March 3rd - This is what happens when you ignore your gut feelings. This clumsy photo is my gloved had, turning a bike tyre inside out to show a hawthorn spine pushed right through it. Miraculously, it hadn’t yet caused a flat. I was very lucky.
I’ve been fettling the bike a lot lately, and fitted new tyres I bought last year. I thought them to be my favourite tyre - Schwalbe Marathon Plus. They are tough as old boots, and very resistant to thorns and other nasties. When I unwrapped the tyres, they were just normal Marathons - a lighter weight tyre without the tough protection. Not wanting to waste the purchase, I fitted the skinnier tyres. I rode them for a week, thinking they were OK.
Yesterday, I had two rear-wheel punctures on the canal towpath near Hopwas, both caused by Hawthorn, the curse of towpath cycling. As I came home, I developed a third slow puncture, and resolved to change back to a pair of Marathon Plus tyres when I could next day.
As I came to do the swap tonight, I found the front tyre - which had been OK - had a 7mm thorn through, waiting to pop the inner tube.
Schwalbe Marathon Plus are excellent. Marathons are a good tyre, but they’re just not up to towpath use, as I knew when I fitted them. Sometimes it’s best to listen to your instincts.
February 20th - Talking about making a bike your own, bike fettling experiments continue, and the maintenance jobs stack up. First off is replacement studs for the winter tyres. The metal inserts do come out, particularly if you skid, they tend to tear from their sockets. One thing the manufacturers - Schwalbe - pride themselves on, is that if you give them a call (They’re only in Telford), they’ll send you a large bag full of the carbide rivet-like spikes in the post by return. With the air out of the tyre and warm water, it’s easy to pop in the replacements with pliers. I try to do this towards the end of the season every year.
On the higher tech side, I’m experimenting with some swanky mechanised gearing kit, but it’s been a bit of a challenge to get working, as the components all need updating to get them functioning together. Having got everything talking to everything else now, the mechanical experimentation can begin.
January 14th - Winter boots. I’ve mentioned before that in the winter, I ride studded snow tyres. The ones I fit are Schwalbe Marathon Plus Winter, and are a decent choice for road/touring bikes if you have the frame clearance. They don’t roll as well as normal tyres, but by heck, they stick to the roads like a wet tee-shirt. On icy mornings and days like this they come into their own - sure footed in patches of snow, slush, mud and frozen puddles, they’re worth the investment to be that little bit safer.
December 6th - It’s time for the winter boots again. A couple of times this week I’ve felt that queasy adrenaline rush as either the front or real wheel slipped a little bit while cornering. Such incidents are rare, but a wakeup call I always heed. Nature is telling me that it’s time to swap out the 28mm Marathon Plus tyres and throw on the 38mm Marathon Winter. These are a fatter, lower pressure road tyre exhibiting a chunky tread made from a soft compound with small tungsten carbide studs inlaid that bite into ice, mud and road debris. They’re noisy, don’t roll too well, but grip, even on black ice, like demons. They’re not cheap, but for any commuter who keeps going through rough conditions, I highly recommend them.
March 15th - No tyres are completely puncture proof (well, that anyone would want to ride) and today, I flatted. Just on Meerash Hill, near the abandoned farm at Hammerwich, as it happened. My tyres of choice are Schwalbe Marathon Plus and they’re damned fine rubber, with all kinds of protection inside. However, hawthorn spines are the work of the devil (or rather a master of evolution) and very, very tough. This one pushed clean through a 4mm band of rubber, kevlar and anti-thorn braid. Such is life.
Time for a pro-tip. I always carry disposable gloves in the toolkit. Weigh nothing, can be used several times, and stop the bars getting grubby from the oily fingers post-repair. They’re also excellent for picking up sharps inside the tyre; they snag on anything foreign, without hurting your fingers. A quick patch up and I was on my way in no time.
December 6th - The seasonal frosts came with a vengeance today, the roads and pavements covered in a layer of frozen rainfall. As soon as that happens, on go my winter tyres. The ones I use are Schwalbe Marathon Winter, in 700cx35, which have a pronounced, rubbery anti-slip deep tread and carry four rows of tungsten carbide studs, which bite into ice and stop you sliding away. Very effective in snow, this is the second winter for this pair, and they’re still like new. They’re noisy to ride, and don’t roll all that smoothly, but I’d rather that than land on my arse. They work surprisingly well, and cut spills to an absolute minimum. Highly recommended.
August 2nd - Today, on the way home, I was stricken by the P*nct*r* fairy. I get relatively few (touches wood carefully) such incidents - maybe 3 in every 3,000 miles or so - because I use a very tough brand of tyre by Schwalbe - Marathon Plus. On the workhorse bike, it’s 26x1.75 Marathon Plus Tour, and on the others, it 700x28 Marathon Plus. They contain kevlar bands to prevent thorns and spikes cutting through the tire and other defensive measures. They’re quite heavy, and probably don’t roll as well as the strips of liquorice the racing boys use, but if you’re below Cavendish level, you’ll never notice the difference.
Correct inflation will prevent punctures, no matter what the brand of tyre. Always check your pressures.
This bike has hub gears and taking the back wheel out is a pain in the arse, and I swore heartily at it in the centre of town. Cursing my bad luck, I found not a puncture, but the heat had lifted an old patch, deflating the tyre. That’ll teach me to be a tightarse.