Today I would like to speak with you a little about the Continental Tour Ride touring tire. I spent the last 7 months almost exclusively riding on this tire, which came stock on my Salsa Vaya (a bike I spent about 6 of those months trying to “make work” for me. Which it does now.) in 42 cm.
Salsa Vaya with Continental Tour Ride 42's, The RAGBRAI 2011
First Impression: I generally opt towards “skinny” tires (a risky venture for someone over 250lbs, let me assure you) so I was visually put off by the big, meaty 42c tires. They initially reminded me of putting “slicks” on a MTB to do the RAGBRAI. Not very sexy. BUT the promise of flat protection and long tread life rang like wedding bells, and especially for a bike I had intended for fully loaded (take that any way you want to) touring. I was also grossly over budget after a top notch dyno light system and new bags…so…perfect time to not buy new tires to replace new tires.
The Meat: From the very first ride on the Continental equipped Vaya I was not impressed. The whole rig felt slow and sluggish. The bike rode like there was tons of brake drag (which there was sometimes, thanks to the Avid BB5 disc brakes…but that is another story), but HEY! NO FLATS!
The first real test was a straight through ride from Cumming, IA to Breda, IA fully bagged out to meet up with “The RAGBRAI.” Over 130 miles from 2 am to noon, with a few meal and rest stops in between, with an 80 lb bike and I was zapped. The amount of work put forth due to the increased rolling resistance was very noticeable, but the zero flats thing…makes up for it a little. I really hate changing flats on loaded touring bikes…especially when I am loaded.
The true test for me is how well these tires would hold up against Iowa’s finest gravel roads. They are definitely a “road” tire, but the large size gives them plenty of pull in dry situations. The performance was diminished from my normal gravel rig, but after hundreds of miles I still had no flats. It’s a trade I am willing to make for leisurely solo riding, but not for faster paced group rides. Also lacking was the “overdrive” feeling of popping back on paved stretches, the tires seemed to perform equally on dirt and road. And not in a good way.
The Damage Done: in a little over 2000 miles I managed to break a few spokes, rip a cleat out of my touring sandals, destroy a chain, bend a der hanger, go OTB a few times, and break a high end boutique saddle. No flats. Wait, that’s not entirely true. I was riding out of one of DSM’s wonderful trails and hit some broken glass, and not the kind that flat protection will help you through. I got a slow leak. I made it 2 more miles to the nearest LBS (I left home without my mini pump…I hadn’t had a flat in 6 months. Got lazy) and fixed the problem. Also after 2000 miles the rear tire is nearly shot. It has been retired, and I have switched to some smaller, faster cross tires which have redeemed the Vaya.
The Summarization Thing: If you are not concerned with speed but are concerned with having to change flats, this is a great tire for you. If you crave even a tiny amount of performance, look elsewhere. The Continental Tour Ride is best for slow touring, where your miles to beers ratio gets a little drinky (and you hate changing flats), and for urban commuting where the roads are rough and there is a high risk of broken glass. Past these two uses, I see little reason to ride these sluggish tires. But if big and slow is your thing (and you hate changing flats), this is a great option.
The Beyond: The Tour Rides are being installed on an old fixie of mine for a little Gravel Track Bike Action. I can’t wait to try skidding on these monsters.