well on the bare road. I might even agree with that depending on you define "well". The carbide tipped studded tires you normally see for bikes (not the long studs designed for competitions) do fine on bare pavement as well as ice. The only exception to that as far as tires I've used are concerned are the 32 mm Nokian A10s. In my opinion they didn't have enough studs and weren't as effective on ice.

I generally run studded tires through March. In March you get some ice in the mornings and the occasional snow storm but the roads are clear the majority of time. I don't really push the limits of the tires in terms of speed or cornering but by March I'm used to riding somewhat cautiously anyway.

From a performance standpoint studded tires are terribly slow if that's what you mean and the ride quality isn't too great either.
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Old 03-15-10, 08:02 AM
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Ran 2" Big Apples on my commuter for a while (before I stopped riding 26" bikes).

They rolled fast, as they're supposed to. I'm not sure where you got the incorrect info about rolling resistance. They're a little heavier than some narrower tires, so you'll feel it a little bit in acceleration, but I rode them in the 18-20mph range with no problem.

I believe Fat Franks are the same carcass. They make more noise though, which I mentally translate into higher rolling resistance.
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Old 03-15-10, 08:05 AM
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Front tire: Big Apple 2.0", which has well over 3000 miles on it.
Rear tire: Hookworm 1.95", less than 500 miles on it, but it's holding up well; in the last year I've gone through 2 Primo Comets and two Schwalbe Marathons.

I think I agree that the Hookworm isn't a fast tire, but so far I am very pleased with its durability. Ask me again a year from now.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:01 PM
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Schwalbe's technical info on rolling resistance

From SchwalbeUSA's site:

Why do wide tires roll better than narrow ones?

The answer to this question lies in tire deflection. Each tire is flattened a little under load. This creates a flat contact area. At the same tire pressure, a wide and a narrow tire have the same contact area. A wide tire is flattened over its width whereas a narrow tire has a slimmer but longer contact area. The flattened area can be considered as a counterweight to tire rotation. Because of the longer flattened area of the narrow tire, the wheel loses more of its “roundness” and produces more deformation during rotation. However, in the wide tire, the radial length of the flattened area is shorter, making the tire “rounder” and so it rolls better.



Why do Pros ride narrow tires if wide tires roll better?

Wide tires only roll better at the same inflation pressure, but narrow tires can be inflated to higher pressures than wide tires. However, they then obviously give a less comfortable ride. In addition to this, narrow tires have an advantage over wide ones at higher speeds, as they provide less air resistance. Above all, a bicycle with narrow tires is much easier to accelerate because the rotating mass of the wheels is lower and the bicycle is much more agile. At constant speeds of around 20 km/h, the ride is better with wider tires. In practice, the energy saving is even greater than in theory as the elasticity of the tires absorbs road shocks, which would otherwise be transferred to the rider and so saves energy.

Which SCHWALBE tire has the lowest rolling resistance?

The rolling resistance of a tire should not be overestimated, as it is only a part of the total resistance. In addition, the correct inflation pressure has a much greater influence on rolling resistance than the tire structure. In order to make a tire with very low rolling resistance, it is necessary to compromise on other important factors such as puncture protection or grip. The following gives a rough overview of tires and their relative rolling resistance. A direct comparison is impossible though, as the tires have different widths and some are used with very different inflation pressures.


I have a 50-559 Big Apple up front and 55-559 in back; commute only 3.05 miles each way.

Last edited by Giro; 03-16-10 at 11:05 PM.
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Old 03-16-10, 11:13 PM
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I ride 2.0 big apples at 40 psi 13 miles a day (unless I'm riding 700x32s at 70 psi). Love 'em. Take'em out for 60 mile days. They are fine in snow/slush. Fall over on black ice like most any other non-studded tire.
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Old 03-18-10, 10:34 AM
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I dont commute but regularly ride about 15-20 miles on my old rigid mtb converted to ss and fitted with 26x2.35" big apples, I float anywhere bet 40 and 50 psi. I love em! Magic carpet ride at 40, roll great, firm and highly responsive at 50..I was truly pleasantly surprised. I have the liteskins btw w/ the kevlar bead, also running a thicker thorn resistant inner tube for a modest margin of puncture resistance in addition to what the tire provides. Great ride quality for debris strewn and cracked asphault riddled streets in my neck of the woods. Obviously not performance razor sharp as they do have all that air and 'bounce' potential, espcially at the lower psi range. I previously had 1-1/8" conti ultra gatorskins on the bike at betw 90 and 105 psi, love the pucture resistance but that hard ride on my rigid aluminum frame simply made the ride unbearable.

I honestly cant say I register enough of a difference in rolling resistance and pedal effort that makes me think twice with the big apples. For what they give me in comfort and traversing the urban moonscape I love em to death.

I'm not a hardcore all weather kinda guy admittedly so really cant report on how they perform in deep snow or active heavy rainfall.

'FRPAX' I'm looking forward to seeing your finished project with the 2.5" hookworms....be sure to post pics! These big apples have turned me into a 'Balloon tire' zealot..love em!
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Old 03-18-10, 10:46 AM
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I've got 700x50 Marathon Supremes on my winter bike. They've got great wet traction and provide a comfortable ride. They're especially nice when riding in the dark because you never know when you're going to hit a pine cone or a pothole that you didn't see.

