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Why arenít buyers of bicycle tyres pampered?

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Why arenít buyers of bicycle tyres pampered?

Old 04-21-05, 08:54 AM
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Why arenít buyers of bicycle tyres pampered?

If you care to respond to this post, Iím not so much interested in what is the best touring tyre Ė though all suggestions will be appreciated for 26 x 1.75 or wider Ė as I am in the surrounding issues: the Ďwhy itís like thisí.

An elderly friend, a gentle driver, showed me his new car tyres recently, and I asked:

ĎHow long did the others last?í
ĎOh, about 65,000 kmí

Iíve been looking at bicycle tyres for extended touring. The disparity between the quality of car tyres and bike tyres intrigues me. Go to a car tyre dealer and thereíll be tyres stacked to the roof. Search hard and cheap: you wonít find a poor-quality tyre. Comparing 175mm wide tyres, the price spread might be $60 to $100 (Australian) and you wonít be offered a tyre outside that price range, a ratio of less than 2:1.

Go to a bike shop for a 26 x 1.75 and the price spread could be 6:1. Cheapies will come in around $12 and top-shelf around $70. If youíre unlucky in your choice of a cheap rear tyre you might get less than 1000km. Opt for the $70 tyres and you might get 5000 km, or you might get 500 km.

Why is that? Car and good-quality bike tyres are comparable in price Ė yet the car tyre is ten of the bike tyre. Is it because safety is a big issue for car tyres, so poor-quality tyres simply arenít made? Is it the size of the market, or are car tyres in a more competitive market?

Iíve spent a dozens hours looking at tyre specs from Vredestein, Continental, Schwalbe; talking to bike shop owners; turning catalogue pages; reading reviews on the web. Iíve never felt it necessary to do that for car tyres. I could spend $50 on Continental Top Tourers and have them pack it in after 500 km. This is Steve from Canada in an email to me:

ďThe side wall problem with Contis only showed up when fully laden. Each tire pumped to its max gave out after about 500km.*The Schwalbes [Marathons] went for 10,000 or more.*It appears that Contis are OK as long as you do not overload them, but typically that is what one does when touring. I basically cycled from Munich to Melbourne. I got through 8 Contis between Munich and Istanbul.*I then put Schwalbes on and they got me to Melbourne from Istanbul,*plus approx another 10,000 kms unladen after that around the bike paths of Germany.Ē

Steveís experience may or may not be typical of Top Tourers, though eight makes you wonder how big a sample you need before the evidence is conclusive. That brings me to another point: Continental and Schwalbe have been around for a century. Surely Continental wouldnít release a bike tyre that bad. But when you read similar reviews you start to think: maybe they did. And maybe the other manufacturers have also.

Word of mouth; dealers getting sick of returns; and poor reviews in car magazines soon stop that sort of nonsense for a car tyre. Are touring cyclists not noisy enough or are there just not enough of us? Will forums such as this one, as they achieve greater influence, and as touring becomes more popular, put pressure on manufacturers to improve touring tyres?

Where is the 20,000 km touring tyre with 5mm of slick tread and decent sidewalls? So what if itís 500 gms heavier. Touring with an all-up weight of 120.5 kg (rider, gear and bicycle) instead of 120 kg wonít feel any different. Are we to blame because we like to see a tread pattern (unnecessary for a touring tyre) and demand light-weight tyres? And why do we rate tyres depending on the number of punctures? Listen to this reviewer:

ďI bought these 26Ē Continential Top Touring 2000 tires in July 1999, and 2600 miles later I haven't had a flat. This is incredible considering the amount of pure miles I rack on my commuter bike.Ē

Itís not incredible: punctures are mostly accidental. Maybe he just didnít run over anything. You simply donít know. Rating a tyre by how much the tread or sidewall wears would be a better indication of a good tyre. Can you imagine during a test of car tyres, the examiner saying: ĎWell, that oneís no good. It just got a nail in it.í

The problem with puncture-rating a bike tyre is that manufacturers listen. They listen alright, and put the protection belt INSIDE the tyre. Great, except when the tyre wears out you throw away the expensive, still-pristine protection, as well as the tyre. Wouldnít a healthy depth of near-slick tread on the outside of the tyre be better? Then you get wear AND puncture resistance. If you want still more puncture protection, slit a thorn-resistant tube and use it as a liner.

Schwalbe, for instance, make it plain where their priority lies: since 1980 they have concentrated on improving puncture resistance. Thatís fine for town use when getting a puncture is more inconvenient than changing a tyre. You can do that at home next week if it looks a bit worn. But when touring I like a tyre thatís going to last. Schwalbe have scant comment on that aspect of their tyres.

