The Goldilocks Principle: Deflategate

The Rider is the best book ever written about Cycling. I don’t mean that figuratively, I literally mean that literally. I say this despite having had my hand in writing our own Book about Cycling. What makes this book great is not just the prose, which is immaculate, but the spirit of the Velominatus that permeates the work. My friend @ErikdR recently sent me a copy in the original Dutch and, to my amazement, the English translation loses very little of the subtext that most translations do. Still, some expressions as they are written in Dutch carry so much meaning that it is impossible to translate into a foreign tongue. This is the essential underlying art, the intangible essence that separates language from communication.

Early in the book, Krabbé rides a short warm-up and upon reaching his turn-around point, climbs off to answer the call of nature. As he remounts, he carefully wipes his tires clean before setting off back towards the start/finish line. I had never noticed that bit of the book before but the Dutch version used a particular turn of phrase that expressed, if not a love, then an unusual degree of care given to an inanimate object.

And I realized, at that moment, that Cyclists today don’t love their tires anymore; clinchers have desensitized us against the miracle of riding on a membrane supported only by air. Tubulars, on the other hand, make you work to appreciate their miracle. You have to huff some glue (technically that counts as a win-win), you have to align the tyre properly, you have to keep the glue off both the braking surface and the sidewall, which seems like a paradox to the uninitiated. Tubulars make you work for it, they help you appreciate that a tire isn’t a bit of disposable kit; it is a commitment towards mutual benefit.

I was raised like every other Merckx-fearing Velominatus: on a strict diet of Rule #5, long hours in the saddle, and 19mm tires pumped to the highest number the sidewall said to pump them to. Which was usually around 10 bar (150 psi). Simple physics: less surface area meant less friction, and everyone knows friction is an asshole.

Until the last few years, I’ve ridden 23mm tires at 8 bar, no questions asked. In the past few years, however, we’ve come to understand that lower pressures and wider tires provide some significant benefits, like being faster and more comfortable, to pick two. I have accepted this transition like a toddler “accepts” his vegetables.

Like Grandpa adjusting to color film in his camera, I have gradually moved towards wider tires at lower pressures. I’ve been experimenting with 25mm, 26mm, and 27mm tires for the last few seasons, pumped up anywhere from 6.5 to 8.5 bar. (On the cobbles in Northern Europe, I ride them at 5 to 5.5 bar, depending on the conditions.) Empirically, the difference in ride quality by tire pressure comes down first to the quality of the tire and its materials, the weight and riding style of the rider, countered by the road conditions.

Mileage may vary based on your weight and tire, but for now I’ve landed on 26mm tires at 7.5 bar. Now I’m just waiting for my order of Gianni’s Digital Lezyne pressure gauge to show up so I can really get down to business.

 

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125 Replies to “The Goldilocks Principle: Deflategate”

  1. @tessar

    Rolling resistance is not an issue. The ride is extremely supple and I can ride at insanely low pressure(I have gone as low as 80 psi in the back) which makes for a beautiful feeling ride. If @frank is on board then I think it’s at least worth a try to anyone riding tubs. I am a huge fan of tubeless in all its forms for all forms of riding.

  2. @Teocalli

    @wilburrox

    Agree. And I sold my tubeless wheel set and tires. Tubeless on road bikes? Nonsense. Mtn Bikes? Perfect.

    A couple of things though about tubeless rims with tubes 1) When you do puncture they deflate slower as the only way the air gets out is through the puncture 2) When deflated the tyre seems to be more secure than clincher as it stay seated on the shoulder profile.  Net even though I run tubes now I would still stick with the tubeless rims as I’m much less fearful of high speed punctures.

    I can appreciate that thinking. And it would seem that most rims, or at least a lot, are considered “tubeless” compatible nowadays. At least my HEDs are. Maybe the DuraAce’s too?

    When I’d originally picked up my CAAD 10 a few years back one of the attractive components was the Ultegra tubeless ready wheel set included. I’d been converted over to tubeless on my mtn bike and was thinking oh yea… I found like you, mounting tires was a b***. And when I did get a flat (I’d never refreshed/added new sealant in the tires), mounting the tires with the tube on the side of the road? Was flat out embarrassing. Sold ’em. But was in part also when I converted to 11 sp.

