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Tires for fall riding(37 posts)

Tires for fall ridingSideslider
Oct 9, 2001 8:45 AM
Fall is here and the leaves are down - and riding pavement in the wet is like running on greased ice in a pair of oiled bowling shoes. Anyone got any suggestions for combatting this problem before I go down on my knee/butt AGAIN?!!!!
It's not about the tiresmr_spin
Oct 9, 2001 9:22 AM
The same tires you use in summer will work just as well in fall. But if you really want to feel secure, go for the slickest tire (no fancy treads) you can find, such as Michelin Axial Pro.

There are lots of things that become more dangerous when wet that don't really have anything to do with what tire you are using. These things include:

- painted lines (crosswalks, lane markers, etc.)
- oil patches
- leaves and mud

The best advice for riding in rain is the same for driving: slow down!
Just be carefulRich Clark
Oct 9, 2001 4:26 PM
The same rules apply to wet leaves that apply to ice: avoid it if you can; hold your line and don't try to turn if you find yourself on it.

On pavement, whatever the conditions, slick tires with the least possible tread pattern are the most desirable (all other things being equal).

Oct 10, 2001 3:24 AM
I don't want to take anything away from the other posters and don't mean any offence to Rich or Mr Spin who usually both provide good bits of info to posters - but I find that alot of the board lives in California in near year round perfect conditions for cycling (don't know about Rich and Mr Spin) - most of them don't ride when it rains or almost strip the bike if they, God forbid, get caught out in actual weather (BTW sunshine is not weather) - I ride in London in all weather - my bike/tyres has/have more grip with grooved tyres - it's not my imagination - I rode with a perfectly smooth tread for half of last winter/spring - it was fun sliding about and made morning commutes more interesting - but not good for traction

why do motorcycle tryes have wet and dry versions - with the wet versions having grooves? - that's why they stop motorcycle races when it rains to change tyres

we're not talking hydroplaning - we're talking grip and traction

slick is slick

grooved gives lateral grip when you slide - particularly on anything less than a 'perfect' road - it's not just a marketing gimmick - the best 'grip' for going in a straight line is probably a total slick - but you'll change you're mind when you stop going in a straight line and lose your back end

(and please don't post Sheldon Brown's response - it doesn't address these points)

agree about slowing down and new obstacles in the wet - street covers/grates/painted lines and leaves are all very interesting hazards in the wet - slow down - no sudden movements will do you well

so to answer your question - for me - Conti Top Touring 2000's are the bomb for a fall/wet weather tyre - but are not to be confused with fast tyres under any circumstances
C'est vraimuncher
Oct 10, 2001 3:29 AM
Slicks in the summer, through autumn until I have the first near miss, then only grooved (whatever I have at the time), then on to the CX tyres when things get really wet.

I think the point is that the texture gives you a bit of "cut through" the surface debris onto the traction surface beneath.

Easy test - ride around a wet leafy bend with your Mich Muds on, then do it again on Axial Pros. Then go home, straighten your derail and hoods, touch up your paint, and stitch up your lycra....
Hey nowmr_spin
Oct 10, 2001 6:55 AM
We may not compare to London, weather-wise, but California isn't just one big sunny beach! I've done my fair share of riding in rain and on ice.
Ice and Rain! I wish...muncher
Oct 10, 2001 7:05 AM
Only this June I got a flat on the way home. So I swam to the side of the road, checked the tyre and found that a polar bear had bitten clean through the rim....
Hey nowMJ
Oct 10, 2001 7:14 AM
are you sure it's not just a big sunny beach? - most of it is a desert after all :-)

Was your wet riding in California? Where do you live?

I think the theory re slicks in the wet doesn't work in practice - at least not in my daily-wet-grind-practice. Maybe I'm the exception. I just don't get the slicks are better thanb grooves in the wet argument...

and as for ice we all know that ice riding requires 700x18 totally smooth tyres
This supposed to be a discussion board...muncher
Oct 10, 2001 7:20 AM
So what's with the totally obvious stuff about the 17s - no-one who has ever been near here is gonna chip in against you on that one.

Where did you get the 17s? I have only used the Clawmax 15s (without the studs of course), but they can be a bit too sharp on milder ice?
This supposed to be a discussion board...MJ
Oct 10, 2001 7:27 AM
yeah the 17's (no studs) are good for all ice conditions whereas the 15's are a bit too sharp

I got them at

they were reviewed here

had a buddy from Milwaukees who used 12s but cut a hole though the ice and actually hit asphalt! - may be the way forward for hard ice conditions... any thoughts?
Wood can be goodmuncher
Oct 10, 2001 7:35 AM
When I raced in Norway in the winter, some of the guys rode on wood shod rims (hoops bolted on a generally downhill rim)with a spring loaded stud off-set about every 1 - 1 1/2 inches - they worked pretty well if you had a consistent course surface.

