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Questions about tires for road tandems

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Questions about tires for road tandems

Old 08-27-21, 03:09 PM
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xg5a 
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Questions about tires for road tandems

I'm an experienced single bike rider and have done a lot of wrenching on them as well, recently I've been fixing up an older tandem to ride with a friend. It's an early 90s Burley Duet, with a non-original wheelset I also bought used (Velocity Dyad and DT Hugi Hubs). I've also upgraded the drivetrain to a 3x8 with Shimano STI levers.

I'm a little in the dark about what tires are appropriate for road tandems. On single bikes, I like the new school thinking for road bike tires (wide and supple, run at low pressures). I have Rene Herse and Panaracer Gravelking slick tires on my bikes and love them. But in most of what I've read online, people seem to run much more durable/beefy tires on tandems (e.g. gatorskins). Is this required or just a choice?

In general, the roads around here (northern NJ, USA) don't seem flat-prone, I only get one once every few years. I'd hate to choose a set of new tires that are "overkill" with flat protection and kill my rolling resistance and ride quality. But I'm wondering if tires like gatorskins also have a lot of extra strength due to their construction, and that's why people use them on tandems (and not solely for flat prevention?).

Our tandem team is about 270lbs total plus a 40lb bike. The wheels I bought have an old set of 28c gatorskins on them, I'd like to replace them just because they look beat-up and the treads are a bit squared off, plus I don't know the history of the tires. I do have a set of relatively new Vittoria Randonneur Pro tires, they seem to be in a middle ground between supple and gatorskins? They're 700x35c and the max pressure on the sidewall is 70psi, that seems maybe too low for tandem use? And if not these tires, what would you recommend?


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Old 08-27-21, 03:23 PM
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sapporoguy
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We just rode X-country 3,800 miles on our co-mo speedster on Hugi+Dyad wheels on Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, 700 x 35c. Wed done several 2-week tours on same with no flats running the low 60psi. After a few tube failures on on XC, we upped it up it to 75 psi and got from Utah to eastern Virginia with no flats. The supremes are expensive but light, low rolling resistance, puncture resistant.
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Old 08-27-21, 03:59 PM
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You will receive a lot of opinions that will be all over the road. For us, we're are 400 lb team also riding northern NJ roads. We have 3 road tandems and run Gator skin 28's on 2 of the bikes (one conventionally motivated and the other electrically motivated) and we put 38 Maxis Ramblers one the third bike for riding the rail trails. I like the gator skins for the flat protection they offer and I like the wider tires for the comfort. That said, the 28's also roll faster and are more fun on the road and the wide tires roll slower and are more comfortable off road.

We did only get about 1000 miles out of the Maxis tire in the rear and I replaced it with a Gravelking 35 and that seems to be wearing well after about 1000 miles as well.

All that said, I would not go for a super lightweight tire but would suggest going a little wider (say 28 min) than you might for a single. I would also recommend not push the low pressure trend too low as there is a lot more weight on the wheels.

Probably anything you would ride a single on the road will be fine.
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Old 08-27-21, 05:04 PM
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I would say the decision to ride something as beefy as gatorskins is more of a choice than a necessity on tandems. A lot of people really want to avoid flats, but if that's not an overriding priority for you, then you don't need to go with something that chunky.
We (about 330 lbs with a racing background) generally ride tires as wide as (1) fit the tandem and (2) are very high quality and supple and so get good performance out of them. The move to wide tires on road bikes has helped in this regard as you can now get top quality racing tires, e.g. Conti 5000s, in 32 wide, which at one point you would have struggled to find them in wider than 25. The Vittorias you mention are a pretty nice blend of durability and suppleness, and, since you have them, I would certainly try them out and see what you think. At your weight, the 70 psi on 35s should be fine, though you could overinflate somewhat as well.
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Old 08-27-21, 05:52 PM
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Our team is a similar weight to yours. Dyad wheels, 48 spokes. Our roads are chip seal with lots of pot holes. We ride 700 x 28c, the max the bike will take. Conti Gatorskins @ 120 psi are extremely reliable (no flats), fast and responsive. They work on short stretches of packed, unsurfaced forest road.

I have tried Michelins (I don't remember the specifics) which are lower pressure and flats were a problem.

