Saturday, August 6, 2011

New Tires

Three weeks ago, I rode over a piece of metal and found myself with a half-inch gash on my front tire. I put a piece of friction tape on the inside and managed to continue logging the miles but knew I'd have to replace them before the Hotter 'n Hell 100. The tires were starting to fray and I knew that replacing them before the ride was inevitable anyway, but I was sort of hoping to hit the lottery before I needed them. Too bad I don't play the lottery.

Last Saturday's 73.6 miles was my longest ride to date. I had wanted to log at least 80 miles and after mile 64, I knew I was in unknown territory but still felt relatively fresh - or so I thought. All of a sudden, I had nothing left in my legs. I wasn't stressed from a cardio standpoint but I couldn't find a comfortable gear to spin in - everything felt difficult. I could feel some serious stress in my right leg and my foot going numb so I limped back at about 13 mph over the last 10 miles. Seriously doubting myself, I was wondering if (and hoping) the cut on my tire might be hindering me more than I realized.

A couple of days later I was going to bring my bike out for a recovery ride when I realized that the back wheel was rubbing against the brake - a LOT. Was that the reason I couldn't finish my long ride? When I had originally brought my bike in to my LBS for its initial tune-up and fit, I had been told that the Slime tubes the original owner had put in would probably put my wheels out of true and it seemed that prophecy had finally been fulfilled.

Instead of going out for a ride, I decided it was time to get the new tires (and tubes) to give me time to break them in before the HH100. Unfortunately, with the amount of money I've put into my car (don't even get me started) and the shipping costs I was about to incur getting my bike to Texas, I was hesitant to spend the money on the tires I really wanted. Doing some online research, I opted for a mid-priced Kenda Kaliente and then went to my LBS to purchase them whereupon they told me they didn't have them in my size.

Good grief. Okay, experts, sell me what you've got in stock.... It's always Bontragers. They must have a huge profit margin on Bontrager because everything in the store is B's. I went from these nice and practically bomb-proof Hutchinson TopSpeed 23's to Bontrager 700 x 25 BL Hardcase with "Triple Flat Protection."
Yeah, right, and the E-Trade baby is loving the stock market this week.

I took them home, got a blister trying to put the things on my wheels (thank you, hubby, for doing in 3 minutes what I couldn't do in 90 minutes,) trued the back wheel and made a brake adjustment. I made it out for a cautious 20 mile ride, made a couple more adjustments, and did a 56 mile ride yesterday, including getting in a new, short but mildly challenging hill that I hit three times. The hill even has a "steep hill" bicycle sign! I like those kinds of hills on relatively flat rides because then I don't feel like I'm cheating myself on the workout.

The tires are still very tight and I have not even been able to inflate them up to the recommended 120 psi (100 on the front, 110 on the back) so I've got some more breaking-in to do but initially, they feel more "tank-like" than my Hutchinsons with less maneuverability on turns and I am about 1.5 mph slower on my cruising speed. From the reviews I've read, they are supposed to be a good long-distance tire. I'll keep them for training and the HH100 and then over the winter, I'll save up for a nice set of race tires for next Summer's adventures.

The goal this week is to get in another 150 miles to hopefully stretch the tires up to 120 psi. I think for the HH100 I will probably keep them at 110-115 psi just for some expansion room on those hot roads. If anyone has a better idea on the psi for the HH100, I'd love to hear it.

The only other revelation I've had over the past couple of weeks is that 50-mile rides no longer feel "epic" to me. It feels more like a good, solid workout but nothing drastically difficult. It was strange yesterday to ride 56 miles and think to myself, "Too bad I couldn't get in a long ride today. Well, at least I got in some hill work to make up for it."

Unfortunately at this point, I still don't know if I'm going to hit a wall at 65 miles again and it's really too late to do anything about it.


  1. You are not alone. I inspected our tires yesterday and we will have to replace our tires before HHH.

    I don't think I would worry about the max psi. I routinely air to about 105. I have heard war stories of tires exploding at HHH.

    Good for you on getting in some good distance rides. Again, I wouldn't worry too much about making it to Hell's Gate on time. You have an extra hour to get there. The most common mistakes we have seen are people skipping rest stops, dehydrating, cramping, and bonking--all in the name of getting to HG.

    Some of my friends have fallen into the next trap--there is a temptation to start out at break-neck speed. The first part of the ride is smooth road and seems to be slightly down hill. It is easy to go over 20 mph without pedaling very hard. Then they want to keep up with the over-20 mph pack when the road conditions change. They, and the ones in the above paragraph, cramp or bonk. None of them have made the 100 yet. So be sure to pace yourself.

    Good luck. Sounds like you are on a roll.

  2. 105 psi is lower than I would normally go so I'll take that advice to heart. Thanks.

    The reason I keep an eye on my cruising speed is so I know where my comfort zone is and that will hopefully keep me from pushing out too fast early on. I'm sure the slow start creates impatience in many. When they see they're finally clocking in at a faster-than-normal pace, it probably causes them to break from their plans (if they have one) to make up for a perceived loss of time.

    As for skipping rest stops... oh, I am usually way too hungry to skip a snack so I plan on re-filling at all but perhaps the first one (I have been told it is a zoo but maybe not this year since 100 milers have the earlier start). I was also told by my friend/coach that I don't want to spend more than 5 minutes at any stop because this can cause cramping, too. I'll have my personal protein bars, NUUN hydration tablets, and some gels with me on the ride. As long as I remember to eat and hydrate, I should survive intact.

  3. Im not smart enough about tire pressure and stretching to help with that, but I do know what you're feeling about not getting enough ride time in. When my tire did exactly what yours did the other day with the cut, i didnt know how to fix it so i just replaced it. i didnt trust my weight on the tube. I went and bought a Continental 4000s which is supposedly the cream of the crop for their clincher tires and got it for $45 at a shop near the hotel.

    Rach and I are going to make a day of a long 85 mile ride here shortly to make sure we get it all in.

  4. @Ben - Wow, nice price on the Contis - that's what I paid for the Bontragers. The guy who sold me my bike put the 4000s' on his new bike and paid over $70 each. Unfortunately, he decided that since his new bike is good enough to compete in the Paris-Roubaix, so are his tires, and he rode through some construction gravel near his home and wound up with a sidewall gash, rendering it useless. Thinking about the sidewalls on those hot Texas Farm to Market roads + the price kept me away from taking the plunge on that model.

    I keep thinking how the weather in the so-called Spring stymied our rides. I'm going to try and get in one more long ride in the next few days myself. Best of luck!