On mixed, a sharp profile 20 was OK - but the profile inserts were tough on the rubber if you cut through right to the road. You also had to use a spoke skirt (at least on the front) with those, which made them heavy. Generally, though, they would win out on reliability.
did you seeMJ
Oct 10, 2001 8:11 AM
Jobst Brandt out there racing - I think that's where he learned how to fall and perfected his slicks are best in difficult conditions theory

I only keep the wooden rims for the parades - these days they're getting less use
Yeah he was theremuncher
Oct 10, 2001 8:21 AM
And he didn't fall at all. But those training wheels were really taking his pace down, slicks or no slicks...
Hey nowmr_spin
Oct 10, 2001 7:39 AM
You are much better off with slicks. Check this out: It's by Jobst Brandt, who is a strongly opinionated, slightly abrasive, but knowledgeable guy.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. It definitely gets wet and we've gotten snow the past couple of winters. We had an El Nino year a few years ago that dumped an incredible amount of water. Hell, we got a couple of inches in a freak storm just two weeks ago.

It also gets very cold. Not Minnesota cold, but definitely cold enough to freeze things. A lot of the roads I ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains get black ice, which is always fun. That wonderful crunching sound as you ride over it is a nice surprise.

My daily commute is always an adventure in winter. There is a bridge that crosses a creek that is always completely iced over in the morning. And there is a sharp, off-camber right turn at the far side. Luckily, I've only crashed three times in all the times I've done it!
Splendid stuff....muncher
Oct 10, 2001 7:51 AM
"It is evident that the tread on current motorcycles is essentially
smooth except for some widely spaced artistic lines. The flat and
smooth areas between them are many times as large as bicycle tire
contact patches. These tires are neither directional nor do they have
micro sipes or any "drainage" grooves. When I read bicycle tire
advertisements today, they remind me of motorcycle tire ads from
magazines of 40 years ago. I think that is the fare to which Roger is
treating us".

Boy, I have read some rubbish in my life, but this takes some beating. Might be interesting to see him explain that at the next motorcycle race meet that is declared a wet race. Kind of them to put some "decorative" direction arrows on my motorcycle tyres for me though.

Still, cheered my afternoon up no end reading that :-)
Splendid stuff....MJ
Oct 10, 2001 8:15 AM
I like it when guys from dry places tell guys from wet places how to ride in the wet - it'd be like me telling people how to ride in dry, sunshine on quiet roads, then again I guess there's not much to mention except which sunscreen to use (SPF15?)

the phrase bringing coal to Newcastle springs to mind
Hey nowMJ
Oct 10, 2001 8:06 AM
I didn't mean Sheldon Brown above - but Brandt - I bet he lives in California and cries like a baby when his bike gets wet like it's gonna break or something

my experience is that I fall less in the wet with grooves - for best traction in a straight line slicks are it I agree - when turning or slipping grooves catch and give traction - grooves give the slip a bit of grip if you see what I'm saying and JB doesn't deal with that

the last thing that I want a jetliner doing is turning quickly and relying on it's slick tyres to do anything - what a lame argument

the last time I watched a motorcycle race when it rained - you could tell the guys who had wet (grooved) tryes - they were the ones not hitting the wall at a ridiculous speed - it was, as JB puts it, 'artisitic'

it's an interesting theory but not practical if you want to turn

bet if you used grooved tyres you wouldn't have ever fallen on the off camber right turn :-) (I sphincter up at even the mention of an off camber turn in the wet)
Wait - mabbe he has a point...muncher
Oct 10, 2001 8:24 AM
I'm gonna get home and whip on a front wheel from a 737, and a pair of rears from an F-16, all in slicks. Then I'm gonna ride down a dead straight wet road, and see if I can stay on - if so, that's the way ahead for me from now on...
Wait - mabbe he has a point...MJ
Oct 10, 2001 8:28 AM
let us know how you get on
Wait - mabbe he has a point...muncher
Oct 10, 2001 8:34 AM
Should be a blast....
Are those tubulars or clinchers? (nm)bikedodger
Oct 10, 2001 8:45 AM
could be the wooden Norwegian racing variety? - nmMJ
Oct 10, 2001 8:51 AM
heresyRich Clark
Oct 10, 2001 3:19 PM
First, I ride in Philadelphia, every day, year 'round, all weather. Very little like California, I think it's safe to say!

