I’ve found that once you get into cycling you make all your own choices about your bike set-up but the two most personal decisions are usually about tyres and saddles.When I started cycling I never gave tyres a second thought – just pump them up and jump on. The cheaper the better. I had no idea that tyres take some thought in summer and for winter, not just the type but also the right pressures to use.
Nowadays the first thing I notice is the tyres other cyclists use and it’s sad to say, I also like talking about tyres. In fact just the other day I was thinking ‘whatever happened to latex inner tubes…do people still use them?…if you do then let me know.’
It didn’t take long for me to realise the importance of getting the right tyres for your bike and for you. I remember I got some very cheap tyres from Halfords to put on my first winter bike bought from Edinburgh Bicycle which came complete with a sprung seatpost (I hadn’t realised this until one of the guys pointed it out to me).
I think the first run with them I must’ve had 6 punctures. One puncture is bad enough in winter rain but it will test the patience of any club run if a guy gets six. This was the day I realised the importance of the old toothpaste tube in your saddle bag – you’ll probably forget it’s there but that little bit of tube can be invaluable when you get a split in your tyre or a bad sidewall puncture.
These tyres were made of paper I think or maybe ancient parchment might be more accurate. I made the mistake of taking them back to Halfords without my receipt. I was told it would be ‘an act of good faith to take them back without a receipt.’ Ha! What kind of act was it to sell them?
After the six puncture trauma I made a simple decision: if you’re going to buy tyres, get advice, shop around and be prepared to spend some money on these vital parts of the bike.
I didn’t get it right immediately. It’s trial and error and depends on the cycling you want to do and what works with your bike. I noticed that alot of guys used Michelin Pros. These are great tyres but like every other tyre on the market, no two cyclists say the same things about them. They’re light and highly responsive and they also look cool with a good range of colours. Of course they don’t come cheap but I got a pair for the summer.
With the first splash of rain I felt the back end of the bike was not so stable and on one ride I came down on a cow pat on the bend of a farmer’s road.
Lots of guys still ride michelin pros without any problem but they were not for me. After further trial and error I eventually found tyres that were good for me: specialized mondo pros and vittoria rubinos. These tyres have been ideal with a minimum of punctures and most importantly, a feeling of reliability in different weathers and cornering etc.
I remember watching an interview with Thor Hushvod about descending and he said it was about trusting your equipment. Even though I’m not the best descender, I can definitely relate to his comments. Over the years I have learned to choose bike equipment which I have confidence in and that is most true of the tyres you choose whether they be michelins, bontragers, vredesteins, continentals or schwalbes.
Just as personal as tyres and perhaps the most personal of all decisions is that friend of your backside – The Saddle!
Like tyres I never spent much time thinking about saddles initially, it doesn’t matter what width or what angle it sits at – big mistake. When I got my first Felt bike I rode it with the saddle it came with which I later discovered is pretty unusual. At the same time I had entered an Audax K160. The Felt saddle was fine for about 15-20 miles. Thereafter it became more like an anal probe minus the aneathestic. That saddle should’ve been part of the furniture in the Tower of London.
With a week to go till the Audax, I had to make a decision quickly – either take the plunge on a new saddle or go to the Audax with the existing one plus 100 paracetomol and 800g of sudocrem. Having seen one or two club members using them, I took the plunge on a specialized saddle mainly because it had a central recess. It worked out and I rode 100 untroubled miles.
Ever since I have purchased specialized saddles for all of my bikes. I’ve spent some money making mistakes about equipment but it’s been a worthwhile investment in getting it right overall.