Photo of colourful tires on display by Dana Lacey taken at Urbane Cyclist for our interview with Reba Plummer in issue 4.
dandy Mechanics: Tires
by Derek Chadbourne
Bicycle tires: riding a bike is really no fun without them. When the first pioneers of cycling took to the roads, they did not have such luxuries as rubber tires. In fact, the first wheels were wooden. (Which makes us think that a jaunt on a dandyhorse might not have been that, well, dandy.) But by the time the Penny Farthings came along they had solid rubber tires.
It wasn’t until 1887 that John Boyd Dunlop supposedly came up with the first pneumatic tire. His son, an avid cyclist, had constant headaches from riding his "safety bicycle" (the first modern style bicycle that followed the Penny Farthing) on rough roads. Dunlop tried to patent the idea, but apparently some bright light by the name of Scot Robert William Thomson thunk it up first.
But Dunlop gets the props for being the first to realize rubber was a lot more resilient than first thought and for starting the Dunlop Pneumatic Tyre Co. in 1889. Later designs of his tire would add a tougher layer to prevent flats.
These tires were glued onto the rims. It wasn’t until 1891 that Deouard Michelin had the brainstorm to attach the tire to the rim with clamps. These tires were the forerunners of clincher tires, that could be taken off and the inner tube, then patched or replaced.
There are two kinds of tires. Tubulars, the kind you glue on (racers still use them) and clinchers, what the rest of us use. Clincher tires have a wire bead running on the inside of the tire, which, when the inner tube is inflated will hook themselves under the rim of the tire and that is how clincher tires attach to wheels.
There are so many different kinds of tires, enough to cover all kinds of riding, but what about winter riding: What kind of tires should someone who wants to ride in Toronto during the most foul of months use?
The most frequent question about winter riding is: "Where can I get those fat knobby tires that won't slip in the snow and ice?" What you should say to those tires is just: No! What you want are slim tires, with no treads. These tires cut through the snow so you are actually riding on the road. Big tread-y tires ride on top of the snow and collect that white stuff in the treads. So you are riding on top of the slippery stuff and your traction actually decreases.
Toronto does not get that much snow and when it does snow it doesn’t hang around too long. So its really the ice that may give you trouble and there is only one kind of tire that will help you in that situation, studded tires. (You can read about how one of our dandy contributors uses studded tires to get around in winter here.) They are great for the few days when there is substantial ice on the road. They are also great for cutting through parks and other places ice accumulates.
If you are going to ride in the winter -- and there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t -- you might also consider fenders. (Especially considering the great fluctuations in weather and the combination of rain and snow we seem to get during winter now.) There are two different kinds of fenders, the full variety and seat post fenders. Seat post fenders will get you home when it starts snowing, while full fenders will make you want to stay out and ride. A caveat concerning full fenders though: snow will pack up underneath and make riding a much more physically demanding exercise.
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