You're right that it's all about grip and traction. But bicycle tires get their grip and traction from increasing the size of the contact patch. Wider tires accomplish that (like your Conti TT's, a great tire which I also use; the also help protect rims against rough urban roads). So does reducing inflation pressure. Some tire rubber compounds compress more than others, affecting the size of the contact patch as well.

But that's the whole of it. Asphalt (sorry, macadam) is harder than rubber; the edge of a groove in a tread pattern can't grip asphalt any better than the rubber anywhere else on the tire.

Motorcycles are different from bicycles. They can hydroplane; they go fast enough, they run much, much wider tires. Tread grooves on the tires of a vehicle prone to hydroplaning channel water past the tire and prevent the phenomenon.

Bicycles don't go fast enough, and their tires aren't wide enough, for this to be an issue.

Knobs and such are useful on tires that will be used in mud and loose survaces that are softer than the rubber. On road bike tires, grooves are useful as wear indicators, and not much else. But we're conditioned by lifetime exposure to car tires to believe that tread design is the most important factor in a tire.

Oct 11, 2001 12:42 AM
No no no no no.

Run on leaves etc in your smooth soled running shoes. Grip as well as the patterned ones do they? No - exactly, and it's not because you are running so fast you are hydroplaning either. It's about how this stuff intereacts with the surface it's trying to grip. Ridges cut into leaves etc and give you some grip - flat rubber doesn't. No one (where I live) only ever rides on clean macadam in the wet - there is leaves, mud, diesel etc etc.

What is so hard to grasp about this?
Here's whatRich Clark
Oct 11, 2001 7:26 AM
The question was about wet leaves. Wet leaves lubricate each other and are as slippery as ice. Tire tread patterns have no effect on this.

Your analogy with running shoes would make sense if your feet were less than an inch wide. In any case, tread patterns on running shoe soles are not about traction, they're about shock absorption and trapping air. Sure, if you run on a surface that's softer than the shoe, you'll gain traction. Same with a bike tire. But macadam and concrete aren't softer than rubber, and adding a layer of diesel fuel doesn't change that.

Dry shredded leaves are more like sand and gravel. Can be a problem, but the best way to avoid it is to avoid it. Changing your tires is overkill. If you're concerned about riding in mud and gravel, a cyclocross tire might make more sense.

The tread pattern on well-regarded touring/street tires like the Conti TT's or the Specialized Nimbus EX is so minimal that it might as well not be there. The only reason it *is* there is because these companies know how queasy most people get at the idea of having no tread. They have no effect on the performance of the tire, as anyone who has ridden them bald can tell you.

The walking shoes I wear most often in winter have no tread pattern at all on the bottoms (but they have ridges along the edges, sort of like semislicks). The ridges help give traction in snow, but the maximum rubber elsewhere gives the best traction on ice and other slippery surfaces of any shoes I've ever owned. In this, they're much like climbing shoes.

No, sorry, still not there..muncher
Oct 11, 2001 10:05 AM
Tread patterns on running shoes are about traction - fact. Midsoles are about shock absorbtion etc. Nothing whatsoever to do with foot width. Tread patterns are about cutting into stuff to give purchase. That's what a decent tred pattern does on wet leaves - it's cuts up the surface a little and gives a little purchase.

According to your "self lubrication" argument, your slicks would grip the leaf they were in contact with, then slide on that all over the leaves below.

As for your winter walking shoes - well good for you if it works - I have never seen a pair of smooth soled walking boots in the UK ever - "see cut and purchase" argument above. So how come people don't climb ice in stickies then? Sorry, nothing personal, but this line of argument is pants - I have ridden in the UK 30 years too long to fall for it - see the "corner test" I mentioned above. Slicks being good for wet leaf riding just isn't reality. Like I said, good, clean wet tarmac, mebbe - real world nope.
The "wet leaf" thingRich Clark
Oct 11, 2001 12:04 PM
I'm not saying that slicks are good for riding on wet leaves. I'm saying that no road tire is.

Just take your bike and go ride over some wet leaves. Then stop and go back and see if the leaves were "cut into" by the tire. You'll find that the leaves were mostly just compressed.

Now, if you try to turn on wet leaves, your tire may well catch the top layer which will then slide on the ones underneath. But this will happen, if it does, more readily with a tread pattern than without one, since it's the irregularity of the leaves, not the tire, that "catches."

