Mavic Ksyrium Wheels
In a past newsletter, Uncle Al waxed eloquent about the riskiness of heavier riders (170+ pounds) using lightweight equipment. This was in reply to a 215-pound guy who thought his Mavic Ksyrium wheels (18 spokes front, 20 rear) might have simply collapsed during a fast descent. This brought out ksome kserious Ksyrium ksupporters.
FEEDBACK FROM TED H.: I weigh around 230 pounds. I’ve ridden my Ksyrium wheels about 2,400 miles. On at least two occasions, I’ve struck bike-eating holes in the road, once on a descent at well over 35 mph. Neither wheel was affected.
Not convinced? One day, the front wheel flew off my roof rack while I was going 85 mph on I-81 in Pennsylvania. I saw it careen wildly down the median. I was sure it was wasted. But when I put it on a truing stand, it was still perfect.
FEEDBACK FROM MARK W.: I’m 6 feet tall and 190-195 pounds. I’ve been using Ksyriums for the past two years. They have never had to be trued. These wheels are positively bombproof. Our roads here in Pennsylvania aren’t exactly a magic carpet ride, either!
FEEDBACK FROM JON P.: I weigh only 160 pounds in wet weather, but I love my Ksyrium wheels (mine have the shaved rims). They’ve been on my Serotta Legend for 2,500 miles and have stayed perfectly true and solid — better than any 32-spoke wheels I’ve ever owned.
FEEDBACK FROM LARRY M.: I’d like to add a different perspective. For the last several years, I’ve ridden on Mavic Cosmics and most recently Mavic Ksyrium ultralights. Adding the Ksyriums to my four-year-old custom Landshark made it feel like a new bike. I don’t ride them every day, but it’s not the durability issue that causes me to switch back to my old Cosmics. I love the psychological lift of heading out with my buds for a hard ride on the ultralights. At 5-foot-7 and 144 pounds, I’ve found these wheels to be quite durable. In fact, I have not had to have them trued, ever!
FEEDBACK FROM JOSH S.: Ksyrium wheels are without a doubt one of the strongest production wheelsets available, regardless of weight.
But please, Unc! Unlike what your “industry insider” told you, Ksyriums should not be used on a tandem, with rare exception in the case of a light team on good roads.
Tandem wheels must endure heavy side loads in corners and high windup forces during hard braking. Anyway, most tandems have 140-mm or wider rear axle spacing and Mavic doesn’t make Ksyriums with this width. Nertz!
The lightest wheelset I’d ever recommend for tandem racing and training uses a medium-section aluminum rim with 36 spokes front and rear. Velocity Deep V rims are a good example.
FEEDBACK FROM TIM S.: Uncle Al, you are dead on about the absurdity of using excessively lightweight components. As one who has worked in a bike shop for many years, I was astounded by how much money people were willing to spend to shave a few grams from their bike, but yet were never willing to do the necessary training to get fitter and faster.
I’m a big boy. All my wheels, which I build myself, easily last an average of 12,000 miles for a rear and 30,000 for a front. I still use 36 spokes in the rear, which gives me the margin of safety that some 18-spoke wheels simply cannot offer.
To those who are constantly looking for a performance edge: Train harder, eat better and rest well. The bike will take care of itself.
FEEDBACK FROM DOUG K.: My wife and I both do 8,000-9,000 road miles a year. We’ve now ridden our pairs of Mavic Ksyrium wheels two full seasons with no problems at all. Haven’t had to touch a single spoke. They are clearly faster than 32-spoke wheels, no doubt about it.
I am well aware of the arguments in favor of more spokes (and easily obtainable spokes that are all the same length), so we use traditional 32-spoke wheels when touring. These wheels easily have 15,000 miles on them.
One question, though: Can you explain the theory behind having the Ksyrium drive-side spokes radial and the left-side crossed? Seems bass-ackward to me!