We groan loudest about punctures, and the manufacturers respond with puncture protection. We donít buy tyres new and bald Ė they donít look safe Ė so we get offered tread at the expense of longer life.

I have a fantasy: I walk into a bike shop, or go online, and ... Ah! a range of slick touring tyres that will endure 20,000 kms, all priced between $25 and $40. My choice comes down to width and looks. Some may last longer than others but I know that no matter which tyre I choose, it will get me through to the end of the trip...

Dream over. Iíd better get on with researching tyres.

Car-tyre buyers are pampered. When is it our turn?
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Old 04-21-05, 09:13 AM
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Well car tyres are steel belted, that probably makes a pretty big difference. I imagine it wouldnt work for bike tyres, or they would be too heavy.
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Old 04-21-05, 09:19 AM
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I think it has to do with 2 things: Size of the market (primarily) and 2: concerns about weight.

Look at the size of the bike market compared to the auto market. There just isn't enough scale to make it economical to offer the kind of spread in products seen in the car tire market. That alone leads to the high prices of bike tires relative to car tires.

The bike racing market then has dominated the skinny tire market and they want everything to be super-light. Heck, I wouldn't put it past some of those guys to fill their tires with helium instead of air. When weight is such a concern, there isn't a lot of tolerance for heavy things like wear resistant bands. In the fat-tire market, the hybrids rule. Tire wear just isn't a problem if you only ride your bike 5 miles a year.

Touring cyclists and commuters are just not a large enough market to warrant significant research. I would pay $50-60 for a touring tire with puncture resistance and wear resistance (actually the armadillos I use work quite well), but what would Joe Blow think when he asked for a new tire and was told it would cost $50?

That's why I don't think we see the same kind of product diversity seen in auto tire markets.
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Old 04-22-05, 03:36 AM
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The simple answer is: that is what the market will bear. Basically as long as people buy something the price will not go down.

Volume is not the reason, there are a couple billion bikes out there, just think of China where they're a main transport. The research is also not the problem car and moto tread rubber ranges from super sticky(racing) to super durable(truck trailers) to whatever is called for, as for belts and plies most use nylon and or polyester plies and the steel belts are for holding shape at high speeds, oh and one of kevlar's original goals was for use in tire belts and plies.

The reasons bike tires wear fast and cars don't. Cars have very thick (heavy, not as flexible) tread to start, so there is probably 4-6times the rubber to wear through. Cars run at 2 bars/30PSI while bikes press their rubber down with 4-7Bars/60-105PSI, so the rubber is more highly compressed.

Around here smallish car tires start at $40 and sports cars tires can be as haigh as $150-200 U.S. dollars with $60 being very common. while bicycle tires range from $11 to $50 with $20 being common and $40 for kevlar beads.
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Old 04-22-05, 05:03 AM
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Look at it from this point of view:

The expectation is that the average bike rider will cover what... 2500km a year? Maybe even 1,000km. If a tyre has an expected life of 5,000km (putting aside quality control issues and operator error and chance punctures), that's two to five years of use out of a pair.

I seem to recall a car tyre can last about the same time (even though distance is greater). I've had car tyres last a lot shorter that two years.

Touring cyclists are not the norm. Cyclists who cover 10,000km plus a year are extraordinary in the world-wide population (left along the population of this list).

There are bicycle tyres that will last a long time. The Conti Town and Country in 26" can last quite a while -- a friend has done at least 15,000km on a set with regular commuting, including significant climbing, plus offroad use. Another has chalked up 20,000km, but they were the old German-made model with harder rubber and deeper tread than the Thai variety.

I suspect that people who complain about tyre longevity often don't maintain their tyres at proper pressures, don't watch where they are riding, ride a lot in wet conditions, and/or don't properly search and remove the item causing a puncture in the first place.

I spend probably $200 a year on tyres on my touring/rando bike (700C). I cover a minimum of 14,000km a year. Currently it has Michelin Dynamics in 25mm profile that are showing exceptional wear ability and therefore value for money at $27 a tyre. For loaded touring, I prefer the TT2000s in 32mm profile at ~$50 a tyre. As all know, I recently discovered the directional nature of the TT2000 depending on whether front or rear... I expect to get 6,000-plus out of pair in future after that little revelation!

Oh, if I was driving 14,000km in a motor vehicle, tyre cost would not be significant. Every other cost would be well over $200, though.
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Old 04-22-05, 07:28 AM
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Originally Posted by capsicum
The simple answer is: that is what the market will bear. Basically as long as people buy something the price will not go down.

Volume is not the reason, there are a couple billion bikes out there, just think of China where they're a main transport. The research is also not the problem...
Yes, thanks Capsicum. It's not the market size, or the research, it's because there are relatively few tourers and so we have to pay.

