i can laugh about it now, but in the dark years of innocence (read: not a clue about bicycles), on the basis that someone might have said that time-triallists preferred narrower rubber to speed them on their way, i purchased a not-very-expensive pair of 700 x 19c tyres. fortunately for both my sanity and street-cred, i recall very little about these other than the fact that i had few fillings left after the first rides and they had a propensity to puncture disturbingly frequently.
the fact that i remember not one ounce of evidence that they made me any faster, meant that the exercise was, thankfully, never repeated.
along with the rest of the great unwashed, i reverted to the standard (that was then, this is now) 23mm width. the professionals had conclusively proved that this was the optimum width for winning one day races and three week stage events, whether constructed in the form of a lowly clincher even of some repute, or the more ubiquitous tubular.
however, i did hear on the grapevine that a certain professional preferred, nay demanded, that the tubs on his carbon bicycle measure a more impressive 24mm. as long as the label on the sidewall bore witness to this demand, vernier calipers were not required. whether this was the impetus or not, or maybe a gentle nudge from the more prominent carcass constructors, those 23mm have all but totally morphed into a 25mm width, so much so that such is now accepted as the norm, whether making a living from cycling or posing on a sunday morning.
this is a width that used to be treated with disdain; a width that was found only on bargain basement machinery, featuring a wire bead, naff tread and no definable label that could be centred over the valve. in fact, if truth be known, those in possession of such rubber were most unlikely to even be aware that the label should be centred over the valve in the first place, on pain of death and exclusion (but not necessarily in that order.)
all the above was worthy of our deliberations with the rather obvious exception of past sunday's race from paris to roubaix. those cobbles, even cogently arranged to bear a remarkable semblance of a road, can bring only impending destruction to any tyre that dares to tread (see what i did there?). that, in essence, is why the challenge tyre company offer their 700 x 28c paris-roubaix rubber. sadly, a large proportion of today's carbon fails to allow sufficient clearance to fit such a healthy dollop of rubber. though i would scarcely see fit to demean northern france's cobblestones by comparing them to the parlous state of many of britain's roads, there's a growing realisation that the days when the two meet in the middle cannot be to distant.
i have a pair of the paris-roubaix tyres fitted to my colnago master; the clearance up front is fine, but the brake bridge on the rear triangle is just a tad too close to breathing distance of the herringbone tread. so, you might ask, why in all that we hold sacred, have challenge brought to market a tyre that vyes with the maximum width allowed in cyclocross? in fact, in the absence of a road bike that could even look at such a width, i have fitted just such a pair of challenge's strada - bianca tyres to my ibis hakkalugi.
and have i got news for you.
i cannot tell a fib; when fitting the paris roubaix rubber, my thumbs had to spend a week in hospital. an extra five millimetres of similar rubber was not the gleeful promise to which i was looking forward. the ibis is rather attached to its wheelsmith aero clinchers and i had already placed the paramedics on standby prior to removing the strada bianca's from their display tags. in a surprising twist of fate, the latter slid onto the wheelsmiths with ease and in less than twenty minutes i was able to admire the style with which the hakkalugi had been bestowed.
though i may be guilty of a modicum of hyperbole, these are the absolute shizzle. not wishing to provide them with the easiest of initiations, i rode over the agglomeration of patched tarmac and potholes we like to call roads. these tyres eat cattle grids for breakfast. on my perambulation of loch gorm, sidling ever so close to the atlantic ocean, i passed fabian cancellara not once, but twice. at least i think it was cancellara.
islay is nothing if not agriculturally inclined, the practitioners of which are similarly inclined to leave much of the day's travail all across the (sort of) roads. avoiding this is scarcely an option, but with tyres such as these, a devil-may-care attitude is very much on the cards. better still, it seems that a width of 33mm, ten millimetres wider than those we once considered home, has little if any effect on speedy forward progress. i confess that, while i'd hardly describe myself as fast, i was a lot faster than i'd expected to be.
the label on the sidewall advises they be inflated to between 60-90 psi (4bar-6bar), but simon beatson of paligap (challenge tyres' uk distributor) suggested i go for the lower number, offering excellent trade-off between speed and comfort. the man was not wrong. the only real problem i foresee is an apparent lack of road bicycles with clearance for such wide (and tall) rubber. at present, i'm very much into riding my cyclocross bike for every conceivable situation, so i'm not that bothered really; the only road bike i can think of offhand that would probably cope is stephen shand's skinnymalinky, but doubtless there may be one or two others.
this pair have only covered a few hundred kilometres and unlikely though it may seem, they've not yet been rained upon, so i'd prefer it if you'd consider this an introduction, with the full biography to follow along in the fullness of time. meanwhile, if the 'cross bike is underemployed until october comes along, you might like to join me.
the challenge strada-bianca 700x33c tyres weigh 355 grams each and are available only in black with black sidewall at a price of £34 each.
thursday 14 april 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................