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20" Tires for a Variety of Surfaces, Which Ones?

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20" Tires for a Variety of Surfaces, Which Ones?

Old 05-05-16, 07:43 AM
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20" Tires for a Variety of Surfaces, Which Ones?

Will be upgrading tires this season. I have read the resounding echo for Big Apples but wonder about traction when not on pavement?
20" 406 tires.

Based on your personal experiences, which tires will suit best for Asphalt, concrete, gravel, trails, wetness?
I ride on a bit of everything, and even some of the paved asphalt trails can be dicey due to poor maintenance, tree roots, standing puddles, or a skim of mud after a rain.
There is even a trail system on one of my normal trips that has boardwalks built from PT wood, some sections are hundreds of feet in length, they can be very slippery after a rain, especially in the fall with wet leaves....I think you get the idea....a smorgasbord of surfaces.

I use Travel Contacts on my Trek DS which give a fairly smooth ride on pavement, but has a more aggressive sidewall tread for cornering and dealing with gravel.

As stated above, my concern with Big Apples is how smooth they are, would Marathons be a better choice for multi-surface?

Your thoughts?
*My only request is that the replies are from personal experience. Thanks in advance.
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Old 05-05-16, 08:50 AM
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Can't go too far wrong with Schwalbe Marathons...or Marathon Pluses...If you can find a Specialized Nimbus Armadillo even better..Got one on my Bike Friday..brilliant tyre..
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Old 05-05-16, 08:59 AM
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The problem i see there with Marathons is the gravel parts if Skunk is going on those and how loose that trail is. I had 1.6" sized tires before (schwalbe citizens) they where OK but it was quite a difference once i switched over to big apples to my daily commuter. I had a gravel section trail if I took the long way home and you do "float" over the gravel alot better with it. for the big apples the asphalt, concrete and wet roads isn't really an issue at all. It's the gravel and trails part that'll give you the most trouble and fat tires usually make the biggest difference to handle all that shock. Now my daily commuter runs on kojaks. 406 size but it's sooo skinny and treadless that last time I tried gravel it basically just cut right into the gravel like a knife and quite a harrowing experience. Yeah I keep it on road now.

don't expect to get amazing traction from any of the tires we suggested on gravel and trail you'll have to take care when going at corners with speed. They'll float better for straightline with the fatter tires but unless you are using Knobbies like these: Black Jack HS 407, 47-406, Black-Skin, Wire | Schwalbe North America
you will be compromising on gravel and off road, but with this then your normal pavement riding suffers. The real issue here is that your ride has such huge variances from gravel to trail to pavement that there isn't really a perfect tire to do them all. You will end up compromising from one type of pathway or the other. you will have to make that choice which roadtype will you be on the majority of the time.

Last edited by Azreal911; 05-05-16 at 09:08 AM.
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Old 05-05-16, 09:31 AM
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I ride my marathon racers on multiple surfaces. While I do love these tires, I'm not crazy about them on gravel. Unless you have some suspension on your bike, you would be counting the seconds til you leave the gravel part of your travel. On any kind of city street or road, and well packed dirt, the Racers are great. I agree with above poster that you probably can't have perfection on all surfaces with one tire; you will have to make compromises bases on the percentage you ride each surface.
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Old 05-05-16, 11:20 AM
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Check out Tioga PowerBlocks or Intense Micro Knobbies.. nice dual purpose fat 406 Tires.. Niagara sell them both among many other sellers..
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Old 05-05-16, 12:19 PM
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I would go for the big apples. On anything other than road over a marathon or plus if ultimate protection needed.
Marathons are bareable off road, big apples enjoyable. Imho

=
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Old 05-05-16, 03:27 PM
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I have ridden narrow road 28mm tires on all types of surfaces. And here's my take: traction is not the main issue by far. The main issue by a long margin is how well the tyre will absorb rough gravel. So get the biggest Big Apples, done.

Traction is only an issue if you are going to do a lot of fast cornering on gravel or if the track has a significant camber to it. For that type of surface Holy Rollers work very well but my experience with those is they don't last well.
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Old 05-05-16, 08:54 PM
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Schwalbe Big Apple Plus: Big Apple Plus HS 430 | Schwalbe North America
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Old 05-05-16, 09:17 PM
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You are looking for an all-surface tire. Your best bet is something in the Schwalbe Marathon range. The slicks and near slicks suggested here are not the omniterra tire you seek.
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Old 05-06-16, 05:13 AM
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Thank you everyone, great points made by all so far.

linberl, exactly, it is a compromise! I went through this same process when selecting the Travel Contacts for my DS.

It is also an inexact science when talking about pavement versus trails, because some of the asphalt and concrete has it's share of problems and some of the dedicated trails are newer and pristine smooth. I can say, that I do ride sections where I lose a lot of the road bike traffic to alternate more bike friendly routes while I go ahead and take the trail or path until i hook back up with a road section. It's a 35 mile course I developed, and something I'd like to think i could work up to on the folder, but will start working on it in sections-at-a-time until I decide to go the entire route.

