The Aesthete’s Choice: Boyaux Naturel

Tradition and innovation are the two opposing edges that cut our evolution through the fabric of our sport. Tradition grounds us, while innovation ensures we advance ever forward. The problem with tradition is that it is comforting and familiar, often shielding us from adopting newer, improved practices and technology. The trouble with innovation is that its freshness can blind us from being able to distinguish non-functional novelties from material improvements. We must learn to distinguish between a reluctance to change and an appreciation for a well-refined way of doing things.

When it comes to the evolution of aesthetics, a clouding factor are the fads that intersperse fashion trends. Trends tend to have a cyclical nature to them as they come in and out of style, each iteration mutated slightly from the previous. Fads, on the other hand, are blips on the continuum that tend not to reappear. Unfortunately we often can’t tell the difference until some time later, when we are left with distressing photographic evidence of our failures to tell the former from the latter. Fluro colors are an example of a trend (whose reemergence we are currently experiencing) while parachute pants are an example of a fad (whose reemergence would presumably signal the coming apocalypse.)

In Cycling, colored tires emerged innocently enough, allowing for riders to playfully match the color of the tire’s tread or sidewall to the color of their frame or kit. Or to nothing at all, depending on the savagery of their personal style. Prior to the mid-nineties, tires could be any color you wanted, so long as the tread was black and the sidewalls tan; they matched every paint scheme imaginable and always Looked Fantastic.

Colored tires introduced a stylistic weapon whose power most riders did not possess the aesthetic nuance to control, like young Luke Skywalker heading off to Bespin to face Darth Vader. Chaos ensued, limbs were lopped off. In the right hands, the colored tire could be wielded like Jackson Pollock wielded an overloaded paintbrush. Marco Pantani’s 1998 Bianchi was an aesthetic masterpiece which has yet to see its equal. But the damage done by misguided overuse left lasting ripples (and in some cases trauma); eventually this unwieldy power was returned to the fiery depths of Mount Velomis.

The lasting effect that we feel to this day is the advent of the black sidewalls; when combined with the modern deep section wheel they makes for a monolithic mass of rim and tire. This is by no means a bad look; when deployed in the right circumstances it has a Spinal Tap Black effect which can be used for intimidation. The natural sidewall, on the other hand, gives a clean delineation between rim and tire, harkening back to the days when tires came in every combination of black tread and tan you could ever want.

Having options gives the illusion of freedom when in fact it is the choice to simplify that truly leads to liberty. Choose natural sidewalls and your bicycle’s simple beauty will emerge gracefully. And always remember: friends don’t let friends ride clinchers.

Related Posts

79 Replies to “The Aesthete’s Choice: Boyaux Naturel”

  1. I must say I did think Crashwijk’s Bianchi did look stunning as it briefly took an alternate route down into Risoul.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but it was the natch sidewalls this whole time.  I’m glad he wasn’t running black sidewalls.  That would have looked like a complete shit show.

  2. There are vanishingly few bikes that don’t look better with skinwalls.

    And, frankly, the only reason that Pantani’s bike looks halfway decent is because they matched the paint shade to the tires.  It would look better in solid celeste and skinwalls.

    Every day that Kruijswijk rode a solid celeste bike, with no pink bits, my heart rose a little bit and it made me pull for him a little bit harder.

     

  3. Great to see Phil Liggett out of the commentary box and on the side of the road in the lead photo giving Sag’s some encouraging cliche’s.

  4. @Barracuda

    Great to see Phil Liggett out of the commentary box and on the side of the road in the lead photo giving Sag’s some encouraging cliche’s.

    But he probably would have called him Kwiatkowski without Phil there to correct him (unless that’s him on the other side blathering on about some Chateau).

  5. @Ccos

    @Barracuda

    Great to see Phil Liggett out of the commentary box and on the side of the road in the lead photo giving Sag’s some encouraging cliche’s.

    But he probably would have called him Kwiatkowski without Phil there to correct him (unless that’s him on the other side blathering on about some Chateau).

    Irony! “Paul” on the other side blathering… (Forgot my aricept)

  6. How right you are. But alas, most tire manufacturers are still going the all-black route and if skinwalls ever come back, no doubt they’ll charge a premium. Just 30 mins ago I put an all-black Michelin Pro 4 on #1. I do have some slightly brown sidewall Contis on the shelf for next time.

