these are the tyres on which tony martin achieved his world championship time-trial title. well, not exactly this specific pair - his were a smidgeon narrower than those currently gracing my colnago master - but the principle and constitution were the same. this is worthy of remark because it is allegedly the first time a world title has been won on clincher tyres as opposed to the pros' more usual choice of tubulars. while this pays great testament to the construction and speed of the turbo cottons, it was undoubtedly a safer option than had the rest of the ettixx team ridden the same tyres in the road race.
the choice of tubular tyres for the professional peloton is a long-standing one for very good reason. for one, in the event of a flat, glued-on rubber can still be ridden on, albeit at a slower pace, until the team car or neutral service catches up. in a time-trial, a puncture will simply result in a bike change; even a quick tyre change is unlikely to save a race. though clinchers have been ridden in the peloton long before now, so far as i'm aware, they've never won anything as exclusive as a world championship.
for the rest of us, the faff associated with tubular tyres and all that messy glue is often seen as a step or two too far. and rather than popping a spare tube or two in a seat pack or back pocket, it becomes necessary to maintain a 'here's-one-i-made-earlier' glued tubular in that same under-saddle position. and assuming a crevaison actually inflicts itself upon your tubular, have any of you ever tried to repair the blighters?
therefore, in the interests or simplicity, peace of mind and a shed door that hasn't been glued shut, most of us are happy to forgo pelotonic speed and stick to our trusty clinchers of whichever width is in vogue at the time.
that in itself is a whole subject worthy of discussion. in my early days as a clueless cyclist, i had logically deduced that, if 700 x 25 was pretty quick, then even with me aboard, 700 x 18 ought to be positively supersonic. now with an honours degree in hindsight, i can see the flaw in my cunning plan, a flaw that applied every bit as much to 700 x 21. but at one time, it was only budget road bikes that arrived replete with 700 x 25c; those of us in the know and with more informed and deeper pockets, displayed our nous with rubber of 700 x 23. but nowadays, common lore informs us that, in fact, wider rubber runs less restrictively than the narrower of the species.
that same lore would have us believe (and i have no earthly reason to doubt it) that the optimum width might conceivably be 28mm, but having ridden 33mm road style rubber with no apparent reduction in my tardiness, it's possible that the jury may still be out on that one. for 2017, specialized have re-styled their roubaix model to incorporate disc brakes, thru-axles and 28mm rubber, in the supposition that we will not have our paris-roubaix entries returned. but the turbo cottons as ridden to devastating effect by tony martin is available in narrower format, to wit, 700 x 24 and 700 x 26. i was sent a pair of the latter by specialized, mostly because i figured the extra millimetres might better resist the crumbling degradation that is islay's roads.
it is rare that even the hebridean climate provides the very conditions with which to assess the proclivities of bicycle related rubber. i just got lucky this time round. but often every bit as important as the speed and resilience on offer, is just how darned simple it might be to fit any tyre to any wheel without placing both thumbs in traction. in the current instance, i applied the cotton pros to a pair of wheelsmith's finest handbuilts and i am more than cheered to report that the words hot, knife and butter were the order of the day. though eventually marred by the muck dispensed by a set of brake pads in the wet, i am very much in favour of what we used to refer to as an amber sidewall. i confess that the colnago looked even faster when simply leaning against the fence. and though i'm always in favour of a fine herringbone tread pattern, i'm willing to bow to the almost treadless minimalism featured here.
my experience of riding tubulars is rather limited, but it is hard to deny that a well-inflated (100psi) pair of specialized turbo cottons offers a remarkably similar ride quality. though i did point out to william watt of specialized uk that my pair were seemingly defective since i got nowhere near the speed achieved by martin, they are impressively quick. even with me pedalling. other than straight-line speed this seems most notable when cornering, where the supple sidewalls offer grip and a smattering of centrifugal je ne sais quoi to flatter the inept amateur.
but aside from my dry velocipedinal activity, i have had the great good fortune to spend several hours not only in the rain but ploughing through more than my fair share of localised flooding. i would figure that my ability to remain upright throughout, even down the gravel and pothole strewn descent past aoradh farm, pays greater testament to the tyres than it does to yours truly. and then, only just this past weekend, islay was smitten by sub-zero temperatures, resulting in unseen pockets of black ice, along with the more obvious friction-reducing frost and ice. once more, uprightness was my bedfellow, though i don't mind admitting this was achieved at a more subtle velocity where found to be necessary.
i'm not enough of a scientist/engineer to make bold statements regarding the efficacy of differing tread widths, but wherever possible, i prefer wider rubber if only for the perceived improvement in comfort. i'm never going to win anything, no matter which tyres are on my wheels, but i do know what i like and why i like it.
i really, really like these.
specialized turbo cotton clinchers are available in 700 x 24c and 700 x 26c both featuring a 320tpi polycotton casing. reccommended retail price is £50 per tyre.
tuesday 22 november 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................