    And now, with the wider rim beds available? And really, seriously good choice of clincher tires? And higher volumes/lower pressures? What benefit is gained from tubeless? None. Further, I can swap tires in minutes on the new wheel sets off/on so easy peasy and am changing ’em out all the time depending on my mood or the day’s route or even weather.

  3. @RedRanger

    @tessar

    Rolling resistance is not an issue. The ride is extremely supple and I can ride at insanely low pressure(I have gone as low as 80 psi in the back) which makes for a beautiful feeling ride. If @frank is on board then I think it’s at least worth a try to anyone riding tubs. I am a huge fan of tubeless in all its forms for all forms of riding.

    I regularly ride less than 80 psi on my rear 25c and 28c tires with tubes and I’m at 77ish kg. Tubeless tires are ridiculously pricey compared with the high quality/high thread count clinchers available.

  4. @wilburrox

    Conventional clinchers (Vittoria Pave and Corsa) go on and off as easy as a clincher rim.  It’s just the tubeless that seem to be a bitch used Bontrager and Schwalbe.

  5. @Nate

    @frank

    @RedRanger

    I only have one thing to add to this. Clement LGG tubeless tubs. the concept is so mind-blowing that I had to try them on my first stint on tubulars. I can’t see a reason why they should work flawlessly.

    I ride their tubeless tubs on my graveur; love them!

    Tubeless tubulars? Does not compute.  Either that, or I must unlearn what I have learned.

    The Clements are made by Tufo, using the same process as their own “tubeless” tubulars — a butyl layer bonded to the inside of the casing for airtightness. This has generally kept Tufos at the bottom of rolling resistance tests, but maybe they’ve improved it? The construction is excellent: round and straight. Seam under the tread means a smooth, flat base tape for consistent gluing.

  6. @pistard

    @Nate

    @frank

    @RedRanger

    I only have one thing to add to this. Clement LGG tubeless tubs. the concept is so mind-blowing that I had to try them on my first stint on tubulars. I can’t see a reason why they should work flawlessly.

    I ride their tubeless tubs on my graveur; love them!

    Tubeless tubulars? Does not compute.  Either that, or I must unlearn what I have learned.

    The Clements are made by Tufo, using the same process as their own “tubeless” tubulars — a butyl layer bonded to the inside of the casing for airtightness. This has generally kept Tufos at the bottom of rolling resistance tests, but maybe they’ve improved it? The construction is excellent: round and straight. Seam under the tread means a smooth, flat base tape for consistent gluing.

    I wouldn’t got anywhere near them on the road, but on gravel they seem to be a great balance between ride quality and durability; they last a lot longer than Dougasts and crucially are resistant to blowouts on sharp rocks which happens a lot on the cascade forest roads I ride.

    Also, the tread on the LAS is perfect for that kind of riding; a nice file tread in the middle with big enough nobbies on the side to stop a slip in the corners. They are great on grass for CX as well.

    The Dougast tires I’ve had definitely have a better ride, however.

  7. @Teocalli

    @wilburrox

    Agree. And I sold my tubeless wheel set and tires. Tubeless on road bikes? Nonsense. Mtn Bikes? Perfect.

    A couple of things though about tubeless rims with tubes 1) When you do puncture they deflate slower as the only way the air gets out is through the puncture 2) When deflated the tyre seems to be more secure than clincher as it stay seated on the shoulder profile.  Net even though I run tubes now I would still stick with the tubeless rims as I’m much less fearful of high speed punctures.

    I beg your pardon, but under what circumstances would the air escape out of anything other than the puncture?

  8. @frank

    @Teocalli

    @wilburrox

    Agree. And I sold my tubeless wheel set and tires. Tubeless on road bikes? Nonsense. Mtn Bikes? Perfect.

    A couple of things though about tubeless rims with tubes 1) When you do puncture they deflate slower as the only way the air gets out is through the puncture 2) When deflated the tyre seems to be more secure than clincher as it stay seated on the shoulder profile.  Net even though I run tubes now I would still stick with the tubeless rims as I’m much less fearful of high speed punctures.

    I beg your pardon, but under what circumstances would the air escape out of anything other than the puncture?

