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Monday, June 04, 2018

First Impressions: Fairweather by Traveler 700x32mm tire

To say that I've been pleased and impressed by the Michelin Pro 700x28mm "Endurance" tires would be an understatement. Despite running them on the tandem/triplet for well over a year (including a 350mile bike tour last year), the tire refused the wear out. But an upcoming longer tour this year meant that I should swap in new tires.

The handwriting is on the wall, however: both kids aren't going to get any lighter, and running wider tires is the ideal solution for increasing load that the triplet is going to be expected to handle. Despite the recent fashion for running wider tires, I'm actually not an advocate of it for the simple reason that most single bikes are already designed with too high a bottom bracket: running a wider tire on those bikes makes the BB even higher, a recipe for making the bike less agile on descents and quick cornering. On a tandem/triplet, however, the bike handling isn't going to be affected much.

The big problem with tires wider than 700x28 is that high quality tires in that size are hard to find: most wider tires are designed for European-style "trekking bikes" and heavy dutch-style utility bicycles, not lightweight touring bikes. You can find the Compass-range of such tires north of $60. But it turns out a Japanese bike shop has a tire called Fairweather for Traveler that's made by the same factory (Panaracer) for a retail price of 30 pounds each.

When the tires arrived, I weighed them: surprisingly, the 700x32s come in at 275g each, 5g lighter than the Michelin Pro Race 28s! Mounting them on the rim, they do come out wider than the 28s, so that lighter weight isn't because I was mounting a narrower tire! There's a file pattern on them, which is mostly worthless, but it hasn't had any appreciable impact on handling so far. The wider tire does mean that the Raceblade Pro XL won't clear them, but for just this year's tandem tour I'm rotating the old front Michelin over to the rear anyway. The tread also has a divot that's obviously meant to be a wear indicator: when the divot's flush with the rest of the tire that means it's time to order a new one. In practice, I don't pay attention to wear indicators: I typically only replace tires when I'm about to go on tour, or when I can see the casing beneath the rubber.

One of my big problems in the past with wider tires is that the tandem would blow them off on a descent. The first couple of times it happened it was scary, but I've since figured out that nobody makes tires to mount on Mavic T519 rims any more, so tire/rim compatibility is a must, and the only way to find out is to try. I descended Page Mill road on the tandem with this tire on and had no issues, so I think I'm good to go.

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