  7. @EBruner

    @Jay

    Nothing wrong with clinchers. Just saying…

    Or all that right either…

    Except, on long rides, this: you can carry one, maybe two tubs with you.  After that you’re ass out.  Alternatively, you can carry a whole stack of patches, and one way or another, you’re gonna get home.

  8. @litvi

    @EBruner

    @Jay

    Nothing wrong with clinchers. Just saying…

    Or all that right either…

    Except, on long rides, this: you can carry one, maybe two tubs with you. After that you’re ass out. Alternatively, you can carry a whole stack of patches, and one way or another, you’re gonna get home.

    And plus, I always thought Vittoria really hit it out of the park with their open corsas.  No, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s a damn fine training tire that provides very close to the same feel.  This is important because it gives you one more way to train like you race; if you’re going to get used to reading the feel of clinchers through the corners of a screaming descent during training, you’ll be stuck figuring out the feedback from your tubs through the corners of a screaming descent during a race. At which point you may just find yourself wondering why you bothered to train at all.

  9. @litvi

    @litvi

    @EBruner

    @Jay

    Nothing wrong with clinchers. Just saying…

    Or all that right either…

    Except, on long rides, this: you can carry one, maybe two tubs with you. After that you’re ass out. Alternatively, you can carry a whole stack of patches, and one way or another, you’re gonna get home.

    And plus, I always thought Vittoria really hit it out of the park with their open corsas. No, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s a damn fine training tire that provides very close to the same feel. This is important because it gives you one more way to train like you race; if you’re going to get used to reading the feel of clinchers through the corners of a screaming descent during training, you’ll be stuck figuring out the feedback from your tubs through the corners of a screaming descent during a race. At which point you may just find yourself wondering why you bothered to train at all.

    Yes the Open Corsas are lovely, as long as they are used with latex. Put a butyl tube inside and you might as well be riding Gatorskins.

    I’ve finally managed to get my hands on the new G+ tubs which are more of a creamy colour than the orange-tan of the old Corsas.

    So now the problem is that I had to replace the front tyre and have slightly mismatched sidewalls. I know I should change the other one but it seems somewhat wasteful.

  10. That Mercatone Bianchi was stunning and I still sooooooo regret selling mine before I saw the light.

  11. Oh no! A feature on coloured tyres has reignited the clincher v tubs debate. I must be some kind of philistine. Try as I might, I genuinely could not feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes or tubs over clinchers, although in my defence the latter was riding a mate’s bike so there were other factors to consider. Is it just me? I’m  feeling a little inadequate here.

  12. @gilly

    Unless it is the same bike and same wheels (tub vs clincher model) then there are so many other factors to make it way too subjective.

    Though I was surprised that I am pretty sure that I can tell the difference between latex and butyl inner tubes.  Though it could be autosuggestion and in a blind test I might not have a clue.

    If nothing though, I am sure that latex tubes make a better hum on the road.  So that definitely makes them worth it.

  13. Well I suppose I’m haf-way as I’m currently riding Schwalbe Pro Ones tubeless* and lovely they are too and pretty similar to the pave/latex combo I had last year.

     

    On a side note;

    I reckon Adidas has missed a trick,they should have bought out a modern version of those black shoes The Prophet is rocking.A bit like the Giro Empires(which are ossum),money for old rope I reckon.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    *I dunno but I think I can hear Frank screaming from here,,,,

  14. @gilly

    Oh no! A feature on coloured tyres has reignited the clincher v tubs debate. I must be some kind of philistine. Try as I might, I genuinely could not feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes or tubs over clinchers, although in my defence the latter was riding a mate’s bike so there were other factors to consider. Is it just me? I’m feeling a little inadequate here.

    I’m running Latex tubes and was asked “what’s the diff?”

    Latex is like a gym ball, butyl is like a balloon.

    And there’s the nice hum on the road with latex. Sucks you have to pump up before each ride.

  15. @gilly

    Oh no! A feature on coloured tyres has reignited the clincher v tubs debate. I must be some kind of philistine. Try as I might, I genuinely could not feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes or tubs over clinchers, although in my defence the latter was riding a mate’s bike so there were other factors to consider. Is it just me? I’m feeling a little inadequate here.

    No, I’m in the same camp when it comes to clinchers and tubs.

    I’ve run Open Corsa clinchers with latex tubes on Enve 3.4s and now I’m running Corsa tubs on HED Stinger 6s, both on the same bike, and I really don’t think there’s much objective difference between them, at least not from the tyres.