UNCLE ALRETURNS FIRE: Ksyrium wheelsets are good, strong and seem to be reliable. As you’ve indicated, you don’t want to take them to exotic locales, because if you have a problem, like a broken spoke, you’ll be out of luck. If you do insist on riding them to Timbuktu, at least pack extra spokes and the appropriate wrench. That way, you’ll have at least a fighting chance of repair.
As for radial lacing on the drive side, I didn’t understand Mavic’s approach, either, until I talked with the right person at the company.
It seems that with the hub flanges so close together and the high spoke tension, there apparently is no issue with spoke “wind up.” The pull is pretty equal on each side. And it is instant, which is why Ksyriums seem to accelerate so well.
Aero Wheel Guidance
DEAR UNCLE AL: I’m on a tight budget and thoroughly confused about racing wheels. I do triathlons so I’m thinking that aerodynamics should be more of a concern to me than for the average roadie.
My main question is about spoke count. I’m currently 190 pounds but will be racing at 170. What spoke count should I be looking at? And how does this vary depending on construction methods — conventional wheels vs. high-tension spokes vs. paired spokes?
It seems to me that maintenance headaches would be avoided by going for a carbon wheel such as a Spinergy Rev-X or Tri-Spoke. What is the downside of a carbon-spoke wheel?
Being fund-limited, would I be better off buying a good aero front wheel only, or a not-so-good pair of aero wheels? — Andrew M.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Andy, I took your question to an ex-pro who’s a friend of mine.
For a guy on a limited budget, he recommends going for a front wheel with few spokes — as long as it is strong. This would be a Bontrager Race Lite (or the Rolf version), Shimano’s 7700 or R535 wheels, or maybe a Spinergy Rev-X, if you can find one.
Don’t go for lightweight climbing wheels, which also have very few spokes. They won’t be strong enough for a big boy like you. Use your wheel to race on, not for training.
The rear wheel would be next, but there is a lot of “dirty” air behind the seat tube and bottom bracket, so an aero wheel has less benefit. A full disc is okay for perfect conditions, but a better all-around choice would be a Rev-X or Tri-Spoke. They are not as hard to handle in windy situations.
All of the carbon-spoke wheels are pretty noisy compared to a more standard wheel, if that makes any difference to you.
HEY UNCLE AL: Maybe you can help. I’ve had no luck figuring out what’s wrong, nor can the dealer tell me anything.
I have a 2000 Trek 5200 (Postal) with Rolf Vector Comp wheels. After I stand and crank up a hill (or even remain seated) it feels like the bike has a mind of its own when I return to the saddle. It feels like it’s moving side to side, then after a few more revolutions, it’s fine.
This has been extremely frustrating. I go about 215 pounds and have never experienced this on my past steel or aluminum frames. I don’t think it’s the carbon, so I’m wondering about the wheels. Sounds like you’re a fan of more vs. less spokes. Any thoughts? — Michael S.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Has your shop checked to be sure your spokes have the proper amount of tension? With a big dude like you, I’ve seen spokes stretch and need retensioning. I’d check thatfirst.
You are correct about me liking more spokes. I think they support lateral loads (sideways flex, like you’re describing) better than fewer spokes, especially for heavy riders. I weigh 210 and use a 32-spoke front wheel and a 36 in back. I have no wheel problems — except I can’t make them turn fast enough going up hills!
See if your shop has some “normal” wheels you can try. I’ll bet they fix the problem. If so, buy ’em.
FEEDBACK FROM MIKE H.: Just wanted to comment about Rolf wheels. I’ve got some Comps and some Pros. I’ve experienced a problem similar to what Michael S. describes. Thing was, it wasn’t either wheelset — it was the fork (Time Millennium). I’m still not sure why, but replacing it cured the problem.
Also, check the bearing adjustment on the rear hub. Sometimes a loose rear bearing causes wiggles in the headset. Something about gyroscopic effect or whatever.
Swapping out parts makes good sense. It’s the only sure way to find the cause. But, before Michael throws away the Rolfs, I thought I’d give them a recommendation.
