My friend Arthur, King of the Briton (don’t ask, he keeps him in the garage!) confessed to me the other day that he is, and will always be, a rubber fetishist. Whenever his missus isn’t looking, he sneaks a new set of tyres into the garage and adds them to his already over-inflated (geddit!) tyre collection.
But they only ever provide him (and the Briton) with temporary relief. Why? because, like the rest of us, they fall under the spell of marketing hype and the views of journalists who rave about particular tyres, only to be disappointed once they test them out on their local trails.
For, you see, I’d argue that there isn’t an exact science to the scoring of the one product that is so essential to keeping us rolling along the trails. Panaracer Cinders for example get great reviews and are as fast rolling as people say, but an all round tyre? I slipped and slided all over the place at the first sign of anything but dry singletrack. In fact, in last summer’s mudfest, I got so fed up that I invested in Bontrager Mud-X winter tyres and ran them all summer…sure, they’re slower rolling but they stick to the trail like shit to a stick!
There is a mind boggling array of different tyres out there, further complicated by the differing reviews they seem to get, dependent on the tyre width. For example, Arthur says that 2.1 Conti Speed King Supersonics are great. But he wants to invest in some wider tyres, yet some of the initial reviews of the 2.3 version were quite varied. £30 is a lot of money if you get it wrong after all. The problem is further compounded (geddit!) by the fact that there are so many different soil and rock types across the length and breadth of our little island, let alone the rest of the world.
This has got me to thinking about how to solve this problem. The answer is obvious, really – get the views of you lot! If we created a database of the best tyres for different regions, then riders could write in with their tips about what works well, where. Although not an exact science, as personal choice is open to debate, and rightly so, it would narrow the field down somewhat.
So what is the best tyre to run in ‘Bristol Dust’ (what Bristolians affectionately call gloopy winter mud) or the slippery Limestone and roots that the autumn and spring bring to Bristol? What’s the best tyre to cope with Calderdale moorland? Probably not the same tyre to cope 20 miles away in the woods around Leeds. What works best on South Downs chalk? When it’s dry? When it’s wet (a totally different experience) and as an all rounder to use if it’s wet and dry on the same day on the South Downs!
Shops can help in this regard, also. Go and ask your Local Bike Shops and see what they have to say – many of them have ridden your local trails since the dawn of mountain biking. In Leeds, for example, the winter choice is between Mud X and Nobby Nics.
I’m sure Arthur’s not the only Rubber Fetishist out there, so let it all out and let your particular rubber fetishisms be known.
WMB84 July, on-sale 28th May