Cycling Along The Way...

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Silver City, NM, United States
Riders of the wheel. Racers, Roadies, Mountain bikers, Touring cyclists, Commuters, and others. Diamond frames, recumbents, trikes, and more. Sharing a web of connections often misunderstood or unappreciated by those who don't ride. Herewith, my attempt to share some of the more rational thoughts that flit around inside my head while bicycling, knocking back a brew or three, or just thinking about life. Reviews of bicycles, gear, touring, and more, plus some unsolicited posts about people, politics, and philosophy. Other things, too. Me: retired, gave up my TV in 1988, avid cyclist, several cross country tours completed with more to come. Your thoughts?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine Tires...A Product Review

"Never use your face as a brake pad." ~ Jake Watson (died in 1999 at the age of 25 due to injuries sustained in a bicycle crash)

Starting out on that cheery note, let's move right along with my review of the Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine Extra Leger, sold by Compass Bicycles.
Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine

Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine Extra Leger
Now, my nephew, John, whom I reference in my posts somewhat regularly, is an avid cyclist.  He doesn't go cheap with his bicycles or the gear that he uses like he sometimes does with his car buying.  Not too long ago, John mentioned he'd purchased some new tires from Compass Bicycles that he thought had much lower rolling resistance and smoothed out rough roads.  I took the claim seriously but also with a grain of salt.

One's perception of things can be tainted by what one wants to see or think about a thing, y'know, but, in reading up on these tires, his opinions seemed supported by others.  To be honest, buying new tires has never been something to tweek my level of excitement. Sure, they may look great and have that "new tire" smell.  But, beyond that, most tires that I put on my bikes were purchased with puncture proofness being the prime objective.  So, rolling resistance, smooth riding, etc., was never a big deal because they all felt the same and none of them made me ride fast like Lance.

The Schwalbe Ultremo DD tires that I'd purchased last year for my Vitus road bike had been ok.  Not stellar, as most people think Schwalbe tires are.  For the price ($72/ea at Amazon), they weren't worth their cost in comparison to the lack of puncture proofness.  They looked VERY pretty though.  I had many flats with those tires.  Two on one short outing.  Plus they wore out very quickly.  I had the same issue with Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires.  Not wearing out, but several flats...one from a thumbtack on my first ride on them.  So, my thinking on tires was...what's the difference really?  Rolling resistance.  Smoother ride. Puncture proof.  All seemed like advertising hype to me.  But life is full of optimism, eh?  At least, it is for me.

A few weeks ago, I got up to ride and noted that the Schwalbe Ultremo DD tire on the rear was flat.  So, I took the bike outside to put it on my bike stand and fix the flat.  In the process of looking the tire over, I noted it had worn quite a bit and it was time to replace the tire.  Thinking of the tires John had told me about, I ordered a pair of the Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine extra leger 700x23 tires.  For those who need to know, they weigh 181g, made in Japan, and cost $82/ea.  Jaysus!  Oh, well, can't take it with you.  I crossed my fingers and hoped I hadn't made a mistake.

When they arrived, I immediately put them on the bike.  What I noticed about them was that they looked like bicycle tires I used to buy back in the 1980's.  Seemed like most of the tires then were made in Japan. Maybe not, but this tire looked and felt like tires I remembered from when I lived/bicycled in Tucson, AZ. They went on easy and felt very supple.  Using Schwalbe SV15 tubes with these, as recommended by Compass Bicycles, I got them on the Vitus in no time.  My first outing was just a short trip around a few blocks in the neighborhood.  Not long enough to really give these tires a good tryout.

Next morning, I headed out on a usual route.  One where I was accustomed to how it felt riding with my other tires.  I noticed two things right away: the road felt smoother and I was able to ride faster.  Now, I brushed this aside thinking I wanted to think that because of the cost of the tires and they just HAD to be faster and smoother.  They HAD to be.  You know, like when you were a kid and you got new sneakers. You KNEW you could run faster with them!  Well, over the past few weeks, they HAVE proven to me to have significantly, and noticeably, less rolling resistance than any tire I've purchased in over a decade or longer. And the roads do feel smoother riding these tires.  I was amazed.  Advertising hype that was actually true. Next thing you know, a re"THUG"lican will vote for universal health care and food stamps!  What is the world coming to?

This morning, I headed out for a short ride before coming home and having breakfast.  I did the Snake Hill climb, which I can do faster now because of these tires, and the overall time of the ride was less than normal. I attribute this to the Grand Bois tires.  With no other tire have I felt such a noticeable difference in how the bike feels and performs.  Is it because I'm stronger, lost weight, took some performance enhancing drugs? No.  It truly is the tires.  So, thanks, John.  When my Vittoria Randonneur tires wear out, which will be a while yet, I'm going to replace them with the Grand Bois Cypres 700x32 tires.  Now, the Vittoria Randonneur tires have actually performed better than my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires. No flats since I've had them on my Cannondale ST800 touring bike.  Over a year now.  However, I never really noticed a difference in how they felt or rode like I did with the Grand Bois tires.  If the Grand Bois Cypres provide as much of a difference in road feel and lower rolling resistance like my Grand Bois Col de la Madeleine tires, I'll be very pleased.

Ok, time to exit this post and I need a good tune to get out of here with.  Hmmm?  Ramblin' Jack Elliott singing "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right".  My guess is that, like Grand Bois tires, not a lot of people have heard of Ramblin' Jack Elliott.  But they're both good.  Give a listen...