The roads in my country (New Zealand) are a little rough, and I’ve found the Rolfs to be totally reliable — and I weigh 200 pounds. They need to be trued by people who are experienced (and trained), but they stay true unless exceptionally abused. By that I mean ridden up curbs or exposed to rap music.
I broke a rear-wheel spoke in a hilly race after another guy rode into me. The final 120 kilometers were a little soggy, but the Rolf held together without the catastrophic failure predicted by those around me.
Most of my cycling buddies are married to Ksyriums and dis Rolfs, but I’ve had nothing but good times with them. In most conditions they are as fast as my HED race wheels. Okay, I admit it, I’ve got a wheel addiction!
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: While I think the Rolfs are wheelie nice, standard wheels with 32 or 36 spokes give greater cornering stability for bigger riders. We are talking about wire with regards to spokes. Just imagine how strong those Rolf wheels would be if they had more spokes.
Riding with a loose rear hub can and does contribute to shimmy. It allows the rear wheel to become “out of plane” with rest of the bike. With the rear wheel going left while you’re headed right, oscillation occurs. Not a good thing.
As for your Time fork, it was just not stout enough for a big dude like you. It lacked lateral strength. You didn’t say what you replaced it with, but a fork can have dramatic effect on how a bike performs. Very thin, aero-shaped fork legs will generally be less resistant to side loads. Rounder, fatter fork profiles have little sideways flex but push more air. We big riders push a lot of air anyway (some of it hot air), so strength is far more important than aerodynamics.
27-Inch Tire Availability
DEAR UNCLE AL: My touring/commuting bike is a 1964 Paramount that my father bought new and handed down to me. As you know, those bikes were designed for 27-inch rims. I considered converting to 700C, but then I’d have brake-reach problems.
Do you think the supply of 27-inch tires will eventually dry up? My LBS has only 3 in stock. Should I buy a cache to preserve this bike’s future? — Mike S.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Hey, retro man! Sometimes I feel as though the bike industry is controlled by General Motor’s Planned Obsolescence Business Model.
Twenty-seven-inch wheels are a part that’s becoming rarer all the time, so for those of you who still use this size, run, don’t walk to your local bike shop and stock up on a few tires.
Take comfort in knowing that tire manufacturers haven’t totally abandoned you . . . yet. Kenda, IRC, Continental, Michelin and Panaracer still manufacture 27-inch tires, although they tend to be ho-hum in design. Continental makes one of the strongest, but far from the lightest, called the Top Touring 2000. It’s a great choice for touring and tandems. “High-performance 27-inch tires” has become an oxymoron.
Worse than tire availability is rims. There are only a few manufacturers who still feel sympathetic to those of you lost in the ’70s, ’60s and earlier. Alex and Sun still make 27-inchers, but most other manufacturers have jumped ship. Who can blame them, though?
If you plan on using your Paramount for a few more years, buy a couple of rims now for backup. Your shop will probably be thrilled to get rid of them.
FEEDBACK FROM DAVE B.: Mike’s “problem” with 27-inch wheels on his old Paramount may not be as insurmountable as he thinks.
I have two bikes in my stable, an ’85 Bridgestone 400 and an ’83 Trek 400 that came with 27-inch wheels. In both cases, the brake pads would adjust down enough to align with 700C wheels. Mike should try a 700C wheel in his frame to see if his brakes will do the same. He may get a pleasant surprise.
Tufo “Tubular Clinchers”
DEAR UNCLE AL: What do you think of Tufo tubeless tires, specifically the clinchers? — Douglas R.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: I’m convinced there’s a conspiracy out there for the sole purpose of making me feel uncomfortable. You guys ask hard questions, and this is one of them.
Tufo is a unique product in several ways. The tubulars seem normal enough, albeit without tubes as we know them. But the “tubular clinchers” are one of the weirdest (and cleverest) designs I’ve ever seen.