    However despite my lack of sensitivity in most wheel/tyre comparisons I absolutely can feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes in the Corsas. It’s not just the noise, it’s the way the tyre shapes and grips.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be the same in other tyres – the Corsas are supposed to be just an open version of the tub so I guess it would make sense they felt best with the stuff that they were designed to have inside them.

  16. @gilly

    No, you’re completely right. If there could be such a thing as a blind test I think almost everyone posting here would struggle to feel the difference between a tub and a top-end clincher on the road.

  17. @sthilzy

    Sucks you have to pump up before each ride.

    Such recklessness! Regardless of whether you’re using clinchers or tubs, latex or butyl doesn’t the pressure check and pump as necessary have its place in the pre-ride checklist?

    To not let some air out and then pump the tyre back up to just so pressure (rear first, then front obviously) would risk all sort of unmentionable horrors in the same way that putting my right shoe on before my left or doing up the velcro straps before the ratchet would be courting disaster.

  18. @chris

    @sthilzy

    Sucks you have to pump up before each ride.

    Such recklessness! Regardless of whether you’re using clinchers or tubs, latex or butyl doesn’t the pressure check and pump as necessary have its place in the pre-ride checklist?

    To not let some air out and then pump the tyre back up to just so pressure (rear first, then front obviously) would risk all sort of unmentionable horrors in the same way that putting my right shoe on before my left or doing up the velcro straps before the ratchet would be courting disaster.

    Most pre-ride pressure check, is to flick the tyre a couple of times and hear the “pinginess”. If it sounds crisp, off I go. If tyre flick sounds a little dull, pump em up!

  19. @gilly

    Try as I might, I genuinely could not feel the difference between latex and butyl tubes or tubs over clinchers, although in my defence the latter was riding a mate’s bike so there were other factors to consider. Is it just me? I’m feeling a little inadequate here.

    But your Cycling Soul could feel the difference and THAT is what matters, no?  I mean, what is a Velominatus without a Soul?

    This is heart of the matter around here.  Sure, you might not SENSE the difference but if you KNOW the difference in your Cycling Soul, you will FEEL faster and smoother, ergo you will BE Faster and Smoother.

  20. If I HAD to make a choice between proper inflation and or clean bike. Proper inflation always wins.

    Okay, let’s be clear here. I ride in mostly clean and dry conditions. The bike stays petty clean on its own, even for a white bike.

    Wet, dirty rides. The bike gets a bath before I do.

     

  21. @sthilzy

     Sucks you have to pump up before each ride.

    It’s called Cycling Foreplay, Mate!

    Every steed needs a little love and attention before it is willing to give its best, right?

  22. Boy, Frank knows how to open the big cans of worms, doesn’t he? Clinchers v tubs, black walls v tan walls, latex v butyl tubes, pre-ride tire pumping and routines, color of shoes. I think this article will keep us busy until the Tour!

    As for me? Currently running all-black tires on all machines. I used to race on tubs and they were great. (Clement Criteriums if I remember). If/when I punctured I’d send them away to some guy who advertized in the small ads at the back of Cycling Weekly to fix them. I wasn’t going to ruin a good tire by screwing with it myself.

    Butyl tubes. When I rode the 175 kms Bear 100 gravel ride recently, we came across one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever seen: A guy was riding latex tubes. He’d given his spares to a buddy (who was nowhere to be seen) and was trying to stuff as many dead, dry leaves into his front tire to give it some volume. He was 65 kms from home! He ended up getting a ride back as he punctured again. Me and my trusty companions were all on butyl and rode without a single puncture. But butyl v latex? I’m sure for many/most, it’s psychological, but as we all know, that counts for a lot.

    Always pump before the ride. Back then front. How can you ride without a routine beforehand? We are not animals.

    Just got some nice all-black Shimano R171s. Sweet looking and very nice. Go with everything.

    Carry on.

  23. @litvi

    @litvi

    @EBruner

    @Jay

    Nothing wrong with clinchers. Just saying…

    Or all that right either…

    Except, on long rides, this: you can carry one, maybe two tubs with you. After that you’re ass out. Alternatively, you can carry a whole stack of patches, and one way or another, you’re gonna get home.

    And plus, I always thought Vittoria really hit it out of the park with their open corsas. No, it’s not exactly the same, but it’s a damn fine training tire that provides very close to the same feel. This is important because it gives you one more way to train like you race; if you’re going to get used to reading the feel of clinchers through the corners of a screaming descent during training, you’ll be stuck figuring out the feedback from your tubs through the corners of a screaming descent during a race. At which point you may just find yourself wondering why you bothered to train at all.

