The local bike shop. It’s either the one closest to you, or the one you like the most, but either way, it’s where you go when you don’t want to do it yourself or don’t want to shop online. In my case, it was the former—because as much as I enjoy working on bicycles, there are two things I absolutely do not enjoy: installing headsets and installing new tires, and the Soma needed some new shoes.
Granted, I’ve been told that until the tube starts to show, you will be “okay”, but I would rather not wait until that point. The cracks in the tread alone didn’t bother all that much, but any sidewall deterioration makes me uncomfortable. So, on the sunniest of summer days, I rode on down the street, across the Dutch border, to the Fietservice Op De Hoek or “Bike Shop on the Corner”.
Here, there is the proprietor—a nice man with an un-ironic curled mustache- his garage full of tools, and a showroom filled with Dutch bikes, classic road bikes, and a couple of e-bikes for good measure. There is also the obligatory wall of saddles and miscellany, and a couple shelves of tires in every size.
The cream-colored Panaracers currently on the Soma were the first pair of tires I had on it and so I’ve been riding on them regularly for the better part of 4 years. I don’t know whether or not that lines up with other people’s tire lifespan, but I’m sure everyone’s mileage varies dependent upon their usage. (I have original tires on the Univega in that States, and they’re still doing fine). I had originally picked them out because Panasonic tires are easy to come by in Japan and, I’ll admit, because of their color. (At the time I was inspired by the path racer bikes I had seen in pictures). 700 x 23C was pretty narrow for me, but I grew accustomed to it and soon that was all I knew.
Now, four years later, I had learned a bit more about what qualities make for a good all-around tire. Skinny was out, cream was still cool, but not a necessity, and softer rubber is a must for winter riding. I was also looking into puncture resistance, though in the time I was riding on the Panaracers, I never experienced a single flat.
[Above is the last photo of the Soma with the Panaracers.]
So, after browsing the tire selection, I settled on a pair of Continental Touring Plus tires at 700 x 32C. In black. (Change is good, I told myself). I wanted something wider, anyway, and 32 seems like a pretty popular tire width for a mix of pavement and dirt/gravel roads. So I had the old tires removed and the new ones installed as I leisurely walked around the block, enjoying the sunshine.
Upon returning, the bike was all done. So I paid the gentleman, said my thank-yous, and set off to test things out.
The first thing I noticed was sluggishness. Not strength-sappingly sluggish, but definitely noticeable, like how it feels to pedal after riding for several hours. I was so used to the 23s zipping along, the added width and Kevlar puncture protection kinda slow things down a bit. But—the tradeoff here is that the ride is smooth and cushier—it’s certainly not transferring as much of the road vibrations as the Panaracers did, which I appreiate. Once you get up to speed anyway, the extra rolling resistance is negligible, at least in my opinion.
I have to say my only complaint so far is rather petty, but the tire information is printed on the reflective sidewall portion, making it difficult to make out the recommended tire pressure. Everything else is what I expected from a heavier, touring-style tire, and I’m pleased with the performance so far, though I will be sure to report any other issues as the seasons progress and I ride on them some more.
Ultimately, every change made to the bike is a little step towards what I’d like it to be. I think it shows how versatile the Soma is, becoming this type of bike or that type of bike depending on the riding style I’ve adopted at the time. And a wearing through a set of tires sort of feels like a milestone for any bicycle owner, so I’m kind of proud of that too.
- Bicyclist Abroad