    Through the spoke holes on a non sealed rim.  Hence on a mtb if you do not have a tubeless ready rim you have to seal the spoke holes.

  9. I switched to 28s two years ago.  The ride quality seemed perceptibly better and they were fast, or at least equal to the 25s they replaced.  Last year when I picked up my newest bike it was suggested that I inflate my tires to no more than 7 bar.  I took that advice and whether I am riding 25s or 28s the ride quality is wonderful.  Evenually all of my rides will be fitted with 28s, but not before all of my 25s are gone (I do try to be frugal).

    I will stick with clinchers.  I am too lazy to do tubulars (I did ride thm when I was younger) and I just cannot get on board with road tubeless (I am not an early adopter).

  10. @Oli

    @frank

    That’s “Dugast” there, champ.

    That’s a lesson for us all:

    Never post from your phone while driving, kids. Autocorrect and holding your coffee and steering with your knees is a recipe for making an ass of yourself while also, less importantly, endangering lives.

  11. @Nate

    @unversio

    @Nate

    To commit quickly, just purchased Veloflex Corsa 25 Open Tubular pair at 52% off — probikekit. And still interested in their upcoming 27mm.

    You realize than “open tubular” is a euphemism for “clincher” I hope.

    Hence the need for some latex “tubas” (mentioned above).

  12. @wilburrox

    @Teocalli

    @wilburrox

    Agree. And I sold my tubeless wheel set and tires. Tubeless on road bikes? Nonsense. Mtn Bikes? Perfect.

    A couple of things though about tubeless rims with tubes 1) When you do puncture they deflate slower as the only way the air gets out is through the puncture 2) When deflated the tyre seems to be more secure than clincher as it stay seated on the shoulder profile.  Net even though I run tubes now I would still stick with the tubeless rims as I’m much less fearful of high speed punctures.

    I can appreciate that thinking. And it would seem that most rims, or at least a lot, are considered “tubeless” compatible nowadays. At least my HEDs are. Maybe the DuraAce’s too?

    When I’d originally picked up my CAAD 10 a few years back one of the attractive components was the Ultegra tubeless ready wheel set included. I’d been converted over to tubeless on my mtn bike and was thinking oh yea… I found like you, mounting tires was a b***. And when I did get a flat (I’d never refreshed/added new sealant in the tires), mounting the tires with the tube on the side of the road? Was flat out embarrassing. Sold ’em. But was in part also when I converted to 11 sp.

    And now, with the wider rim beds available? And really, seriously good choice of clincher tires? And higher volumes/lower pressures? What benefit is gained from tubeless? None. Further, I can swap tires in minutes on the new wheel sets off/on so easy peasy and am changing ’em out all the time depending on my mood or the day’s route or even weather.

    I had the same Ultegra wheels. Retired them two months ago when I overcooked a turn and went flying into a rock garden – the fuckers are so solid the front barely came out of true. While both tyres exploded, the bead was still in place. PS: This is your best friend – Conti 4Seasons come off (and on!) in seconds.

  13. @RedRanger

    @tessar

    Rolling resistance is not an issue. The ride is extremely supple and I can ride at insanely low pressure(I have gone as low as 80 psi in the back) which makes for a beautiful feeling ride. If @frank is on board then I think it’s at least worth a try to anyone riding tubs. I am a huge fan of tubeless in all its forms for all forms of riding.

    Frank is on board for Heck of the North. That’s not exactly a regular riding scenario.

    For anything else, why castrate your tyre? In either case a puncture means a new tyre. On tubulars you anyway don’t have the same pressure minimums (just note the pros at P-R), so why not a real tubular as god and Merckx intended? Rolling resistance is one hell of an issue if you’re interested in going fast, and there’s a pretty good correlation (and causal relation) between casing suppleness and rolling resistance – and a butyl-lined tyre will never be as supple as an identical latex, cotton or silk-cased one.

    Tubeless makes sense for ‘cross, probably for gravel. But as a road tyre, a tubeless tubular is just… odd. Anyone remember Tufo’s old clincher-tubulars?

  14. @Justin

    @frank @robsandy

    2 years, 10,000 miles on gatorskins here in goathead country.  One flat.  I’m a believer.

