The classic Fisk Tire ad from my childhood shows a sleepy, yawning kid in his Doctor Dentons holding a lighted candle in a holder in his left hand and supporting an automobile tire on his other shoulder. “Time to Re-Tire” is the legend. Actually this ad goes back to the early 1920s, a full 25 years before the versions I recall. I suppose the appeal was nostalgic. Many adults circa 1945 would have remembered wearing those pajamas with the trap-door rears and going to bed by candlelight. The genial image of their own past is just sooooo cute! And what 5-year old wouldn’t rather take a nice shiny new black auto tire to bed than a silly old Teddy Bear? OK, maybe that’s where the logic breaks down, but the sentiment carries the day.
For weeks I had been telling myself that my bikes needed re-tiring. The Trek hadn’t had matching tires almost all season, since a pebble punctured my front tire, and the rear (drive) tire on the Fuji had been balding badly for a long time.
For the Trek I got Forte Pro+ 700x23s, replacing MIchelin Kromions. The Pro+ tires are about 60 grams (about 2 oz.) heavier than the Michelins, but they have twice the thread density at 120 tpi. They sport royal blue sidewalls, as opposed to the Michelins’ sky blue. And they’re not true “slicks,” but have a light tread on the sidewalls only to give a bit of stability in the corners. They look sharp, seem to be performing very well, and provide me with extra confidence against punctures or compression flats with their additional wall strength.
I’ve just loved running Panaracer UrbanMax tires on the Fuji for years. They’re bigger, of course, at 700×32, but they’re the “skinny” kind of 32s, with tread for streets, not offroad cleats. Unlike the Pro+ road tires, which take pressure up to 125 psi, these top out at 95 (I usually run them at 90). They weigh 420 grams, almost a full pound (!), and need only 27 tpi with the lower pressure. But the tread’s just right for road and trail, and they have good-feeling rolling resistance along with a quiet ride.
Mounting new tires is not without risks, however. The first Pro+ I put on seemed to mount and fit smoothly enough, though those folded-bead tires are difficult to get started with sometimes. I went through all the rigamarole of pumping it halfway up, letting the air out, pressing in around the rims on each side, repeating the pumping and pressing, and then inflating to full pressure. I always let the wheel sit overnight with the new tire just to give any pinched tube a chance to blow. Better to destroy a tube in the garage than on the road ten miles from home. Well, this first one exploded in my hand halfway between the front steps (where I do my re-tire-ment work) and the garage. Blew the tire clean off the rim, too!
Since I’ve gotten the Trek, whose wheels have deep rims with logos on them, I’ve been paying more attention to the aesthetics of mounting tires on the rims. I line up the printing on the sidewalls with the inner tube valve for a consistent balanced look. And so I did with the single UrbanMax on the rear wheel of the Fuji. Then I regretfully looked at the front wheel and thought “too bad that one’s not lined up too,” since that mounting was done in my pre-aesthetic “ignorant” period. And darned if Fate didn’t try to do me a favor. When I went out to ride the Fuji the next day that front tire was flat. I had to do a quick-change of the tube, inspired by the Good Samaritan I recently wrote about. it was torn at the base of the valve stem. I was thinking “be careful what you (almost) as for” and muttering “OK, Fate, don’t do me any more favors” the whole time I was working.
Only one bike left to do and I’ll have new or nearly new tires on everything. Then I can relax and take a nap with a Teddy Bear again.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.