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tires

HED Ardennes Plus first impression

Hello fellow roadies and bike commuters! We finally got a sunny day here in Southern California and I took advantage by riding my Bianchi Impulso with the new-to-me HED Ardennes Plus wheels. There are times that you think to yourself; “self, I deserve a new pair of shoes”, but in our case; “self, my bike deserves a new pair of wheels”. In a deal that my buddy could not resist, he bought these seldom used HED Ardennes Plus wheels for his road bike. The problem was the “Plus” since these wheels are wider than the normal wheels and he was not able to make them fit on his bike.

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My buddy was kind enough to let me test ride these wheels to see if I like them. Mind you, they were a little over my budget but based on HED’s reputation I said what the heck, why not, let’s try them.

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I encountered clearance issue as my buddy, but with careful brake pad adjustment, I made those suckers fit. What is the big deal with these wheels? The rims are 25mm wide, 2 mm wider than the “normal” wheels. The HED Ardennes Plus also came with Continental Grand Prix tires which looked like big ass tires.

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I have always considered reviewing road wheels and tires very hard to do. I mean, how can you really tell the difference, right? I picked a route with small climbs and descents, rough asphalt, a railroad crossing and sweeping turns to get a feel of the wheels. The first thing I noticed was this humming noise as I rode on the flat surfaces, not a bad noise, a noise that I assume was created by the bladed spokes. Then came the angry bees, yeah, that noise the rear hub creates as you stop pedaling and coast. Some riders like that noise, some hate it. I like it. As I kept pedaling and rode the rain beaten asphalt, I noticed how comfortable the wheels were. There was no jarring when I rode on top of small cracks or loose asphalt, no “thunk” noises when you hit small pot holes it was just… bliss.

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Rear wheel weight -HED Ardennes

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Rear wheel weight -Shimano RS010

I consider my self “old school” when it comes to tires, I would not ride anything bigger than a 23 because of the minimal weight savings and the theory of lower rolling resistance. These new 25mm wheels and tires have totally changed my mind and I can’t wait to take them on longer rides.

Product Review: Continental Super Sport Plus Tires


SONY DSCSo a lot of us commuter types end up riding road (ish) bikes with road (ish) tires. Unfortunately, this often means we end up using road tires meant for racer folks, not commuting folks! While they’re not the only players in the game, Continental definitely brings a good solution to market with the Super Sport Plus tires we’ve had on long-term test. They’re equipped with an anti-puncture belt, which according to Continental is “Nearly impenetrable.” The Super Sport Plusses (henceforward referred to by me as SSPs) have just enough tread to lend a bit more confidence on the slightly-sketchy stuff (for super-sketchy stuff you’d be better off with something like this, or possibly this!). The SSPs also come with extra-thick tread – something us commuters can appreciate (because hey, tires can get expensive!). My set was 700×25; they also come in 700×23 and even some 27 inch sizes for those of you riding what I’ll call… “classic”… bikes.



So how do they ride? Well, I mounted them up to my old Bridgestone single speed to test them out, and the verdict was… Smooooth. Also pretty fast for a tire that isn’t that lightweight (no I didn’t weigh them, who do you think I am?). Riding unloaded, I was able to maintain pretty respectable speeds over the course of an hour or two. Recommended inflation on the 700×25 size was 95-120 PSI, but I found 90-95 was the sweet spot for me.
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In terms of wet – they work well there too. No real sense of lost grip (though I’ll warn that might change with the narrower sizes – it’s hard to tell what was because of the tire and what was because of the tire size). I would recommend against snow though (sorry E, they’re not gonna be your Chicago winter tires!).

The verdict on flat protection? Well, it’s always hard to prove a negative… I didn’t get any flats on these! I’m not usually riding any glass or tack-studded roads though, so it’s hard to say. I did hit one sharp-edged bump at about 20mph… so I CAN say at a minimum that they don’t pinch flat easily!SONY DSC

Street price for these babies seems to average around $30/tire, though there are a few deals out there depending on which version you’re after. My verdict? Worth the money. You won’t find a heck of a lot that’s much cheaper, and knowing that you’ve got quality tires under you is worth quite a bit.
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Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Product Review: WTB Freedom Cruz 29er tires

So as I previously mentioned, I’ve been riding the WTB Freedom Cruz 29er tires on my Redline Monocog 29er – and I’ve now got enough time logged on them for a review!