Last year, in the winter (Southern Ontario here), we rode Schwalbe Marathon studded Winter Tires 700C x 30mm @ 65 psi (10 psi over the rating of 55 psi). No problems, although at the end of season, the studs appear to be poking through the casing. I will likely replace the tire for this winter because of this.
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Old 08-27-21, 06:59 PM
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We about 10 lbs. heavier than you. We ride Conti 5000 32mm tires at 90 lbs. They have been very satisfactory, good ride, fast, minimal flatting, no pinch flats.
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Old 08-27-21, 07:02 PM
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I have a 1990 Burley Bongo. New not long out of the box I replaced the wheels with Phil Wood Tandem hubs and 48 spoked rims, due to breaking spokes and bent axles twice on the rear wheel. I went thru a time were I destroyed tires mostly on the rear. The recommendation of using Schwalbe Marathons or Marathon Supremes is a good way to go. I have completely worn the tread down on both these modals and never had flats. Most any Schwalbe model in your tire size would be fine. Just remember to consider the use when deciding on the width.
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Old 08-27-21, 07:40 PM
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Thank you all for the suggestions, that's super helpful info!

Some more details I can add:
  • My bike should fit at least 35c tires. I'm a big fan of bigger tires and lower pressures. Some have commented "try bigger tires, like 28c", I'm definitely onboard for that, plus more.
  • I was looking at the tire pressure recommendations here which is why I was concerned the 35c Vittoria's at 70psi max wouldn't be enough. (If each wheel has 155lbs on it). Maybe I'm overthinking it though?
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Old 08-27-21, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by bwebel View Post
I would say the decision to ride something as beefy as gatorskins is more of a choice than a necessity on tandems. A lot of people really want to avoid flats, but if that's not an overriding priority for you, then you don't need to go with something that chunky.
We (about 330 lbs with a racing background) generally ride tires as wide as (1) fit the tandem and (2) are very high quality and supple and so get good performance out of them. The move to wide tires on road bikes has helped in this regard as you can now get top quality racing tires, e.g. Conti 5000s, in 32 wide, which at one point you would have struggled to find them in wider than 25. The Vittorias you mention are a pretty nice blend of durability and suppleness, and, since you have them, I would certainly try them out and see what you think. At your weight, the 70 psi on 35s should be fine, though you could overinflate somewhat as well.
We seem to have similar tire philosophies, it's good to hear that stuff and slow tires aren't strictly required.

Somehow I had it in my head that the Vittorias would need to be over 70psi with the weight we'd be putting on them, but I agree it makes sense to just try them and if they are middle of the road between speed/ride quality and durability, that sounds perfect.

Question, how would you go about figuring out if 70psi is high enough? And is it really safe to exceed that rating?
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Old 08-27-21, 08:46 PM
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As

As you can see from the responses tyre choice is a what ever works for your team and riding conditions the frame clearance will dictate how wide you can go, I asked a lot of questions when casting around for a good mixed terrain touring tandem tyre. In the end I just tried a 5 or so various tyres and chose the one that was reliable and comfy it also rolled the fastest(subjective) I found we needed tyres rated for higher pressures otherwise the sidewalls suffered bulges after a time (especially if running tubeless.
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Old 08-27-21, 08:48 PM
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We have 38mm Soma Supple Vitesse EX tires on our Cannondale (plenty of room in the rear; the front is a close fit at the crown but no issues). They are rated 90psi max, and we run them at about 85 rear and 80 front. They have been great tires. We have had one flat in over 2000 miles. I would say that's pretty good for a 320 gram tire. Our total road weight is around 350 including the bike, water, and other sundries; and we ride on good pavement and the occasional crushed stone trail.
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Old 08-27-21, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by xg5a View Post
We seem to have similar tire philosophies, it's good to hear that stuff and slow tires aren't strictly required.

Somehow I had it in my head that the Vittorias would need to be over 70psi with the weight we'd be putting on them, but I agree it makes sense to just try them and if they are middle of the road between speed/ride quality and durability, that sounds perfect.

Question, how would you go about figuring out if 70psi is high enough? And is it really safe to exceed that rating?
From what I recall, from an article on Conti tires, the max pressure is figured by taking a sample of tires, inflating them until they blow off the rim, and then halving the average pressure at which this occurs. It seems the max pressure number is more of a liability question than the pressure at which one "should" inflate the tires.
Pressure to me is a balance between the feel of the tire and pinch flats...if you like the feel and aren't getting flats, then it's a good pressure. In your situation, I'd probably start at 70, and if you don't like the feel, inflate to 75, then 80, then maybe 85. I probably woudn't go much higher, particularly on the front wheel, where the consequences of a blow out at speed are particularly high.
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