Choosing a Tire for Touring
Choosing a good tire for bike touring is an important key to touring success. While flats are usually not a huge problem, more of an inconvenience, you can avoid or eliminate them completely by getting high quality tires.
If you are considering taking your regular bike on tour with you and you don’t already have high endurance tires you should definitely think about upgrading.
When we toured the Danube with a few of our friends we really put the tires we had to the test. Broken glass, thorns and potholes are never uncommon in Eastern Europe and all of our bikes fared differently.
With our four bikes we had three different kinds of tires. Our bike and Sarah’s bike both had the Scwalbe Marathon tires, Yoshi had the Vittoria Randonneurs with Mr. Tuffy, and Otto had the Continental Gatorskins. Our bike has 20” x 1.75” tires and the rest of the crew has 700c tires.
Using this small sample of tires over the 1,000 miles we rode along the Danube the Schwalbe Marathons were the clear winners. Neither we nor Sarah ever got a flat. Not one.
Later on her trip Sarah did get a flat but it was somewhat unusual. She had picked up a small screw in her tread and it slowly worked it’s into the tire. To pull it out it was necessary to unscrew it with a screw driver. I suppose this is where the threshold of impenetrable is no match for sharp threaded objects
The Continental Gatorskins, on the other hand were the clear losers. Otto flatted several times often from pretty tame road hazards. There was one day in Hungary when he flatted, replaced the tube, flatted again, we then found a little pebble had embedded in the tire. He replaced the tube. Hit a pothole and flatted again. Cue frustration.
Yoshi had good luck as well, but she also had the Mr. Tuffy under her Vittoria Randonneurs. Mr. Tuffy is a tire liner that goes between your tire and your tube to prevent puncture. It is a great tool to use of you already have tires that may not be up to par but don’t want to upgrade. It is cheaper than replacing your set of tires and works well.
In addition to the brand of tire you want to think about versatility. All of the tires discussed here were pretty similar in style. They all had modest but existent tread to allow for smooth road riding and enough traction to deal with dirt, gravel or whatever other terrain you may encounter.
In the city I always ride on skinny slick tires, but when I am on tour I want something a little more beefy.
I cannot recommend the Schwalbe Marathons enough. After our experience and Sarah’s experience with them I would rate them at 10 out of 10. They are ultra durable and flat resistant and they even have a reflective sidewall which adds extra visibility to your ride.
What tire do you tour on? Do you have any other tips or tricks for keeping your tires full of air?
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