Hailing from the Czech Republic, where the winters are l-o-n-g and the nights are c-o-l-d, what else is there to do but reinvent the wheel? I mean tire.
Like its tubular, Tufo’s clincher has no tube. That’s where the similarities end.
Built onto the bottom of the clincher is a channeled rubber band (as Tufo calls it) that takes the place of the bead on a regular clincher tire and locks the Tufo to the rim. You do not use rim tape. You do need Herculean hand strength.
Both Ed and Fred tried and failed to install our test pair of Tufo Hi-Composite Carbon tubular clinchers (about $50 each). So I was given the task. Guess they figured my Sicilian blood, strong hands (no, not from choking people, although I’ve often been sorely tempted) and stubborn nature would be the right mix to get those babies onto wheels.
Well, I did succeed, though not without summoning the grace of the Madonna. I had sore thumbs for days. They were the toughest-to-mount tires of any type that I’ve encountered.
Then I loaned the wheels to a wonderful, trusted friend named Duncan to test. His son is a junior world MTB champion and an up-and-coming road phenom.
Duncan, a fast recreational rider, liked the Tufos’ general road feel, calling it “silky.” But he said they seemed sluggish cornering and accelerating compared to real tubulars. He liked how well they held pressure between rides.
The tires contain a puncture sealant, which Duncan termed “a comforting addition, as was the feeling that no matter what happened, these tires would stay put and could be ridden flat.” Still, he felt more confident carrying a conventional tire, tube and rim strip — not a small bundle — in case of a puncture.
Duncan wondered, as we all do at RBR, why do these tires exist?
He felt they didn’t ride as nice as good tubulars and no better than good clinchers. He had the same titanic struggle when trying to mount them on his own rims. And that’s after 30 years of rock and ice climbing, which builds strong hands 12 ways.
I did some work with the scale, just to verify a couple of things.
The Tufo model we tried tipped at 385 grams (with sealant) although the claimed weight is 335. A Michelin Pro Race clincher with a light tube and rim strip totaled 320 grams. You do the math.
Do we really need another tire system? And are these particular tires worth the installation hassle if they weigh more and perform no better than good clinchers?
FEEDBACK FROM FRANK R.: I’ve been riding Tufos for three years. I have seen them criticized more than once for being difficult to install. The Tufo website has very good instructions for installing the tires. When I followed them, I had no difficulty at all.
As for “ride,” they do seem to fall somewhere between glued tubulars and clinchers.
So far, I’ve had no flats (although with the latex sealer, I may have some unknown punctures). They wear like iron and still deliver good cornering traction. They ride as if lighter than their actual weight, much like the ride of a well-built bike is better than its catalog specs would indicate.
In short, I like Tufos and suggest you double-check the installation instructions.
FEEDBACK FROM KURT P.: I have used Tufos for about a year. Your comments are right on, Uncle Al.
The key to installing the tubular clinchers is hot water. Close the valve and soak the tires in hot water. They slip on much, much easier. I found the Jet model to be the best all-around tire. I have no intention of switching away from Tufo at this time.
FEEDBACK FROM GINY C.: I can’t help but respond to your rant. I was convinced to try the Tufo tubular clincher by my husband, and I like them as well as the Michelin Axial Pros I traded in.
I ride on really bad roads — lots of gravel, potholes and no stores or phones if you flat. I have about 1,500 miles on these tires and haven’t had a flat yet. I also have good confidence in the Tufos on a long descent.
After practice, I can get the tire on my rim, but I agree it is a wrestling match. Overall, for my type of riding, these tires are a good value and I will keep them on my bike.
FEEDBACK FROM TON D.: Intrigued with the Tufo system, I gave them a try. After being unable to get them on the wheel, I asked my local bike shop to complete the task (which they did, but muttered something about sore fingers).