Wet leaves are dangerous. My point is that tread patterns don't help, although I'll concede that if the leaves are deep enough and wet enough and compressed enough to achieve the consistency of mud, then mud tires would help.

Makers of running shoes (for road/track running) don't even talk about traction, except when discussing the rubber compounds they use for their outsoles. Their concerns when designing outsoles are for flexibility, heel-to-ball weight transfer, lateral stability. A "slick" running shoe would be uncomfortable to run in, but it would stick to the pavement like glue (which may not be desirable either).

Obviously, trail-running shoes and other mixed-terrain footware have different requirements.

Hiking boots are designed for trails (even if they are usually purchased by people who never wear them anywhere but on sidewalks). Knobby treads are appropriate for loose surfaces. They offer no traction advantage on smooth ones.

Man, stop it pleaseBroadband
Oct 12, 2001 12:41 AM
I have never, ever, ever, laughed so much. "Stick like glue to the pavement" - you should charge for his man, you really should.

Enjoy your riding on planet Clark.
Laugh til you fall downRich Clark
Oct 12, 2001 5:43 AM
I said that a slick running shoe would stick to the pavement like glue. By 'slick," we've all been talking about rubber with no tread pattern.

Even those who disagree about tread patterns on wet pavement don't dispute that treadless tires provide superior traction on dry pavement. Thus their universal use in racing of all types of vehicles.

Shoes are no different in that regard. You've never tried any (obviously, or you'd know better). I have. You don't know what you're talking about.

Stupid AND rude - nice combo! nm.Broadband
Oct 13, 2001 2:04 PM
Namecalling=End of Discussion. Bye! (nm)Rich Clark
Oct 13, 2001 6:38 PM
Oct 15, 2001 5:12 AM
the Conti TT's seem to provide me more traction when I slip on wet pavement - as the tread catches imperfections in the road surface when there's lateral movement

I rode last year and totally smooth, no tread, Specialized tyres (Fat Boys) - and slid around alot - the Conti TT's have loads more grip

Contact patchRich Clark
Oct 15, 2001 5:38 AM
Without going back over old ground, tires vary not just in tread pattern but also in profile and in -- most important -- the rubber compound. It's common for two tires with the same (or no) tread pattern to have different traction characteristics, because the rubber is different. And two otherwise similar tires can vary quite a bit in the actual size of the contact patch, due to the tire's profile, the sidewall stiffness, the inflation pressure.

The size of the contact patch could vary by 50% between two apparently similar tires. This alone would create an immense difference in their grip.

Conti TT's are famous for soft sidewalls and relatively low maximum pressure rating. This puts a lot of rubber on the road.

Contact patchMJ
Oct 15, 2001 6:02 AM
I buy the different rubber compound argument - ride on cheap tyres and it's easy to spot

maybe the only difference between the Conti TT and the Specialized Fat Boys was the actual contact patch... I don't even know how you'd measure that though

I need to ride and compare like for like - any suggestions for totally smooth tyres with a good compund for riding in the wet?
Sizes?Rich Clark
Oct 15, 2001 9:21 AM
Big difference in what's available in narrow sizes and in wide ones. A 700x32 'cross tire is still going to put as much rubber on the road than a 700x23 slick.

But the slick road tires that have a great rep for wet traction are Avocet's FasGrip series. But I've never used them myself.

Massive overgeneraliasaton.muncher
Oct 18, 2001 4:36 AM
That depends entirely on the tread pattern on the CX tyre.

And tyres that have a great reputation for riding on real winter roads aren't slick. Never have been, never will be.
Do you mean snow tires?Rich Clark
Oct 18, 2001 10:28 AM
If by "real winter roads" you're talking about riding in snowy/icy/slushy mix, I entirely agree. Snow in particular requires deep tread patterns, if not actual studs. Riding in Chicago in the 50's and 60's, I had a single-speed cruiser with roofing nails driven out through the tire casings from the inside that got ridden a whole lot more than my road bikes during much of the winter. I'd trim the point of the nail almost flush with the surface of the tread, and line the inside with a sheath cut from an old innertube. That thing had the traction of a Jeep.

As for 'cross tires, all the ones I've seen, even the most aggressively patterned, still have something like a 3:1 ratio of contact surface to space between. So a 700x32 'cross tire might have comparable contact to a 700x23 or 25 slick (or more; 'cross tires tend to be inflated to lower pressures, compressing more, and having a proportionally larger contact patch than a thinner, higher-pressure tire which tends to stay more "round."