The basics: at a 29 x 2.0″ size (they come in 26″ as well), these are not for your typical city bike or hybrid! Per product description, they’re meant to “turn your 29″ dirt-crusted steed into a quick and nimble commuter workhorse.” While in general I prefer to keep my mountain bikes on mostly dirt, I had the bike available and a new bike I was riding more, so on the tires went!

A (rather technical) caveat up front: these tires are mounted to Mavic A317 rims, which only have a rim width of 17mm. WTB recommends (per the tire sidewall) rim widths of 25mm+ (which is somewhat standard – but not universal – for mountain bike rims). So right off the bat, my experience with handling may be different than someone else’s, as a wider tire on a narrower rim doesn’t hold its shape quite as well as a wider tire on a wider rim or a narrower tire on a narrower rim. I never felt super comfortable on these on sharp turns – but that might change quite a bit if they were used with the recommended rim size.

Now back to riding impressions!

After a couple months of solid riding, I can definitely say the Freedom Cruz fits the bill for commuting! Very smooth-rolling for sure. They also seem to track well on surfaces ranging from pavement to hardpack dirt – I wouldn’t want to try them out in a lot of mud or loose dirt, but on smooth surfaces they work well (wet or dry). The suggested tire pressure is 35-65psi – after some testing, I ended up running the rear at 40psi and the front at 35psi (this for an average guy+gear load of around 160-165lbs). I also found that the tires held air pressure pretty well – I only had to add a small amount of air every couple weeks. My typical experience is that I need to add a more significant amount of air once a week, so this was a pleasant surprise. It may simply be due to the lower pressure – tire pressure on my other commuter bikes ranges from 55psi to 100psi – but it was nice nonetheless.

The hard rubber compound and sidewall on the Cruz did seem to lessen the bump-absorption properties normally associated with wide tires to some degree – I think most of my mountain tires provide a bit more cushion than these do. However, they do seem durable – after about 350 miles of riding I can’t really see any signs of wear.

For the price (MSRP is $33.99 per tire and they can be found for $6-10 less), the Freedom Cruz 29 tires are a very reasonable way to convert a mountain bike into a smooth-riding city bike. They aren’t overly beefy, and once I had my bike up to speed I felt like it took very little effort to keep it at speed. If you’ve got an extra MTB sitting around and want to give it some new life, $50-60 can get you a tire that will give you a smooth ride for a long time… and the all-black styling means your “mountain” bike won’t be hurting too bad for street cred even without the knobbies!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

New Commute, New Style

A month ago, my commute changed from a 6-mile commute one-way to a three-mile commute one-way. It also changed from an office with a shower to an office without a shower… so my approach to my commute definitely had to change!

Previously, I’d taken the approach of riding as hard as I wanted in more bike-y clothes, then showering and changing. With no shower available – but a much shorter commute – I decided to take advantage of our lowering morning temperatures (mostly below 70 now) to try riding to work in my work clothes and going slower. This also gave me the ability to put three products we’ve received to a better test.

My “new” commuting rig is my Redline Monocog 29’er single speed mountain bike… with a couple modifications. I’ve kept the gear ratio the same (33×16) – it’s low, but it means I can’t ride too fast and therefore can’t get too sweaty!

The Monocog in commuter guise

The three products I’m reviewing are:
WTB’s Freedom Cruz 29 tires
WTB’s Freedom Cruz Grips
Cycle Cuffs
Look for reviews of all three of these shortly!

Freedom Cruz 29

Freedom Cruz grips

Cycle Cuffs

Freedom Bicycle ThickSlick tires review

I enlisted the help of my younger brother Roy to put this tires through a thorough testing. For some reason, Roy had a habit of averaging 2 flats per week on whatever bike he rode, Freedom Bicycle claims that the ThickSlick is one of the strongest urban tires in the market so I thought it was a perfect fit for Roy’s riding habits.

About the rider: Roy is 20 years old, 5’10 and about 155 lbs, he is a college student and rides his bike to school and loves to go on urban adventures with his buddies.