I put in the Tufo slimy stuff, which is supposed to stop leaks. I rode them for a while, but my impression was that they felt sluggish. I thought that might be the price to pay for a tire that won’t go flat. However, after a few hundred miles, a leak developed in the stem/valve. The slime clogged the valve so it stuck open. Result: a flat tire that I absolutely couldn’t fix, and couldn’t even get off the rim without industrial tools (not being a rock climber).
I have happily gone back to normal clinchers, and I carry a spare tube and patch kit. At least I can fix flats now.
FEEDBACK FROM DAVE M.: In my opinion, the Tufos are the baddest cyclocross tires going. The national were won on them this year, and about a third of the elite riders were using them. You can run them as low as 28 psi and not pinch flat.
I pulled two goat-head thorns out of my front ‘cross tire one day and the latex sauce sealed the holes. The same thing happens with glass cuts on the road tires — amazing to see it work! I have had cuts that sealed themselves with maybe 10 psi air loss. Perfect for commuting or just hanging in the pack.
I think the flat resistance is more than just the latex sauce. Over the years I have fixed hundreds of flat tires. I find that the Tufo casing responds differently than other tires when it is cut. These tires generally have a very high thread count — the best ones have 440 tpi under the tread. When the casing is cut, nearby threads tend to push into the hole, helping close it.
Regarding mounting the clinchers: The first one I did took about 10 minutes. The next one, 5 minutes. Now I can mount a brand new tire in 2-3 minutes.
There are two tricks:
- First, stretch the tire by putting your foot through it and pulling steadily upwards for maybe 10 seconds, turning the tire 90 degrees and repeating.
- Second, mount the first bead, put about 3 psi in the tire, and mount the second bead. A little water can be used to help the rubber slide over the metal.
I have been selling Tufo tires to some of my racing buddies and generally get nothing but positive feedback. Mounting them is not about strength, Uncle Al, it’s about technique. Once you get that trick down, I think you may become a convert.
Dave’s company, Showers Pass, sells Tufo tires.
Tubular Tire Inflation
DEAR UNCLE AL: I’m still using tubulars (sew-ups), Continental Sprinters, and probably will till I need new wheels. I weigh 165 and use 32-spoke, 3-cross wheels with tires pumped to 110 psi front and 120 rear. Is this pressure correct? Is pressure the same for tubulars as for clinchers? — Paul M.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Yes, Pablo, the pressure recommendations for sew-ups are pretty much in line with those for clinchers.
The Sprinters are something like 21C in width, so I wouldn’t run them below 95 psi or you could damage a rim if you hit a pothole. If they feel too squishy, add a bit more air. But you don’t need to run them as hard as you do.
Gluing Tubular Tires
DEAR UNCLE AL: I’m building a set of tubular wheels. I have Continental Sprinter tires and a tube of 3M Fast Tack Trim Adhesive. I have used this glue with Wolber tubulars with no difficulties, but I’ve come across some literature that suggests it is not safe to use with Continentals. Do you know if this is true, and if so, what adhesive would you recommend? — Dave M.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Use your 3M Fast Tack (part No. 08031) for gluing the trim on your Mustang, Dave, not your tires onto your rims.
It’s true, Fast Tack used to be de rigueur for gluing tubulars (sewups). But over the years it has been reformulated to do a better job of what it’s made for, which isn’t attaching tires. Don’t blame the dudes at 3M. Their responsibility is to the automotive industry, not us roadies.
I, too, have heard that Fast Tack attacks the glue that holds the base tape to Continental sewups. Personally, I’m notplanning to experiment with how long or under what conditions failure occurs, like when cornering at speed.
There is no good reason not to use the glue that was designed specifically for your tires by Continental. It works, and it works well, so use it.
Now let me go a little off course from your question and explain correct tubular installation. You may know this, but other roadies who are new to these tires may not.
- Clean the rim. If it’s a brand-new rim, get rid of all oil and grease. I recommend acetone on a clean rag to thoroughly wipe down the rim bed. Do the sidewalls, too, and your brake pads will appreciate it. Use acetone in a well-ventilated place or you’ll be having flashbacks to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
- Apply glue to the rim. Blob on a bead between each spoke hole all the way around the rim. Then spread it evenly with your fingertip, preferably inside a baggy to keep it off you. Put the wheel aside.
