GEAR | TALKING TYRES the actual numbers. For example, the Continental Cross King Fold ProTection has a TPI of 240 under the tread, hence the very stiff almost plastic-like feel to their tyres. During our testing we came across a few interesting examples where casings played a bigger role in the feel of a tyre than what we were expecting. Firstly, the feel of a Schwalbe Performance versus their Snakeskin tyre was significant to a heavier rider. You need to pump the Performance version a few PSI harder than the Snakeskin to get similar cornering support, but then that comes with its obvious downsides. The second observation was with the Vredestein, Mavic and Continental tyres. We were very sceptical when looking at how narrow these tyres were, but they are all 120 TPI so when fitted to a 23mm rim, they seated and inflated very easily, and out on the trail had a naming of rubber compounds after a food group for example. Some standout tyres, and one of the fastest growing categories of tyre size, 2.5” and 2.6”, are quickly gaining a lot of fans, me and one of the two engineers included. These tyres offer more control and yet they’re not quite as squishy and slow as full size plus tyres. better than expected feel, especially when dropping the tyre pressure – I can only put that down to the 120 TPI casing reducing the stretch in the tyres. Various rubber compounds are used in the actual treads. Often, manufacturers use the same tread pattern but produce it in various rubber compounds. The softer compound offers more grip but less longevity. Then there are also combinations of rubber compound on the same tyre with the outer knobs being of a different compound to the centre tread. Thereby trying to eke out any possible advantage. I love bike tech and spent way too much time reading the stories behind the various tyre developments on the various websites. The Schwalbe site, in particular, gave some fantastic information and the way they have moved to the colour coded system to identify the tyre compound. The actual tyre is marked with a coloured block on the side wall and a stripe the entire way around the tread. This makes complete sense and very easy to use. It is not that other manufacturers don’t have this technology, but Schwalbe have made it easy to understand, i.e. colours being much easier than random THIS EXERCISE HAS CERTAINLY TAUGHT ME MORE THAN A FEW THINGS: 1. In the past, where we might have had two sets of wheels – race and training – we will still have the two sets but they will be designated “marathon race” and “wide and grippy”. The result is two very different rides. It might just be the psychology of looking down at the wider or narrower tyre in front of you that kicks you into a particular mindset. I’m thinking 2.6s on Wednesday and then pairing a set of medium soft 2.25s for those tough mornings chasing the As. 2. We also try to run a softer compound upfront and use a harder compound on the back wheel to increase grip and balance lifespan. 3. We suspect that we will be tending to reach for the wider tyres for most rides and suggest that, if you have not already, the next time you are looking for new rubber, definitely try something wider. Do a little research – go with different tyres front and rear – and go wider. But remember that the claimed width is not always the actual width. 4. If you are looking to drop some weight off your bike, tyres are a great place to start, rotational weight making it even more key. 5. New bikes are often specced with cheaper, but still tubeless ready, tyres. Ask them to change the tyres before you leave the shop. 6. We believe that most of us will benefit from riding a wider tyre than we are currently using. There is plenty of research out there that shows that the increased rolling resistance is minimal while a wider tyre adds to the riding performance and enjoyment by the bucket-load. Tyres to match the occasion make for more enjoyable rides, but unlike tester number four, remember to keep the rubber side down! TURN OVER FOR OUR COMPREHENSIVE TESTING TABLE The Mavic tyres, along with the Vredestein and Continentals, were narrow – making us sceptical. But their 120 thread per square inch casings seating and inflated beautifully on 23mm rims.