Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sick and Tired, or, I Tried for a Half Hour to Think of a Better Title for this Post

Amputee bike isn't going anywhere.
Two months ago, my front tire sustained a glass puncture that never quite healed despite patching. Although I probably could have tried harder to patch it, I instead decided to take advantage of a sale at REI to get tires that might work better for street riding. My bike originally came with "Kenda" mountain bike tires, which worked okay for my purposes, but were not road tires and were clearly not puncture proof, as that is the weakness that led to the problem in the first place. I almost chose perfectly smooth city tires, but Rob pointed out that they would be useless on trail riding, and although I don't do any trail riding right now it's something I want to do eventually. (And I don't have space for a dedicated mountain bike.) So I instead selected a pair of Continental TravelContact tires, which normally retail for an out-of-my-price-range $45 each, but I got them for a sweet $30 apiece. Sales are awesome. I also picked up a portable CO2 tire pump for commuting (when I have a job to commute to) and tire levers to assist with the switch.
Tire comparison: Continental TravelContact vs. "Kenda."

The Continental tires, like my bike, are a hybrid: slick in the middle, and knobby around the edges. According to the REI sales dude, they'll be great on the road and okay on rougher terrain. The reviews online say they are good for crappy roads, and there's no shortage of those here! (Although, to be fair, PA's roads are WAY worse than MD's. I didn't ever even ride my bike in Pittsburgh because the roads were so potholed and steep. I think I would do it now, though, if I were transported back to Pittsburgh.)

One thing that can make me feel a little superior as a suburban cyclist is that there really is no question of having to perform my own repairs. I don't have an LBS, I don't know anyone around here who repairs bikes, and most importantly I don't drive (and have a hyper-independent streak that makes it hard for me to ask Rob for rides), so if something goes wrong or I want an upgrade, it's all up to me. And honestly, changing tires and tubes isn't hard at all! There's no reason why someone would have to go to a bike store to get this done. I don't think I even really needed the tire levers, although I guess they're a good thing to have (and were only like three bucks). I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to make all the upgrades on my bike and install all the accessories (front basket, rear rack) myself, since from some of the reports I've read online (I didn't read up on these tires until after I'd bought and installed them), some people find tire replacement way beyond their talents. This is the kind of self-sufficiency you develop when you don't have a choice otherwise.

All ready to go!
So far, I haven't really noticed a difference in the Continental tires vs. the Kenda, aside from possibly being faster on inclines, although since I don't have a bike computer (I had one on my old department store bike, but never switched it over and now it's been rained on a lot... remember when I said I don't take care of my stuff too well?), I can't know for sure. I don't ride for speed, although if they can gain me even a few extra MPH (thus increasing my safety among cars), then they're worth the cost. I was able to keep up with some spandex-clad roadies that I shadowed for around a mile on Sunday; I don't know if I would have been able to do that on the mountain bike tires. I also expect that they'll settle a bit as I use them more. I usually have to transfer to sidewalk at least once every ride because I can't go fast enough to feel safe among cars, but today I was able to do road-only riding including several stretches of 35 MPH road. So, even though I don't really feel a difference, there likely is one.


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