    Hey, I ride Vittoria open cross as well, and they are great. But I still love the sound and feel of sewups (tubs). They always put a big smile on my face listing to them spin up.

  24. @wiscot

     

     

    Butyl tubes. When I rode the 175 kms Bear 100 gravel ride recently, we came across one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever seen: A guy was riding latex tubes. He’d given his spares to a buddy (who was nowhere to be seen) and was trying to stuff as many dead, dry leaves into his front tire to give it some volume. He was 65 kms from home! He ended up getting a ride back as he punctured again. Me and my trusty companions were all on butyl and rode without a single puncture. But butyl v latex? I’m sure for many/most, it’s psychological, but as we all know, that counts for a lot.

     

    That’s just stupidity. One, for giving his spares away and two, butyls are for spares. I can’t deny they have the advantage when it comes to being repairable.

    As for puncture protection I think you were just lucky. I’ve found that the greater elasticity of the latex means they’re more resistant.

  25. @ChrisO

    @wiscot

    Butyl tubes. When I rode the 175 kms Bear 100 gravel ride recently, we came across one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever seen: A guy was riding latex tubes. He’d given his spares to a buddy (who was nowhere to be seen) and was trying to stuff as many dead, dry leaves into his front tire to give it some volume. He was 65 kms from home! He ended up getting a ride back as he punctured again. Me and my trusty companions were all on butyl and rode without a single puncture. But butyl v latex? I’m sure for many/most, it’s psychological, but as we all know, that counts for a lot.

    That’s just stupidity. One, for giving his spares away and two, butyls are for spares. I can’t deny they have the advantage when it comes to being repairable.

    As for puncture protection I think you were just lucky. I’ve found that the greater elasticity of the latex means they’re more resistant.

    That’s what we thought. If there’s one time you want to be as reliable as possible, it’s on an a 175 kms, basically unsupported gravel ride through a remote forest. I rode my graveur twice the previous week to make sure everything was a-ok.

    One of our guys gave him a patch and he had a pump. I like to think we got through with no punctures because we all rode good tires at the right pressure. I rode Kenda Happy Mediums (as recommended by Brett for the Heck of the North) at a low 50 psi. (I’m 6’1″ and in around 190 lbs). The issue was the inconsistency of the gravel: it went from hard pack and fast, to very soft sandy gravel, to really hard packed dirt. And throw in a few miles of asphalt too. Fantastic ride and really looking forward to the Hibernator 100 in the fall.

  26. @chriso @wiscot

    If I give away my last spare it’s on the basis that a) we stay together and b) if I puncture I’m having it back (though I do carry patches too).

     

  27. I still haven’t quite got over the fact that Vittoria appear to have dropped the Pave from their line up. A sublime mix of aesthetics and tradition. I’ve got both the tubulars and open tubulars (not sure I’d be able to tell the difference if they were on similar rims and identical hubs).

    Fortunately there still seem to be some about if you look around a bit. Like @ChrisO I’ve got some of the wonder material G+ corsa tubulars to try out but it doesn’t matter how tough they turn out to be, they’re not green.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford FMBs to keep with the green.

  28. @chris

    About time I changed the winter Pave back to summer Corsa but will need some new as the old are pretty shot so will also go with the G+ Open.  Might also have to get a stock of Pave.  I was tempted to try the tubeless version but it’s only in 23mm at the moment or so it seems.

  29. @chris

    I still haven’t quite got over the fact that Vittoria appear to have dropped the Pave from their line up. A sublime mix of aesthetics and tradition. I’ve got both the tubulars and open tubulars (not sure I’d be able to tell the difference if they were on similar rims and identical hubs).

    Fortunately there still seem to be some about if you look around a bit. Like @ChrisO I’ve got some of the wonder material G+ corsa tubulars to try out but it doesn’t matter how tough they turn out to be, they’re not green.

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to afford FMBs to keep with the green.

    The best thing is that the FMB Paris Roubaix “non-Pro” come in gum sidewall and “only” go for $110.  Yes, it is till a LOT for a single tub but it looks fantastic and beats the PR Pro price of $160.  I am going to run the “non-Pro” gumwall 27 on my new wheelset.  Cannot wait!

    http://www.fmbtires.com/fmb_paris_roubaix.htm

  30. Is it wrong to have natural sidewalls on all three natural bikes? I was thinking it was, so I mounted an all black Veloflex Master on my Tommasini. Have the natural on the rear, all black on the front. Can’t decide if I like the look of the black as much.

