New tires for the Rocky Mountain Blizzard

by Raymond Parker on October 1, 2012

in Cycling, Technical, Touring

My Rocky Mountain Blizzard came stock, in 1993, with Ritchey “Z-Max” tires—2.35″ “Megabite” wire-bead front, 2.1″ kevlar-bead rear. You can see them on the latest post-restoration photo; they’re still in good nick.

On my “Three-Borders Tour” through the north, in addition to the knobbies, I carried a set of 1.5″ Avocet Cross tires, with inverted treads. They served me well for many thousands of kilometres on the road and were well-suited to groomed trails and backroads. They would not, however, win any awards for performance.

When I pressed the Blizzard into service as a brevet bike, I installed a set of Continental Grand Prix 26X1″ tires. These are a classic road tire in 700c. The 26″ version, I concluded, were fast (on good surfaces) and relatively durable, but harsh due to the smaller diameter. Riding a potholed road was akin to operating a jack-hammer.

I’ve tried various other road “slicks” but have never found anything to my liking for the kind of riding I now plan to pursue on this bike: mixed road and trail, with a definite lean toward hard-packed gravel, like the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trails in Greater Victoria.

I’d read some good reports on the Continental Touring Plus; that they were long-wearing and fairly decent in the rolling-resistance department. I dreamt of something that might approximate the performance of the 650b Grand Bois Hetre, a 40mm tire that made my sorely-missed Rivendell Blériot such a pleasure to ride. At 1.75″, the Touring Plus is right in the ballpark, measuring an actual 39mm on the Blizzard’s rims.

They’re not light tires, (at 900g, more than twice the weight of a Hetre), but average for this kind of tire.

Since it’s been some time since I actually rode on Hetres I can’t say I’ve done a side-by-side comparison, but the Hetre did leave quite an indelible impression as I recorded in the Blériot’s “maiden flight” review.

Likewise, my first impressions of the Touring Plus tires are positive: they roll well, absorb road buzz, and even cut through deep gravel, as illustrated in the video made on my recent Cowichan Valley Trail excursion.

Though I suspect I’m presently running them a bit hard, at 50psi, (recommended 45) I’m not sure they are capable of producing the riding-on-a-cloud sensation of a Hetre, but I’ll certainly give them a thumbs-up as a 26″ road tire that rolls nicely on pavement and does a decent job on the trail. I look forward to testing them in muddy conditions. It is, after all, October.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

John McGillivray October 1, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Just put a pair of Schwalbe Marathon’s (1.75) on my ’93 Rocky Mountain Blizzard this weekend. Rode 60 kms with them yesterday and I really like the feel and ride of them. I had some Specialized Fat Boy’s on them (1.25) and really like them as they are fast and ride nicely. The reason I switched was because I wanted a “wet weather/winter” tire that could also handle dirt roads. This is one of the drawback of a straight slick. The Marathon’s are definitely a more cushy ride and I haven’t really felt that much difference (remember, I’ve only had them on for 60kms) with rolling resistance. So far I’m pleased with them and they didn’t break the bank either.

Happy riding!
John

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Raymond Parker October 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm

That’s also the kind of tire I was looking for really. Which Marathons did you get, John? The lighter ones are pretty good performers and wear well. The heavier-duty models (Plus Tour, for example) are bombproof but roll like tractor tires.

I’m interested to see how these Contis wear.

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ofoab October 3, 2012 at 10:19 am

I’ll put in my two tires worth: Had Ritcheys [Tom slicks } went Conty Top Tour. Now I got Panaracers PT serv, supple side walls, kevlar beads, 26 X 1.75, stated 450 grams. Web master I am a weight weenie, got them on a set of Bullseye hubs, 28 front, 32 rear, butted spokes, alloy nipples, no skewers, allen bolts. LHT. My Lizard has off roads on it. Weight weenie and a bike slut, gotta go to my room!

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Raymond Parker October 3, 2012 at 10:53 am

T-Serv Looks like a nice tire and pretty colours!

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Paul Glassen October 3, 2012 at 12:46 pm

I am interested to hear more about your experience with various width 650B tires, clearly including the Grand Bois Hetres. My several bikes are between 20 to 47 years old so obviously I don’t consider a new one very often. But I have been tempted by the large section 650Bs, having already added as many millimetres of width as my current frames will allow, up to 35mm on the old Gitane tourer. Velo Orange has their Polyvalent, apparently an acceptable ‘entry level’ 650B, low trail model. Any opinion?

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Raymond Parker October 3, 2012 at 1:52 pm

Hi Paul: I can confidently relay from a friend who has owned a Polyvalent for the last +2-years, that this is a serviceable frame–it has become his most-used bike–with plenty of clearance for 40mm tires, like the Hetre.

I keep meaning to press him to write a review for VeloWeb.

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