The Portland Bicycle: Heretical Suggestion about Tires

Another entry in our series to design an entry-level commuter bike for design and manufacture here in Portland. A re-cap on the target market:

– beginning rider
– short trips, or used in conjunction with a bus for longer trips
– ridden in street clothes
– $300 or under

Today’s topic is tires. Flat tires may be a significant fear of beginning riders. With this in mind, what’s the best way to overcome this concern without sacrificing performance?

Should we consider a solid tire? Is that a heretical thought?

Is a wide tire better? What’s the trade-off between flat resistance and pavement resistance?

Let us know what you think entry-level commuters need or want.

3 responses to “The Portland Bicycle: Heretical Suggestion about Tires”

  1. pneumatic tires are what turned bicycling from a boneshaking eXXTREEM sport into a popular phenomenon about 115 years ago.

    if you absolutely, positively can’t handle a flat or regular pumping, today’s polyurethane tires are supposedly not as bad as people who haven’t tried them fear. i know somebody who used to ride silk tubulars (i.e., he knows good tires) who tried the best polyurethane tires available for more than a month. he said it was fun to “aim for the glass”. he also said they were extremely heavy, and he got a hard version to minimize rolling resistance. his body and bike took such a beating on his unsuspended bike that he switched to the heaviest pneumatic tires he could find (Maxxis Hookworm), with thornproof tires, and exclaimed “what a relief!”

    i would design around very fat, high-volume street tires with little or no tread, like the schwalbe big apple >2″ 559s. leave fender clearance. these are pothole-ready plush at low pressure (either from neglect or intent), with still-low rolling resistance, and a big contact patch for wet grip. with cushy tires you don’t need a gimmicky or expensive mechanical suspension story: air is the most robust and cost-effective suspension available. if you don’t want these tires or similar, you can always substitute smaller ones, or solid ones, or whatever. the key thing is that the frame/fender clearances are adequate for the biggest tire anybody could want.

  2. I think this problem has already been solved. I’ve been riding tires with Kevlar (an extra $6 or so per tire) and haven’t had a flat in 10 years of intense city riding. The tread wears out before you get a flat.

    A few years ago, Artists Repertory Theater did a play called “Spokesong” about a turn of the century (last century!), shy, Irish bicycle repairman and how he fell in love. A musical, one of the songs was “Riding on Air”, describing how wonderful the experience of riding pnuematic tires was after racing on the old solid tires. They didn’t call the first bikes boneshakers for nothing!

  3. Could anyone recommend a good puncture resistant tire?

    I have some Vittoria Rubino (supposedly Kevlar belted) tires purchased for $25 each but the rear tire was punctured by a construction staple a few days after being installed. A bit dissapointing.

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