Tire Wear and The Magic Carpet Ride

Magical ride quality

The first time it happened I thought I was imagining it. The tires were Michelin Race 3s with 2000 miles on them. They were closing in on the end of their serviceable life, signaled by their silky flexibility on the road and the ease with which they could be peeled from the rim to fix a flat. One day my Cervelo crossed some invisible boundary and it tracked better, allowing me to comfortably take my hands off the bars for long stretches. Normally I can take my hands off the bars for a few seconds to adjust my jacket or read my watch, but I've never been blessed with the kind of balance that allows riders to remove clothing, rummage through a musette or ride uphill in a group.

Last week the white Limited Edition Continental GP4000s on my Enigma crossed the same boundary. They've got 2000 miles on them and only a single rear flat blemishes an otherwise perfect service record. And just like magic the bike took on the same subtle handling change that makes it possible to "let go."

Maybe the wear flattens and enlarges the contact patch fractionally or smooths the vestige of the midline seam, I don't know how to explain it but I look forward to these miles. With one more front/rear rotation I should get another 500 miles before they're done. That will give me a few weeks to practice my imaginary victory salute before it's back to the bars and a new set of tires. Or perhaps I should peel them off now and save them for a sportif so I can sit up and give my back a real rest.

Magical ride quality

18 Responses to Tire Wear and The Magic Carpet Ride

  1. Redvers says:

    Have noticed exactly the same well worn tyre phenomenon myself but have always put it down to my over active imagination… good to know it’s not just in my own head.

    Climbers will tell you that you get a similar effect with the old vibram soled walking boots (not sure if they are still made)
    After 2 or 3 years of serious use they suddenly relax and become almost perfect, then they wear out!

    But hang on a minute, as a devote of the GP4000s I reckon you should be aiming at a 3000 mile minimum, especially if you have been rotating and treating them with the respect they deserve.

    • Glad I’m not alone in experiencing it. It would be great if I could get 3000 miles out of these beauties but as the old saying goes “your mileage may vary”. The real indicator for me is the incidence of flats. When general mileage is North of 2000 and I get a couple of flats, the tires go in the bin. I’ve only had one for the whole life of this set so they’re still good in that respect.

  2. Domestique Journal says:

    Very romantic images, love that first shot.

  3. Don says:

    Rotating bike tires…often thought about that but the rear tire takes a beating from carrying an extra load and the thought of throwing that worn beauty on the front gets me concerned. What’s your experience?

    • Hi Don,

      In theory it makes perfect sense to rotate them every 500-1000 miles to avoid that situation where the back tire is much worse for wear. The problem is remembering to do it. I make a notation in a little notebook in the garage when I put on a new set of tires and I’ll check this periodically when I’m going to do a long ride/sportif. Cleaning and prepping a bike for one of these events is the perfect time to do a rotation. I find there are enough of these during the year to stay on top of things.

    • Redvers says:

      I seem to remember Sheldon Brown making a good case for saying that the quality of the front tyre is actually more critical that of the rear, particularly in some fast downhill situations, and that tyre rotation should not be encouraged. Although with the cost of top flight tyres now one can well understand the practice.

      • I wouldn’t discount anything that Sheldon said but I think its pretty safe to even out the wear on a set of tires over their life. I’d never try and squeeze mileage out of tires at the expense of safety

  4. kurt says:

    Sounds like I have been replacing my tires way too soon.

  5. BR says:

    Here’s what you do with the old tires….fold them, wrap them up with electrical tape, and carry them on long unsupported rides. If memory serves me that was the scenario once upon a time when I was out and about with a coupl made of rice paper and fairy dust?? without pumps….snickering all the way home at my fine antique tire that saved the day? Ring a bell??

    It’s 23 degrees up on Hamilton…

    • Yes, that tire definitely saved the day and it’s a good use for the better of the two tires in any set that’s being replaced. For a minute I wondered if you’d been up on Hamilton this morning, funny because I wondered if the road was still open today with the snow up there. We need to do that ride one day when the road is open and there’s snow up there.

  6. BR says:

    That’s a tough(er) ride with snow in the mix as they used to sand the roadway and that made for some dicey descents. Too cold for me. How about I take the Audi and offer encouragement from the passenger seat? Those seats are heated right? I do desperately need to ride an actual bike on an actual road very soon. 3 weeks of flu in the house, turkey flavored everything, 7am Spin classes with people that don’t use indicators let alone actual bikes, horrid CA weather, and a calendar that has two-three events scribbled into each little square. Does Rapha produce a calendar with smaller squares?

  7. Michelangelo Russo says:

    I agree, fantastic tires! I’ve just done 7,000 Km. on mine before replacing them with more of the same …. thanks conti!

  8. Tim Cox says:

    Hey Brendan and Michael – I’d love to come along for that Mt. Hamilton ride – please keep me posted!

  9. BR says:

    New Year’s Day, 7am at Michael’s. I prefer to ride from Michael’s but let’s see how the weather looks that week. I need that warm up spin before the climb. Heavy weather that morning cancels the ride for me but wet roads from the day or night before won’t cancel.

  10. willy in pacifica says:

    7am on New Years day. Is that a annual group ride or just you guys?

    • Just us. I’ve done it by myself the last two years, leaving very early. I’m usually half way down when I pass the big groups. I may even move the time to 6:30 if we’re leaving from my place.

  11. Tim Cox says:

    Sounds good – I think I’m in. /tim

  12. Brian P says:

    What I do is move the front tire to the rear, once it’s close to finished, and then add a new one on the front. As a heavier rider (180 pounds), it seems to work out about right as far when I need to replace them. I would definitely not want to descend a road like Kings Mountain with a close to bald front tire!