Return Of The Gumwall
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that ‘useful’ things like practicality and functionality can often take a back seat to more basic pursuit of aesthetics and taste. If you haven’t, then your name might just be Paul.
You may have also become aware that there is occasional flagrant flouting of certain guidelines by curators and purveyors alike. Long black socks, red bar tape and big bidons, facial and leg hair, some have even been known to experiment with the much-maligned and socially destructive drug EPMS. Some things shouldn’t be tampered with, while others are prone to some manipulation as seen fit by circumstance. And some things will always be ‘just the way it is’.
Take tyres for example. Rule #8 was one of the first decreed (it was the eighth, if memory serves) and is one of the more complex in its simplicity. To put it in layman’s terms, tyres are a simple thing to get right. Black. They match any bike regardless of colour and will always look good no matter how much abuse they receive. But look more closely and a myriad of options are offered; match this to that or that to the other bit, and the other bit back to that. Or just go black. See, told you it was simple.
So why should choosing a new set of rubber be a cause of consternation? I needed to replace my trusty Pavé CG’s as they’d seen better days, from the cobbles of Belgium and France in April through a winter of more off-road detours than any road bike should be subjected to. Punctures became a feature of almost every ride, two at a time on a couple of outings. The green tread was worn and cut up and my mates were getting sick of waiting and probably wanted to strangle me with a tube as I attempted to get aired up and mobile yet again. Hang on, green? Surely not compliant…
Well yeah, the hue that is ubiquitous with Pro bikes in the European spring is the one color of tread that gets an automatic pass due to that other great cornerstone of the dual pursuits of Cycling and Looking Fantastic: heritage. From Malteni orange to Lampre pink, green goes with anything and everything in Spring. Vittoria’s Pavés and FMB’s Paris Roubaixs have seen more action on more bikes on more cobbles than Mother Theresa has seen sick kids, and thus get almost as many blessings as she gives out on a mission to Africa. But go back further still, and the sidewall colour of choice to set off any steed is the gumwall. Or skinwall. Maybe tanwall, depending on your diocese.
It should’ve been easy to choose a new tyre due to my spate of flats. Thick, heavy rubber with all kinds of Kevlar reinforcement, varying TPI counts and tread patterns all were mulled over, for about five minutes. I wanted gumwalls. To hell with practicality and functionality, not to mention cost. I made the call to my rubber pusher Graeme and he administered the goods stat. Thinner, lighter, faster, probably less durable; my new Corsa SC’s may not solve any puncture issues, but damned if they don’t look the business. Fantastic, even.
The gumwall is back, and there’s no going black.
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