Sunday, March 31, 2013

Is Better That Much Better

Back when I was a serious driver I liked finding things that improved the experience and gave me something to talk about (or brag if it made sense). It was more than a few years ago and involved cars like a ’73 Beetle and a ’77 Rabbit. You might ask how one can brag about Beetles and Rabbits. You choose your venue and audience well. One item worthy of mentioning to anyone who knew their way around Beetles was that in 152K miles I never replaced the muffler, but I did have to replace the gaskets sealing the muffler to the exhaust pipes from the motor. The probable reason was that there was little chance for moisture to cause rust. Seldom was the car on the move somewhere. I once had to replace and adjust the ignition points somewhere north of Charlotte on the edge of I-77 using old points and a pack of matches. Being able to use a pack of matches to set the spark gap was pretty much common knowledge. Having a set of used but usable points was also common. Middle of the night and flashlight help in the mouth makes it a mite more interesting.

How does any of this relate to bikes? Tires, that’s how. The TS771s had gone 70K miles when I replaced them with Semperit M401s. I gave the tires to another Beetle owner who used them for many more miles. They sucked in snow but were outstanding otherwise and the choice of many drivers competing in the SCCA’s Showroom Stock. After buying a lot of less expensive tires, some of which are identified as “city” tires, meaning they can handle the rigors of urban streets, my experience has made me a Schwalbe buyer. Just as I liked the Continental TS771s I had on the Beetle, I like Schwalbes on my bikes. Research suggested strongly that Schwalbes were well worth the cost and their performance was exemplary for bicycle touring. As noted in past postings here the Marathon Plus tires I use did exactly what I anticipated on my aborted tour. When I began repairing the Schwinn to be a more useful everyday bike I did not consider any other tire manufacturer.

I’ve ridden the High Sierra enough miles to be able to know that I made a good choice. Whether my preferences match those of someone else is irrelevant insofar as it’s my ride. One criticism of Marathons is that they are heavy. So am I. Another few ounces, even pounds is inconsequential. Much of the HS 348 Marathon Plus’ extra weight (110kg) is a result of the thick layer of rubber under the tread (Schwalbe calls this their SmartGuard) which serves to keep sharp things from doing the highly undesirable poking thing. Urban streets are always debris laden, so any extra protection makes a lot of sense unless you’re really enjoy repairing and replacing tubes. I have the tires inflated to their maximum, 85 psi, and fine the ride to be wholly acceptable. I also like the steady hum they make on long rides.
On the High Sierra I put HS 420 Marathons with Schwalbe’s Green Guard (also weighing 110kg) . They are a higher pressure tire (55 to 100 psi). After starting at 80 psi I have since increased the pressure slightly to 90 psi. As with the 348s the ride is very firm, but not at all uncomfortable. They do not hum like the 348s and roll just as smoothly. It’d be difficult to be more satisfied.

In a discussion about bikes and equipment my opinion about tires, at least, is that better is much better.

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