Tag Archives: tyres

Jaunty Cream Tyres

 There is something jaunty about tooling along an old-style seaside promenade on creamy white tyres that to my mind recalls an era of gaudy hotel labels and co-respondent shoes, spats and panama hats, a time when life was ‘swell’ and the going was good. Being the travel nostalgic that I am it was just this sort of look I was after when I was creating my dream retro-classic tourer and when I discovered I could get Panaracer Paselas – one of my favourite touring tyres – in cream, I ordered a pair straight away.

To be sure, I was a little self conscious at first in putting them on the rims. Cream tyres project a certain flamboyance that isn’t, well, isn’t the ‘me’ I usually express. Such raffish tyres, along with the polished lugs and my choice of an unusual colour scheme of sable and Parisian pink, an almost confectionery-like combination, made for a highly distinctive bicycle.

There was also the matter of wear to consider. While the creamy tyres might – and indeed did – look as sharp as spats at an Iowa picnic when new, the very thing to accessorize and accent the frame’s mauve-and-pink paint job and livery, I wondered what was going to happen when I actually started riding this beautiful thing, putting on serious miles.

Well, I have had the bicycle with its cream tyres some 15 months now and find myself liking these jaunty treads more than ever. I like the look and I very much like the way they photograph, accenting the wheels and boosting contrast in darker low-light scenes and giving the bicycle a cavalier seaside holiday flair on brighter summer days. What’s more, despite my concerns about their possibly becoming irredeemably grubby after the first few outings, they have remained pleasingly jaunty and cream coloured even after hundreds of miles. Indeed my recent rides in the rain have washed away the light (but still unobjectionable) band of reddish trail dust that had formed on the contact surface over the summer (pictured above) and made the tyres look clean and bright again.

In short I have really grown fond of cream tyres, and will certainly replace like for like when these finally wear out, and being Panaracer Pasellas, an excellent touring tyre with great durability, rolling qualities and puncture resistance, that is not likely to be for some time yet. I would also say that while cream tyres wouldn’t necessarily go with every bicycle style and livery and paint scheme, they are well worth considering if you are contemplating a makeover or dreaming up your own Platonic ideal of a bicycle.

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Conti Four Season GP Tyres

I’ve had a lot of experience with various forms of touring tyres over the years, but narrower, sleeker road tyres are a fairly new field for me and when I ordered my Pegoretti a few years ago I was at a bit of a loss to know what kind of tyres to spec for it. I knew that Schwalbe Marathon Plusses, my old expedition touring stand-by, came narrow enough (25mm) to fit and so did Panaraer Paselas – a lightweight touring option I’ve used in the past and which I knew could be had in widths as narrow as 23mm.

Somehow though I shrank from the idea of putting touring tyres on my sparkly new Pegoretti. Having at last made my first foray into road bikes – and what a lovely foray it was! – I wanted to put some appropriate rubber on the rims. At the same time though, I didn’t want to be spending a lot of time sitting on the roadside with my beautiful new Pegoretti upended beside me while I patched up punctures or replaced tubes. My years of touring in remote places and on roads had given me a healthy distrust of skinny tyres and lightweight sporty tread. And so after a bit of research I decided to try the Continental Four Seasons GP – a slightly sturdier version of Conti’s famous GP4000 – in 25mm width.

I am so glad I did. It’s been nearly four years now – four seasons come to think of it, since I run the Pegoretti only in summer – and the tyres have performed beautifully. While I don’t care to tempt fate too much I can tell you that the sum total of punctures I have suffered in that time and many thousands of miles is less than one. The handling is great (although how they perform on wet and slippery roads is as yet a mystery to me as I never take the Pegoretti out in the rain!) They are not cheap tyres by any means, but given their reliability and durability – mine still have a lot of wear left in them – they come off as very economical, while the beautiful handling and the fact that I have enjoyed such uninterrupted continuity on my swift, sporty rides through the countryside these past four summers make them seem a bargain indeed.

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In Praise of Schwalbe Marathon Plusses

I once had a very enjoyable flat tyre when I was pedalling across the Atherton Tablelands in far northern Queensland. It was late in the afternoon on a lonely road with lush rainforest crowding close on both sides, and the chatter of tropical birds to keep me company. Before I’d even got my pump and new tube out a car came up the road and the driver pulled over to see if I was in any insurmountable difficulties. I told him everything was okay, but in the fine, open-handed outback tradition that makes rural Australia such a joy to cycle through, the man left me with three tins of XXXX beer to see me through the job. It was a lovely gesture, and as a result I had quite a pleasant time of it, sitting there in the tropical sunshine, enjoying a beer or three on that long, slow sultry afternoon and mending my tyre.

Other than that one occasion, though, I can’t think of a single time where I enjoyed a visit from the p*ncture fairy. I dislike flats intensely. Not because I don’t know how to change a tyre – I can do it rather quickly – but because the unwanted interruption spoils the nice easy flow of pedals and thoughts that make a bike ride such pure escapist pleasure. Flats can also make you late for work, if you’re commuting, and cause you to arrive with grubby hands. And if you’re out riding the English country lanes on a cold dark morning in the dead of winter, as I often am, it would be incredibly unpleasant to be sitting on a frosty roadside mucking around with frozen fingers and stubborn tyre rubber. I don’t want to do it.