- Stretch the tire. A brand-new tire must be stretched before you try to mount it for real. This is done by putting it on an unglued rim. If you skip this step, you’ll have hell to pay.
- Apply glue to the tire. Take the tire off the rim used for stretching, then spread a thin bead on the rim tape. It’s easier if the tire has a little air in it, enough to turn it inside out. If you’re careful not to get glue on the sidewall, you’ll look like a pro when you’re done.
- Repeat. Apply glue two more times to the rim and once more to the tire, letting each successive layer dry. Yeah, it’s a messy job, but be patient and careful and you’ll have rewarding results.
- Mount the tire. When you’re ready, put a bit more glue on the tire and rim as before. Then put the valve stem through the valve hole with the wheel held vertically against the floor. (A piece of clean cardboard works well under the rim. Your wife’s new carpet does not.) Stretch the slightly inflated tire onto the rim, working in opposite directions with both hands moving away from the valve. If you’re careful, you can gently roll the tire on with no sticky mess getting on the sidewall. The wet glue you just put on helps this task go smoothly.
- Center the tire. Add some air, then go around the tire and adjust as necessary to make the base tape even on both sides. Once it is, inflate to 85-90 psi and let it sit 24 hours before you ride it.
- Clean up. If there’s any glue on the rim’s sidewall, take it off immediately with acetone. If there’s glue on the tire’s sidewall, just let it dry. After it does, you can usually rub it off with your thumb.
Don’t shortcut the gluing process! It’s important to build up base layers on the rim and tire to get proper adhesion. Done properly, there are no worries. Done improperly, you might wind up like a friend who decided to save weight on his brand-new Fiamme Gold Label wheels by mounting his new Clement Criterium silks with a single glue layer.
One lap into the criterium we were in, he was on the ground with ruined wheels and tires, and considerably less skin. Not a way to save a few grams!
FEEDBACK FROM HOWARD K.: After reading these instructions for gluing tubulars, why on Earth would anyone want to do this? Is the performance really worth all that effort? Or, is it just the Zen of doing it? It’s a cinch I’m stickin’ to clinchers.
UNCLE AL RETURNS FIRE: I couldn’t agree with you more! Tubulars should be left to the realm of the competitor, where their performance advantage can make a difference.
In the Euro Classic races where cobbles are standard fare, and so are punctures, tubulars/sewups stay on the rim even when flat. They can be ridden that way at speed until the support guys show up witha wheel.
A cincher, when punctured, tends to come off the rim and jam, leaving a rider stuck by the side of the road until the mechanic gods shine down.
For us mere mortals, clinchers are the clear choice in practicality, performance and cost. The best clinchers are still far cheaper than the best tubulars.
But . . . nothing rides like top-quality tubulars. If you’ve never ridden on tubular wheels, they are a treat that is beyond description.
FEEDBACK FROM MATT W.: For some reason my rear tubular race wheel has a vertical wobble, as if it is unbalanced. My shop mounted the tire. Is this normal for tubulars? These are my first.
UNCLE FIRES BACK: First off, I’m going assume that your wheel is round and true. If it’s not, then the glued-on tubular will accentuate the hop.
You didn’t say what tire you are using or whether your rim has had tires glued on previously. It could be that the tire is a cheap one (there’s no such thing as a round cheap tubular), or there may be a buildup of glue that’s causing the hop.
Have the dudes at the shop figure out which of these problems is in need of fixing, and have ’em fix it. Don’t ride this wheel if you can feel the hop, as it will ruin the handling of your bike and maybe even ruin your wheel. Or your life.