However, as spring comes near, I find myself wanting to ride faster and the extra weight of the big tires is definitely noticeable, so in the spring I tend to prefer the bikes that have 700x28 or narrower tires.
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Old 03-18-10, 12:47 PM
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I run Big Apples on my Xtracycle most of the year. I had some extra money and extra wheels so now I run studs when needed.

They do okay in the snow unless there are ruts. The biggest problem was the tires are huge and fit very close to fenders. On a particularly snowy day it looked like a snow blower coming out the front. Eventually, the fenders clogged up and I had stopped and knock the snow off of them.

I ran the Big Apples on a Rails to trails ride that was 72 miles of gravel roads. They performed better than the others with MTB tires.

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Old 03-18-10, 05:13 PM
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I will be putting my Fat Franks on soon. I want/need some new rims too. My mavic 717's are really narrow.
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Old 03-19-10, 11:33 AM
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As someone already noted, the Big Apple and Fat Frank use the same carcass. In a 26" tire, the Fat Frank is only available in a 26x2.35 which is pretty wide. The Big Apple is available in 2.00, 2.15, and 2.35. Personally, I think the Fat Frank is a cool looking tire, but it's not going to work for everyone. I have a 1993 Cannondale Mtn. Bike that will not take this wide a tire.

There are additional differences between the Big Apple, the Big Apple Liteskin, and the Super Moto.

Big Apple has a Kevlar puncture protection belt and a durable all around rubber compound. It has a wire bead which makes it a heavier tire.

Big Apple Liteskin has the same puncture protection, but a stickier (and slightly less durable) rubber compound; Speedgrip. It has a kevlar (aramid) bead so it is lighter than the Big Apple and is a folding tire.

The Super Moto has no puncture protection belt; light weight and sporty handling are the most important characteristics of this tire. It has Schwalbe's Triple Nano rubber compound which is the same compound as our high-end roadracing tires and the Marathon Supreme.

As for rolling resistance, it is a very small part of the overall equation as to the wattage it takes to move your bike forward. It matters, just not as much as wind resistance and rotational weight.

Last edited by Kojak; 03-19-10 at 11:36 AM.
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Old 03-19-10, 04:29 PM
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I got a Fisher Cronus (older, 9sp urban bike; not the newer carbon road bike), which came with Bontrager "Hank" 26 x 2.2 slicks. Love the look, not 100% thrilled with the additional rotating weight. The ride was plush, but didn't make up for sluggish response. I felt it when I found myself slowing on a slight uphill and wanted to crank back up to a faster cruising speed, also on steeper hills when I got out of the saddle. Threw on a pair of Panaracer T-Servs at 26 x 1.25 and am much happier.

I'd be fine running big slicks around town, but 19 mi one way commute does not seem to be the optimum application for such tires...
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Old 03-19-10, 10:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Kojak

As for rolling resistance, it is a very small part of the overall equation as to the wattage it takes to move your bike forward. It matters, just not as much as wind resistance and rotational weight.
This reminds me of another question I meant to ask, since Guy (and others) mentioned rotational weight. I have heard that many people prefer 700c trims over 26", due to the fact that the larger wheels roll more smoothly. I'm completely a newbie, so forgive me if I'm missing something here, but I can't understand the following:

1) Many people have expressed a preference for 700c wheels over 26" ones, as they're smoother rolling. However, it seems like the added metal in a 700c rim makes a bigger difference than the added rubber in a 26" balloon tire. So, all things being equal (and I know they're usually not), wouldn't a 26" wheel with balloon tires have less rotational weight than a 700c wheel with a more typical 35mm tire?

2) I can understand how wind resistance and rotational weight matter for someone who's racing a road bike. However, if we're talking about a typical commuter - riding 10-12 miles with packed panniers and such- it seems like more a comfortable ride, double-walled rims, and puncture resistance should matter far more than factors like rolling resistance and rotational weight. True?

Thanks to all the replies here. I'm shopping for my first commuter bike, & it seems like most frames & forks probably can't fit 2.35" tires, so allowing for this option would greatly affect my choice in bikes.
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Old 03-19-10, 11:03 PM
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My townie has some 2" CST slicks (looks sort of like the Squama tread pattern, but isn't a Squama). As long as they're at 65lbs of pressure, they can get a move on...
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Old 07-18-10, 01:15 PM
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between fat frank and big apple, what's the difference in tread? for side wall strength, schwalbe's site gives the fat franks 5 stars but only 2 stars for the big apple. this makes me favor the franks but they're supposed to be for cruisers while the apples are very popular on performance commuters. i am ordering a trek cobia 29er mountain bike.

any ideas? thanks.

https://www.schwalbetires.com/node/1328

https://www.schwalbetires.com/fat_frank
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Old 06-20-14, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by cman
I run Big Apples on my Xtracycle most of the year.
Hello cman and others,


I am trying to find out if the 700 x 50 Fat Franks will fit on my Trek 720 Multitrack.


In the thread cman posted a pic of what looks like a Trek 850 with Big Apples, which I believe are the same size. Am I correct? Would it also be correct to assume that the same tire will work on a 720 Multitrack? My bike already has 700 x 42 tires, and it looks like there is room for an extra 8mm.


Here is the pic cman posted:





And here is the same make/model/color of my bike (except mine has city bars):



Last edited by ogrepraxy; 06-20-14 at 03:31 PM.
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