And so when it comes to shopping for bicycle tyres I tend to shop with puncture-resistance in mind. And while I go for Continental GP 4 Seasons for my road bike, and Panaracer Paselas for my lightweight tourer – both of which balance puncture-resistance with a nice light touch on the road – when it comes to buying tyres for my expedition/winter bike, the one on which I ride down those cold dark English lanes all winter, it’s the Schwalbe Marathon Plus every time. These doughty treads are about as bombproof as tyres can get. Yes they are fairly heavy by road bike standards, but nevertheless they roll surprisingly well, give good grip in the wet, last f-o-r-e-v-e-r, have a reflective strip along the edge for good side-on visibility at night and best of all, they never get punctures – or at least I’ve never yet had a puncture with a pair of these on the bike.

They do have their shortcomings, aside from their extra beefiness. They can be fiddly to install on a rim for one thing. If you’re going to run with them it is a good idea to invest in a set of steel-cored tyre levers. These make the job a doddle. And the beauty of it all is that once they are on the rim, they are on to stay. You (probably) won’t be needing to take them off again until they are worn out, say, oh, about 20,000 miles or so down the track. They come in useful range of widths and sizes, and although you tend to think of them as a touring tyre they go as narrow as 25mm for 700c rims for those using their road bikes to commute to work through glass-strewn city streets.

I know that roadies affect a disdain for Marathon Plusses as being clunky and over the top for puncture protection and no doubt, compared with rock-hard 23mm racing tyres these types usually run, they must indeed seem a bit pokey. But when you absolutely positively do not want to be troubled with flats, on your way to work or on the road on a freezing winter morning, accept no substitute.

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The Beauty of Cream Tyres

I generally take my coffee black, no cream, no sugar, no nonsense, and until a few months ago I’d have said pretty much the same thing about the way I take my bicycle tyres too – straight black, double shot. After forty-seven years of riding the same-old, same-old, it wouldn’t even have occurred to me to put cream-coloured treads on a bicycle. Like Henry Ford and his early Model-Ts, my vision for bike tyres extended only to … black.

But there’s nothing like conjuring up your dream bicycle to put you in touch with your inner cyclist and so now here I am sporting a pair of creamy white Panaracer Paselas on my new tourer and liking the look of them very much. They seem to me to strike just the right note on such a retro-classic as mine, calling to mind an era in the springtime of the last century when life was ‘swell’ and gentlemen wore silky fine Montecristi Panamas and white satin spats when they strolled the Boardwalk.

When I see and admire them on the bike now, it seems as though cream tyres must really have been in the back of my mind all along, an unarticulated vision, but the truth of the matter is that I owe a debt of inspiration to a fellow blog writer (I hate that word ‘blogger’) on the other side of the Atlantic, from whom I not only appropriated the idea of putting cream tyres on my new bicycle but the very notion of writing a blog myself.

Being the reclusive Luddite that I am, a man to whom a laptop is more or less a glorified portable typewriter with a built-in liquid-paper feature, and who has assiduously avoided all forms of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, I’d never even heard of a cycling blog until I started trawling the internet earlier this year looking for inspiration for colour schemes and liveries for my soon-to-become-a-reality dream tourer.

It was while stumbling about in the ether that I chanced upon a blog called Lovely Bicycle! It was, and is, an engaging blog written by a lady in Somerville, Massachusetts who by the sounds of her profile on the site is an artist and academic as well as clearly being an enthusiast of classic lugged-framed bicycles. After perusing one of her posts in which lugwork and paint schemes were thoughtfully discussed and deconstructed, I delved a little deeper into the blog’s back catalogue and came across an intriguing post extolling the beauties of cream tyres on classic bicycles. It was a fairly lengthy entry, liberally illustrated with examples of cream-tyred mixtes and tourers and hoop-framed transport bicycles and helpfully included a list of the various brands and models and sizes of bicycle tyre that came in cream for anyone who cared to take the plunge themselves.

I found myself scrolling up and down, secretly coveting this jaunty whitewall retro look and wondering if I’d dare affect such a thing myself. When I noticed that the Panaracer Pasela, one of my favourite touring tyres, just so happened to be on that cream-as-an-option list – in both 700×23 and 700×28 – I took it as a gentle nudge of fate and filed away this intriguing bit of data for future reference.

I bookmarked the site as well, and popped back a few days later to see what might have been discussed in my absence. And so it went. Over the coming weeks and months I found myself returning to Lovely Bicycle! with increasing regularity, even taking to offering my two cents every now and then. I grew to like this novel (to me) concept of blogging, what I could see of it anyway, and the platform it offered for writing about things you enjoyed writing about regardless of whether they fit in with some magazine’s publishing needs.

As time went by, and I could feel my fingers growing ever more fidgety over the keyboard whenever I dropped in, and ideas forming in the back of my mind, I resolved to launch my own blog one day.

That day has now arrived, and as I sit here writing a post in my own blog about the beauty of cream tyres on classic touring bicycles, I feel I ought to give a wave of acknowledgement across the blogosphere to “Velouria’, the author of Lovely Bicycle!

As for my creamy Panaracer Paselas, well, they’re running fine. The 700x28s I settled on seem a little plush for their stated size – I’m betting they are nearer 30mm – but two hundred (mainly dry) miles down the track they are still looking clean and fresh, with just a faint grey stripe along the contact surface. Later on, after they’ve seen some more serious mileage, I’ll post some ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots for the benefit of anyone else who might be thinking of stepping outside the envelope and giving cream-coloured tyres a go themselves. For now, though, enough of cream; I’m off to build myself a double espresso. I still prefer  my coffee black and there ain’t no way that’s going to change!

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