    Moved to goathead country from cactus thorn country. Went gatorskins front and back a while ago and haven’t gotten a single flat. More rolling resistance = stronger guns, and with skinny pins like mine I’ll take all the help I can get.

  15. @Owen

    @Justin

    @frank @robsandy

    2 years, 10,000 miles on gatorskins here in goathead country.  One flat.  I’m a believer.

    Moved to goathead country from cactus thorn country. Went gatorskins front and back a while ago and haven’t gotten a single flat. More rolling resistance = stronger guns, and with skinny pins like mine I’ll take all the help I can get.

    Okay, I was going to bitch you two out but then I used “the googles” to figure out what a goathead was.

    Gatorskins still suck, but I can see why you might need them. Those things are nasty.

  16. @Owen

    @Justin

    @frank @robsandy

    2 years, 10,000 miles on gatorskins here in goathead country.  One flat.  I’m a believer.

    Moved to goathead country from cactus thorn country. Went gatorskins front and back a while ago and haven’t gotten a single flat. More rolling resistance = stronger guns, and with skinny pins like mine I’ll take all the help I can get.

    I live in “everything is sharp and pointy country”. Gatorskins work well, but are way to stiff for the crappy pavement. I have switched to GP 4000s and tubes with some Stan’s. Best of both worlds, decent puncture resistance, good ride quality, and puncture resistance. Clean up sucks, but the ability to just squirt some more air in the tube and continue with my ride is worth it.

  17. I suddenly got curious as to how Stan’s in a latex tube would work, or is that counter productive?

  18. I’ve been using Gatorskins for a few months and I can’t say I’m impressed. I got them as commuting tires (after reading reviews) but I’ve still had quite a few punctures and they feel slow. I have had the same amount of punctures as I did with my older worn tires. When I switched back to some old Conti Grand Prix’s the speed difference was huge and generally I was pushing one gear bigger with the same or less effort. Also I’m not sure about the handling as I don’t feel confident to push them in the wet or on corners.I don’t feel any bite in the tires.

  19. @AJ

    I suddenly got curious as to how Stan’s in a latex tube would work, or is that counter productive?

    It works beautifully, and doesn’t increase rolling resistance by a measurable amount. Latex + GP4000s is a pretty great combo for everything, and sealant adds a nice measure of protection against certain kinds of punctures.

  20. @AJ

    I suddenly got curious as to how Stan’s in a latex tube would work, or is that counter productive?

    I don’t know if Stans gets tacky or not, which may be an issue. I have, however, put Vittoria Pitstop into my lovely FMB tubs upon the unfortunate puncture and ridden them happily for many more months.

    They do seem to lose their “latexness”, however, and stop losing their air, which might make sense. The ride deadens just a bit, I’d say, as well, which you’d probably also expect.

    What I would worry about is if the tire with Stans still loses air and would cause the inner tube to stick to itself and cause it’s own blowout. Only one way to find out! Imperial study!

  21. @frank

    @AJ

    I suddenly got curious as to how Stan’s in a latex tube would work, or is that counter productive?

    I don’t know if Stans gets tacky or not, which may be an issue. I have, however, put Vittoria Pitstop into my lovely FMB tubs upon the unfortunate puncture and ridden them happily for many more months.

    They do seem to lose their “latexness”, however, and stop losing their air, which might make sense. The ride deadens just a bit, I’d say, as well, which you’d probably also expect.

    What I would worry about is if the tire with Stans still loses air and would cause the inner tube to stick to itself and cause it’s own blowout. Only one way to find out! Imperial study!

    Well, as my current set of tires are about to hit the wear marks and one has a slight gash (I assume because the roads here are somehow covered with glass). I will be replacing them here very soon and will start testing. I have been eyeballing a set of GP4000s with tan sidewalls for a while now…

  22. @Nate

    @unversio

    Compelled to buy Veloflex Arenberg 25c Tubular and Corsa 25c Open Tubular — soon. Hand Made in Italy.

    All I needed was one good idea to “branch out” from the usual — Contis.

    I run the Arenberg tubular as my daily tire.  It is fantastic, probably my favorite.

    Veloflex Corsa 25s (gr 205) arrived and to look at them compels me to dig my own bunker and stockpile them for the apocalypse.

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