Rain Tire Recommendations
HEY UNCLE AL: I’ve decided to start criterium racing a little early in the season. I live in California, so the weather is usually just wet, not icy or snowy. I’d like a recommendation for a tire that would have good traction on wet pavement. Just for reference, during the regular season I use Michelin Pro Race tires on a pair of Ritchey WCS wheels. — Matthew B.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Well, you just got a glowing recommendation for Vredestein Fortezzas from Tim in his letter above. I haven’t tried those tires and, in fact, I don’t ride much on wet roads here in high-and-dry Western Colorado. You should remember that when you ask for my all-wet recommendations.
But I do know of two tires specifically designed for cold-temperature and wet-road training and racing. These are the Michelin Axial Winter and the Continental 3000 4 Season. An ex-Motorola pro tells me the Michelins stick great in the rain.
Both manufacturers claim to use different, softer compounds for a better grip in wet/cold conditions. But this also causes these tires to wear pretty fast if you leave them on for riding in dry/warm conditions.
Both tires come in 700x20C and 23C. I recommend the 23s so you can run lower pressure, say 90-95 psi, for even better traction.
DEAR UNCLE AL: I’m a female amateur road racer and will be competing in criteriums all summer. I recently had the pleasure of doing so in the rain and needless to say I went down hard in a corner. There was a crash in every category that day due to the weather, even in the cat 1 men’s race.
So, what’s a good wet-weather tire that will help keep my back wheel from sliding out on every other corner? I’m currently using Ritchey WCS Race Slicks, and my road rash is testament to how they do in the rain. — April B.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: You know what they say, “April showers bring . . . road rash.”
Sorry to hear you fell, but let me make a couple of guesses here. You didn’t lower your tire pressure to compensate for the wet conditions, and you run well over 100 psi all the time, anyway. Right?
As you discovered, wet pavement is slippery. Unless you are comfortable sliding around corners(a good technique to master for crit racing), falling is likely. But you can help your chances like the pros do. They’ll lower inflation pressure even at the start line if rain begins. Being a gal, you’re probably very light and would do well to run 85 psi in wet conditions.
The only tires I know designed for the wet are the Michelin Axial Winter and the Continental 3000 4 Season. Their tread compounds are softer and, therefore, grippier in wet and cold conditions.
The Michelin is really hard to find, so if you do luck out, buy four of them in 700x23C. Do not use them when it’s dry because they’ll wear out really fast.
If you race where it rains a lot, a.k.a. Belgium conditions, mount your rain tires on a set of wheels you only use in the wet. Keep inflation at or below 90 psi. They will become your secret weapon.
DEAR UNCLE AL: I have a question about the longevity of road tires. I’m currently riding a pair of the Hutchinson USPS tires. I’ve had them less than two months. After only about 600-700 miles, the rear is already going threadbare. The wear seems uniform, so I’m sure it is not from anything unusual. Is this quick wear typical for these tires? Can you recommend another model that has longer life even if it’s not so light? — Chris M.
UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: You’re using a racing tire, Chris. That Hutchinson is designed to roll fast, corner well and not last too long.
If you want good mileage and performance, too, try the Michelin Axial Carbons or the Panaracer Stradius Extreme ZSG Ultimas (could it have a longer name?). These two tires are loaded with carbon black, which helps them wear like diamonds without hurting performance very much. But if you push them as hard through corners as you could with Hutchinsons, they won’t be as good. You don’t need to be taking big risks, anyway.
And I’m sure you’re running a tad less than 100 psi like Uncle Al always preaches, aren’t you?
FEEDBACK FROM LEO Q.: I have experience with the Panaracer Stradius Extremes, and while I can’t comment yet on longevity, I can say that they wouldn’t be an ideal upgrade to the Hutchinsons. They corner like a dream wet or dry, are supple and roll fine — all great features of a race tire. And they are a certainly a race tire! They pick up troublesome cuts quickly, especially when it gets wet. By the way, this is at 95/105 psi front/back for a 140-pound rider.
I haven’t ridden the Michelin Carbons, but I have ridden the Dynamics. If you want good wear and durability with decent ride characteristics, the Dynamics are it.