    Also, Vittoria Corsa 25s are noticeably wider than the 23s. Veloflex…I have a 23 on the rear, 25 on the front and  it sure as hell looks darn narrow. I’ll pull out the Verniers tonight.

  31. Oh, and I have naturels on my modern carbon steed and my classic steel steed. They look excellent on both bikes.

    That said, cleaning them after a #9 ride blows, which is all the more reason to have a backup wheelset with all black tires.

  32. @Teocalli

    @fignons barber

    It cleaned up nicely then.

    That’s the thing with these modern black bikes. You can’t tell if they’re dirty. I know it’s time to clean it when I spill so many drinks on it that I stick to the TT when I touch it.

  33. @Teocalli

    @chris I was tempted to try the tubeless version but it’s only in 23mm at the moment or so it seems.

    Tubeless?! That is a mountain bike thing. Wash your mouth out with acetate and sniff some fucking glue.

  34. @ChrisO

    @wiscot

    Butyl tubes. When I rode the 175 kms Bear 100 gravel ride recently, we came across one of the most pitiful sights I’ve ever seen: A guy was riding latex tubes. He’d given his spares to a buddy (who was nowhere to be seen) and was trying to stuff as many dead, dry leaves into his front tire to give it some volume. He was 65 kms from home! He ended up getting a ride back as he punctured again. Me and my trusty companions were all on butyl and rode without a single puncture. But butyl v latex? I’m sure for many/most, it’s psychological, but as we all know, that counts for a lot.

    That’s just stupidity. One, for giving his spares away and two, butyls are for spares. I can’t deny they have the advantage when it comes to being repairable.

    As for puncture protection I think you were just lucky. I’ve found that the greater elasticity of the latex means they’re more resistant.

    I have this experience as well with fewer punctures on the latex tubes.  But it was foolhardy to send spares up the road.

    And while I can feel a significant difference between tubular and clinchers, some of that feel may result from the difference in the wheels too (Ambrosio Nemesis and Mavic Mach 2CD2s versus  C24s).  I have on a few occasions run latex in one wheel and butyl in the other and with the high tpi tires can definitely feel a difference in ride quality at a given pressure between the wheels.  This is consistent with lab tests as well.  Its a small difference, but within reason to be perceptible at 2-3%.

    Which I think is interesting in contrast to the MTB when running tubeless versus tubes.  I can’t tell a difference in feel but I’m always mindful of pinch flats when running a tube.

     

  35. Riding tan sidewall tyres, riding tubs and riding latex tubes are all still on my ‘I have never’ list. I recently crossed off ‘riding a carbon-framed bike’ from that list.

    Are latex tubes faster?

  36. @fignons barber

    WOW ! What a gorgeous bike in white. I love black bikes and the Canyon. But that Cyfac bike is brilliant. Is that an alloy bike or is it C ? It’s nice.

  37. @RobSandy

    Riding tan sidewall tyres, riding tubs and riding latex tubes are all still on my ‘I have never’ list. I recently crossed off ‘riding a carbon-framed bike’ from that list.

    Are latex tubes faster?

    Tan sidewalls are definitely faster………

  38. @chris

    @Teocalli

    @chris I was tempted to try the tubeless version but it’s only in 23mm at the moment or so it seems.

    Tubeless?! That is a mountain bike thing. Wash your mouth out with acetate and sniff some fucking glue.

    Well yeah.  The problem with them is that when you do puncture they are a real pain (literally) to get off.  The ride though is great with no tube.  I found that the tubeless tyres seemed all to be be made of rubber at the sticky end of the spectrum (tried them all) and so seemed to pick up the little gravel/flint shards we have here and so punctures and cuts seemed to be way more prevalent than I get running Pave and Corsa.  The sealant is way short of the marketing claims and only seals the tiniest of hosts at 80+ psi.  So while the ride on Schwalbe One was event better than Corsa with Latex the pain of the downside ended up being too much.

    Though I did get some Orange Seal while I was in the States and may try putting a Schwalbe back on and see if it seals the collection of holes they have.

    One thing I have found is that a clincher still seals pretty well and when I do puncture the rate of deflation seem to be slower with tubeless rims vs when I puncture on the bikes with standard rims.  I suspect this is because the air does not escape through spoke holes and around the rim.  Net I feel they are quite good on a safety angle even if I never run them tubeless again.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.