Here are his observations of the Freedom ThickSlick tires:

Thick and Slick are two words that best describe the tires that I have been riding for about three months now. They are slightly wider than your typical road bike tires but they are twice as resilient. I come from a background of frequent flat tires due to riding through rough terrain, debris, broken glass, and sometimes even from catching some air.

Out of these last three months I have had zero problems with these tires. I use my bike as an urban bike and spend most my time riding though the streets of Los Angeles County. I have ridden through rocks, dirt, sticks, and even small shards of glass and to my surprise I have experienced zero flats. I can certainly say that I’ve beaten the crap out of these tires. Since I live in Sunny Southern California, I didn’t get to ride on the rain, however the tires never slipped on any puddle of water that I came across.

Despite looking like two over-sized inner tubes I have received many compliments by other riders, some have asked me if the tires were tubulars. I guess that is a compliment since my brother says that tubular tires are very high performance and very expensive tires!

As “Slick” as the tires appear, I experienced loads of traction on the road. Handling on these tires was a great experience, I was able to handle turns at high velocity and at low leaning angles. Braking on these tires was excellent, a couple times I needed to brake suddenly due to moving cars or other bikers, fortunately, I was able to stop with minimal skidding and enough time to avoid any collisions.

Prices for the Freedom ThickSlick vary from $15 to $30, these tires easily pay themselves off by saving on tire tubes. So if you are looking for a tire that would be able to handle all the harsh conditions of Urban riding, its durable, handles great and looks good, I highly recommend you get yourself a set of these tires.

For more information and tech specs on these tires, please visit http://www.freedombicycle.com.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Freedom Bicycle Tire Review, Ryder Model

Where do I start? Yesterday I replaced the stock tires on the Torker Graduate and went for spin down the Southern California Coast. My spin turned out to be 45 miles ending at Oceanside California; this has a lot to do with the Freedom Ryder tires, they were trouble free and allowed me to keep rolling until my legs were fried.

With 80 psi in the tires I thought it would be a rough ride. It was not and yet still very grippy in the loose stuff. The miles just kept clicking off; part of the ride was though Camp Pendleton Marine Base. The bike path on the base can be rough at times and can flat a tire with ease — the tires held up great over slab cracks and gravel.

Just Ask Jack — Good 26″ Commuter Tires?

A question I get a lot around here is “what is an appropriate and good tire choice to convert my mountain bike into a commuter?”

Back in the early 90s, there was a tremendous mountain bike boom — everyone wanted one , and now it seems that nearly everyone still has one hanging around in their garage. I’ve long believed that a mountain bike makes an ideal platform for a commuter bike in many respects, and I’ve written about that before. The frames are tough, the 26″ wheels are inherently strong and there are often good mounting points for racks, fenders and other crucial commuter accessories.

But, those knobby offroad tires have GOT to go — nothing soaks up your energy faster than wrestling against tires designed to grab hold of mud and loose sand and not lose traction. A simple swap to a more “road friendly” tire is a quick and relatively painless way to get things rolling faster!

Where do we begin, though? There is a bewildering array of tires on the market, and I’ve been unable to test the vast majority. I tend to buy whatever’s on sale that meets my criteria for a decent commuter tire: puncture resistance, minimal tread and a total width less than 1.5″. So, think of the following as a “roundup” of available tires from several major brands. These are not meant to be endorsements or recommendations; this article is merely intended to guide our readers toward appropriate types of tires for the road.

Strangely enough, there was an article in yesterday’s New York Times about good commuter tires. Check it out by clicking here.

Panaracer
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Panaracer’s Pasela, Pasela Tour Guard and T-Serv tires are perennial favorites — they feature good durability and great puncture resistance in a variety of diameters and widths. Visit their Urban tires webpage for more details.

Schwalbe
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Schwalbe tires get a lot of good press — they were one of the first brands to offer a reflective sidewall, and their tires are legendary for style, durability and flat protection. Heck, they even make carbide-studded snow tires for winter commuting! Check out their complete line of tires on their road tire webpage…lots of styles, diameters and widths to choose from.

Specialized
Specialized

A heavy hitter in bicycling circles, Specialized has a pretty amazing assortment of tires to choose from. Their “Armadillo” and “Flak Jacket” puncture protection systems get rave reviews from riders. I seem to recall that the Armadillo models in 700c are quite popular with fixed-gear riders, as they offer a lot of durability for skid- and skip-stops. Check out their “widebody” and thinner 26″ tires on this page, and their road offerings on this page.