Like Dogboy, I'd be happy to pay $50 a tyre if I knew it was going to last. And I do suspect, as does Rowan, that tyre pressure has a lot to do with it: underinflation buggers up sidewalls and I suppose overinflation causes problems as well.

Since there are two of us who tour together I might try a Schwalbe Marathon, Conti TT2000, Conti Contact Security and either a Vredestein or Armadillo and do a direct comparison. I might throw in one cheapy just to see how it compares.

It hurts when those tyres will cost the same as four tyres for my car, and last a quarter of the distance or less.

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Old 04-22-05, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Guy Burns
It hurts when those tyres will cost the same as four tyres for my car, and last a quarter of the distance or less.
But look at the benefits!! No car tyre can possible improve your fitness and bring you closer to the world as it really exists like bike tyres can. And could you fix a car tyre puncture? Hah! I doubt it. I bet you could fix a bike tyre puncture with your eyes closed.

Also think of this. You'd spend the equivalent of 5 tyres going to the Movie-Max-whatever-it-is film experince to see the same things you can see by bike.

By the way, *mart cheapie tyres really don't last as well as the slightly more expensive tyres. Believe me.
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Old 04-22-05, 11:51 AM
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[QUOTE=Rowan].. As all know, I recently discovered the directional nature of the TT2000 depending on whether front or rear... I expect to get 6,000-plus out of pair in future after that little revelation!
QUOTE]

Rowan, I missed this and am interested... can you post a link or review for me? thanks
anna
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Old 04-22-05, 05:37 PM
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Anna, there was a thread called "Tire tread direction" in the Bicycle Mechanics section of the forum a month or two ago - a search will find it. Big discussion of the TT2000 and the net-net is Conti recommends mounting them with the V facing forward on front tire, rearward on the back tire, viewed from above. The loads carried by the tire are different from front to rear: front is steering/stopping, rear is to withstand and transfer tractive force as you pedal, hence the difference in mounting to optimize traction for the intended function.

Speaking of which, it has been this way on motorcycles forever. They are consistently very good in terms of performance, but you pay for such high specialization. Not uncommon to spend $300 on a set of motorcycle tires and wear 'em out in 5000 miles, touring designs may go twice as long.

Last edited by mtnroads; 04-22-05 at 05:43 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 04-23-05, 12:35 AM
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Originally Posted by mtnroads
Not uncommon to spend $300 on a set of motorcycle tires and wear 'em out in 5000 miles, touring designs may go twice as long.
I get 15,000 miles out of my $50 IRC dual sport tires
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Old 04-23-05, 03:26 AM
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everyone has covered the why's of the cost pretty well, I would just say that sometimes you have to weigh cost against wear. For me I have had good results from the IRC metro kevlar in the 1.5 size. They only last about 2000 road miles for my touring bike and about the same on my Tandem. I buy them 4-6 at a time usually in the fall when the mailorder shops are closing them out for $10 each or less. I always put fresh ones on before a long tour and then use them up the rest of the season on local rides. YMMV

BTW when comparing the wear of bicycle tires to car tires you have to take in account the loading of the tire. A typical compact car radial tire might have a contact patch of 15 square inches per tire (5"x3" contact patch) multiply x 4 tires = 60 square inches of contact surface , divide that into the weight of the car (60/2800)
and you have a loading of 47 lbs per square inch. On a typical 700c bicycle touring tire your contact patch may be something like 1.5 inches per tire(.75"x2") which equals 3 square inches for front and rear tires combined. Now take a 160 lb cyclist on a 25lb bike carrying 30 lbs of kit (most of us would wish to tour that light ) now you have 215 lbs of weight on a 3" contact surface , 215 divided by 3 = about 71 lbs of load per square inch of contact
surface . In other words the bicycle tire is carrying about 70% more load than a car tire.

Last edited by Cyclist0094; 04-23-05 at 04:02 AM.
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Old 04-23-05, 06:54 AM
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Or the simpler and more accurate method of calculating tire load: Look at the tire pressure guage.
It's no joke, the pressure outside the tire will very closely match the pressure inside the tire and the contact patch will spread or shrink to make sure this is true. I've seen real tests.
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Old 04-23-05, 11:10 PM
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Schwalbe have some info on tyre direction at:

https://www.schwalbe.com/index.pl?mod...produktgruppe=
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Old 05-02-05, 08:50 AM
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Just did calculation:

Bicycle tyre: $15 a tyre, 2000 miles from the tyre (for me, very doable), makes for 200 miles/dollar.

Car tyre: $75 a tyre (205mm wide), 30000 miles from the tyre, makes for 400 miles/dollar.

Not THAT bad...
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