I like tires. I mean, I really like tires. There's nothing like the smell of opening up your Pricepoint shipment, and smelling the new rubber. I'd have to say that fresh rubber is what gives bike shops that exciting new bike smell.
Also, tires are the cheapest performance enhancing component on the bike. You can really enhance your ride by picking the right tire for the terrain and conditions. My favorite tires these days are of the low pressure / high volume variety. I ride a lot of sand, and the extra flotation of a larger tire makes a huge difference. The big tires seem to add an inch of travel to your suspension too.
One of my favorite tires up front is the Weirwolf 2.5 from WTB (shown on the right here). The shorter smaller knobs in the center roll quickly, but hook up good. The aggressive side knobs hook up great in turns. The Weirwolf is also the lightest 2.5 tire I've found, weighing around 760 grams when new. The Weirwolf I just pulled off the single speed weighs around 705 grams from all the miles I've put on it. It's been in service on various bikes since the spring of 2004!
But even though I love this tire, I'm always wondering what another tire might ride like. I grabbed an almost new IRC Trail Bear 2.5 (the tire on the left in these pictures) from the library and installed it on the single speed.
I originally bought this tire for my Kona Coiler, a 35lb bike. The tire was advertised at 750 grams, and was only $15! I thought it might compare well to the Weirwolf. As it turns out, the Trail Bear actually weighs 970 grams! I gave it a go on the Coiler, but I just couldn't keep up with the group on the big climbs we do at lunch. It felt unstoppable on the downhill, but most of our lunch hour is spent climbing. It just didn't work out for this application, so the tire went into the pile.
Last week, I was riding with my buddy Jeff, and he had a Panaracer Fire FR 2.4 on the front of his single speed. This tire is advertised at 860 grams, but Jeff was smoking us on the trail. And even though I think Jeff would smoke me no matter what tire he was using, it got me thinking about that heavy tire I put back into the pile. Since my single speed is only 24 lbs, 11 lbs lighter than my Coiler, would this tire be suitable for single speed use? In other words, would 11 lbs less in bike weight make up for a 1/2 lb increase in tire weight? This will be a question I hope to answer this week.
The extra weight on the Trail Bear obviously comes from the more aggressive center knobs, but the sidewalls appear to be a bit thicker too. The low end of the recommended tire pressure is 40 psi, but I think I could easily get away with a psi in the low 30's. The tire looks slightly taller than the Weirwolf, and may give a softer ride up front...a quality that is welcome on the single speed's rigid front fork.
Stay tuned for the results of this week's test...