SweetskinZ
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Let’s not forget our friends at SweetskinZ, the innovators in printing a full-coverage pattern on tires, complete with reflective elements. These tend to be a “love ’em or hate ’em” choice for most riders. You either love the way they look or think they’re ghastly. I fall into the former camp, but then again, I’m not known for my fashion sense! SweetskinZ offers only one tread pattern for commuters. It is somewhat of a hybrid tread pattern with a center “file tread” section and short knobs on the outer perimeter of the contact patch. These tires excel on rough roads and offroad hardpack. They’re not particularly puncture-resistant, but I’ve not had any problems with flats. Check out their dizzying collection of colors at their website.

I think of my commuter bike as a “mission critical” device. Because of this, I insist on puncture-resistance in the form of a Kevlar or similar aramid belt, and I’m not averse to additional forms of flat protection. In fact, on my main rig (my Xtracycle), I’ve got Panaracer Hi-Road V tires with built-in puncture resistance, Mr. Tuffy tire liners AND pre-Slimed tubes. I am GETTING TO WORK ON TIME, DANG IT! Who cares that this combination is heavy, dead-feeling and probably overkill? As Moe said in an earlier article, once you’re pushing around 50+ lb. of bicycle weight, what’s a few more accessories?

Most of the big tire manufacturers, both the ones covered above and other companies like Continental and Kenda, offer plenty of choices in just about every size a bicyclist would need: 26″, 29″, 700c, 27″, etc. Good tires are a cheap investment that pays off in “peace of mind”. If any of you have particular recommendations for tires, please feel free to comment below.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

SweetSkinz Rattleback long term review

I always get questions about the tires installed on my Ibex X-ray Cyclocross commuter bike:


They are SweetSkinz Rattleback 700X37c tires. If you don’t know who SweetSkinz is, here’s a little bit about them:

SweetskinZ launched in 1999 with the goal of revolutionizing the tire industry. The company was originally conceived by combining a passion for cycling with a drive to design high-quality, personalized products — the first of which was the world’s premiere bicycle tire featuring a variety of full-color graphics and patterns that are also reflective.

Building on the success and interest from the cycling community, SweetskinZ is working to expand the SkinZ product line with a wide range of industry leaders. In conjunction with new SkinZ Application Partners, SweetskinZ is conducting research and development to bring designs to other products, including a variety of motor vehicle tires, apparel, footwear, golf cart tires and club grips, conveyor belts, and numerous industrial applications.

Our Goal? To not only produce the best quality products on the market, but to infuse a little style along the way so that both consumers and retailers can make a bold, unique statement.

SweetskinZ has evolved from a promising idea, to a company poised to revolutionize and revitalize industries.

OK, so back to the tires… I’ve been riding with these tires for over a year and logged over 700 miles on them.

Thumbs Up: The SweetSkinz rattleback tires have a rattlesnake diamondback pattern (thus the name), I like the design because it is one of their more ‘subtle’ designs, the design is more noticeable when the bike is parked and not when I’m riding it. The tires are meant to go on ‘comfort bikes’, but due to the high tire clearance of the X-ray, they fit rather nicely. How do they ride? The tires are low PSI so they are very plush and they roll with ease.The tires are also puncture resistant, I haven’t had one single puncture with these tires, Here’s what I consider being worth the price of the SweetSkinz tires, their reflectivity:


All SweetSkinz tires have reflective properties embedded on their patterns, a pretty cool safety feature.

Thumbs Down: Weight weenies need not apply, SweetskinZ tires are on the heavy side. Limited 700c sizes, 700X37c is the only available size, unless you have a bike with high tire clearance, tires will not fit. At $39 bucks a piece, tires are not on the cheap side.

BikeCommuters.com bikes on SweetSkinZ tires:



Recommendation: We love SweetSkinz tires for various reasons, yes, at $39 bucks a piece they are not cheap, but I believe they are worth it because of their durability, safety features and coolness factor.

SweetskinZ also supports our website by donating their tires for events like the Urban Bike Commuter Expo and the Bicycle Bash by the bay. We also get a small percentage of every sale if you click their banner and buy tires, all of this money goes for operational costs, not to make us rich.