Somewhere in Minnesota a long time ago a friend who worked at several bike shops around the Twin Cities told me, “Don’t buy the bike with the top flight component group. Pick a similar bike with the next step down and spend the difference on a kick ass set of wheels.”
His contention was the even the best OEM wheelsets were essentially boat anchors and a lot of OEM tire choices were mediocre at best. Over the course of the following twenty or so years—damn I am getting old—this advice has proven itself time and time again.
At the present moment, I am not quite ready to upgrade the entire wheelset and tire package on my new-ish Breezer Radar. It is a combination of cost and indecision that is delaying any move to make a major upgrade.
While the metal may stay the same the rubber is in for a change. The Breezer came with WTB All Terrain 700c x 37c meats:
These tires are so non-descript as to be almost invisible. I put about two hundred miles of mixed pavement and crushed limestone/early season sand riding on them before deciding that it was time for a change. The motivation was mostly that the bike felt
My preferred tire of choice over the past few seasons was the Clement X’Plor USH. Apparently, no one informed me that the company that used the Clement name—an old cycling brand owned by Italian tire giant Pirelli—was switching to its own brand Donnelly. The good news is that the tread remains the same:
Weight is a big deal here. I am no weight weenie as an overweight middle aged white male, but reducing rotating mass is the one place where you can notice a difference. The WTB All Terrains were wire bead and had an average weight of 18.5 ounces as measured on my own scale. The Donnelly X’Plor USH are aramid folding bead and has an average weight of 13.3 ounces. Of note is that there was a half an ounce discrepancy between the two X’Plor USH tires. I do not know what that was about. Over ten ounces of weight reduction at the outermost portion of the wheel is a big deal.
My prior set of Clement X’Plor USH 700c x 35c has thousands of miles on the odometer. I found the tire to be durable and great riding for a variety of conditions that I find here frequently in eastern Iowa.
I am already over fifty miles into the new tires and loving the change. Weight is one part of the equation when it comes to tire choice, but there is an overall quality of ride that also matters greatly even if it is highly subjective. That is why there are so many tire choices from so many companies. What I love to ride and what you love to ride may be totally different, but neither of us is wrong in our choice. The minute we start making absolute assertions about what is the correct way to do anything on a bike other than ride as much as possible we become the worst characters in the sub-culture. No one wants to be like the roadies of yore who would stare in disdain at anyone who came to a group ride in mismatched kit.
Interestingly, Donnelly has a slightly different version of this tire: Strada USH 700c x 40c. The trade is a little more pavement focused with less aggressive lugs along the sides, but the smooth center track remains and with a wider casing this might make an excellent tires for those days when you spend a lot of time on pavement just getting to the untracked gravel.
Things are finally starting to get dialed in on the Breezer and the rest of the riding season looks bright.