On the hybrid I don't find any of the sections objectionable, in fact, I like going off the beaten track, exploring, taking short cuts, and such.

I am stuck between the 1.75 Marathons HS440 and the Big Apple 2.15s HS430
I am now thinking the Big Apples will have a greater amount of surface contact area at any given time.
A comfortable ride is always a plus.

I will check out some of the other tires mentioned when i get a chance. i am assuming the BMX tires are probably not what I am looking for.

Rain all week this week, rain all day today (again) looking forward to Sat & Sun for some actual riding time. Saturday, partly sunny and 72, finally!

edit: The Continental Contact II Reflex is on my radar, also. 20x1.75"
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004IFML9G/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_S_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=27P8L6231ILVL&coliid=I1OQGF3X15H2LR&psc=1



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Old 05-06-16, 09:29 AM
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I suppose one additional option is to adjust your tire pressure depending on the surface. I ride my Marathon Racers at the max all the time (85 psi) but there was one day I forgot to check my tires and hit a gravel section at 72 psi (checked when I got home) and it was definitely not as annoying. Big Apples can run on a wide range of pressure and other tires may also work well that way. Something to consider. I wouldn't go narrower than 1.5 and think a wider tire would be better (and some tires are not as wide as they say they are!). Sounds like you are on the right track (no pun intended) with 1.75 or bigger.
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Old 05-06-16, 10:54 AM
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unless mud or snow and loose stuff..... the contact patch is as big as a penny ....
all those fancy threads are marketing driven....

:-)
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Old 05-06-16, 01:09 PM
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1.75" or wider, for sure. And, yes varying psi can help....but then that becomes a compromise if riding varied terrain during same day/same ride (which is my case).
Thor, thanks for the insight, that makes sense.

Durability is also a good thing, in my book. My travel contacts are nearly bullet-proof based on where I have been and what I have run over.
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Old 05-06-16, 10:06 PM
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BMX tires are the standard 406mm so there's counless options there for street and dirt and anything in between.
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Old 05-07-16, 12:46 AM
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You want a touring tire. For touring there are two go-to names: Schwalbe and Continental. From Schwalbe, as I've said you want a Marathon. From Conti you want a Tour Ride (47-406):

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Old 05-07-16, 05:12 AM
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Thanks Abu. I have those two on my radar....Big Apple as well, and all 3 on my Amazon Wish List as place holders.
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Old 05-07-16, 08:19 AM
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My wife has 406 Continental Contacts of her Bike Friday and loves them. Roger
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Old 05-07-16, 08:35 AM
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I have had no reason to remove the schwalbe marathon plus tires my bike friday shipped, wearing..


It's the bike I take out when its raining the most.

It has mudguards & disc brakes..

Last edited by fietsbob; 05-07-16 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 05-09-16, 02:09 PM
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Big Apple is by far the best all around tire. For light offroad get the wider ones (55mm).
Knobby tires will be better off road and gravel but no contest on the road.
Only it is heavy.
You can also choose Marathon Racers.
The standard Marathons are rather harsh.
The pluses are slightly inefficient.

Contact surface is approximately related to the tire pressure, so wider tires with require less pressure have a larger (wider) contact patch.
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Old 05-11-16, 06:00 AM
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After much deliberation, soul searching, and examination of likely trips...... Big Apples arriving Friday.

Will update later, after xx? miles, regarding overall performance.

Thanks to everyone for their thoughts!
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Old 05-12-16, 05:12 PM
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It was a good day. The Big Apples arrived. Yay! Tubes did not arrive with them. awwww.
But, as luck would have it, the tubes arrived 1 hour later, on a different truck! YAY!

Installed the tires and tubes. Had to make fender adjustments for the fatter taller Apples.
Went out for about a 7 to 8 mile spin. The new Big Apples did very well!

The Schwalbe blue even matches the paint scheme..hard to see in the pic.
It is overcast, so the flash went off, highlighting the reflex ring.
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Old 05-13-16, 05:03 PM
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How wide, in mm, are the rim and the tires?
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Old 05-14-16, 06:31 AM
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These are the 50-406s. (20" x 2.00")

Heading out in a few minutes actually, bike is packed, Sunny day, I have a 20+ mile route to try....with varied surfaces.
Starting out with 60psi Rear and 50psi front. Will adjust from there if needed.

Happy Riding to all this weekend!
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Old 05-14-16, 07:06 AM
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How wide is the rim inner beads?
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Old 05-14-16, 02:17 PM
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I checked before ordering. I could go as wide as 2.125, I held it at the 2.00s (50-406), rather than push the limit with the 2.15 Big Apples.
I didn't commit the rim measurement to memory. Low speed handing was fine.

They performed well. Plenty of variety on the trip today. Did 22 miles, total.

We have had a lot of rain here on the US East Coast in the past few weeks.
The route I used today follows stream beds and there were plenty of puddles filled with water and silt on the trail sections.
The silty mud is like grease..need to be careful using any tire in those conditions.

The Apples did fine. Thanks everyone.
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