Where I live, the snow is deep, and that occasions much discussion about tire selection. Actually, for most cyclists, virtually any combination of temperature, surface, and precipitation will inspire a disquisition of this sort. If I had every hour I have spent talking about tires back, I could write a book about tires, and then point to it casually whenever someone asks me what tires I think they should ride. It would live on my coffee table, so it would be easy to point to. It would be a coffee table book.
Afore we go further, let me tell you that I am not a tire expert. Once a conversational companion starts talking about pressures, I glaze over. This, to me, is thinking too hard. What I do is pump my tires before I leave on a ride, then let out air as needed, once the terrain has spoken to me in its intractable way (poor pun, ten point penalty).
It was put to me that a three-inch studded tire is far more valuable and versatile in rapidly evolving snow conditions than a four or five-inch tire. This I agreed with, mostly because who cares? If you’re out there on the snow, IN the snow, and you can roll, then you chose well. I do think a smaller tire is easier to push most of the time, but I am biased in this way.
28″ tires are nice on the road, but I prefer 25s. 40″ tires are nice for gravel riding, but I prefer 32s. When everyone went to 2.4″ tires on their trail bikes, I stuck with 2.25. I have a self-serving theory about all this, and here it is: Those of us who have been riding a long time on smaller wheels and narrower tires, developed some set of unconscious skills. We had to learn to soak up the bumps, to work with what we had, so as less experienced riders came into the various categories of the sport, they benefited a lot more from added float and cushion than us old-timers. Many of my friends have validated this theory for me, but probably only to get me to stop talking about how long I’ve been riding bikes.
Undoubtedly, we’re in a bigger-is-better moment, but I hold to the olden ways. I’m faster and more agile on a thinner tire. There is a lower limit to this approach, but in general, I prefer less rubber to more, the impassioned treatises of my friend Jan, not withstanding.
This week’s TCIF asks, where are you at with your tires? Do go big at every opportunity, testing the limits of fork blade and chainstay width? Or are you a minimalist? Do you carry a digital tire pressure gauge in your saddle bag? Or do you know your rubber is solid when you reach down and give it that discerning pinch? Is a three-inch, studded tire sufficient in 3″ of fresh powder, or is every tire useless at that point? Time for snow shoes?