Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ruffy Tuffy!

Yesterday the box from Bike Tires Direct showed up on the front porch! Inside, a few items to increase the odds of a good trip on Route 66:

One of the minuses to cycling is that it's an equipment-intensive sport. Start-up costs are not minimal. Then, there are ongoing costs, like tubes and tires (pictured). Yes, it's still a lot cheaper than driving a car. :)

One of the pluses to cycling is that when you make those ongoing purchases, it's like Christmas over and over!

The Ruffy Tuffy is a special kind of tire that's, well, tougher than your usual tire. It resists glass, wires, etc. that make your tires go flat. And it's wide and durable, which makes it good for riding on surfaces that are not exactly pavement. We should encounter plenty of those on Route 66.

PAC Tour Route 66 tries to follow the most original (oldest) roads on Route 66. Here's what Lon and Susan have to say about road surface and tires:

Our bicycles allow us to explore sections of the oldest parts of the forgotten pavement. Some of these routes have not seen auto travel since the interstate abandoned them 40 years ago. This bicycle tour offers one of the most detailed and up close views of Route 66 ever organized. Bikes with at least 32 mm wide tires are required for many gravel road explorer routes.

This also explains why Route 66 is good to do on a bicycle. You see quite a bit more and can explore more marginal territory. Kind of ironic, since it was built as a highway for car travel in the height of the  automobile era.

Later, they add:

Your bicycle should be lightweight (under 25 pounds) and be sturdy enough for rough roads. 90% of Route 66 pavement is in good paved condition. The remaining 10% (150 miles) is gravel, rough pavement or broken concrete. There is some good and bad pavement each day. Tires of 32mm are required. If your bicycle does not fit at least 32 mm tires, you need a different bike. We have learned from past tours that riders with narrow tires want to avoid the rough sections and continually complain about the rough roads.

OK, we get it that tires are important on this trip!

Ruffy Tuffy's have a Kevlar belt built into the tire itself that shields them from punctures. This is the same material that deflects bullets in bullet-proof vests. Nothing works 100%, but flat tires are a numbers game. You're just looking to reduce your chances. When you ride newer tires that are durable and properly inflated, most of the invisible flat-causing stuff you roll through is deflected before it can puncture anything.

By durable, we mean that the pattern of tread and type of rubber makes the Ruffy Tuffy's difficult to wear down. This is a real concern on rough roads and dirt and gravel surfaces. Riding on dirt, gravel, and broken pavement tends to wear normal road tires right quick. I learned this the hard way after riding soft Michelin racing tires over the dirt summit on Montebello a few times. Those 10 miles on dirt probably shaved 250 miles off the life of a boutique rear tire!

The pre-ride down to Santa Monica is 400 miles. That plus 1200 rougher miles on Route 66 pretty much equals the lifespan of most rear tires. I've heard of people riding 4000+ miles on the Ruffy Tuffy's though. So this pair of 28mm beauties is like money in the bank...

28mm, you say? Hey, don't Lon and Susan require a tire that's at least 32mm wide? Here's the deal:

  • When I bought the Waterford we realized that a 32mm tire just wouldn't fit between the brake calipers. The frame is too small. Sue me for being short...
  • Jim Bradbury, a cycling buddy, rode Route 66 on Ruffy Tuffy's. They're all 28mm.
  • The Waterford came with 25mm tires, which have performed nicely on local dirt roads like Montebello and Mount Tam.
  • The difference between 28mm and 32mm is 4mm, or slightly more than 1/4". I'll take my chances.
I'm really glad Bike Tires Direct had these special tires in stock. Local bike shops have to carry more mainstream supplies and this is considered a niche tire.

There is a version of this tire without the Kevlar belt that's named the Roly Poly. I'm thinking of looking for a pair of those just because it's fun to say the name.

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