Friday, December 05, 2008

GamJams Reviews: Winter Training Tires - Specialized Armadillo Tires is taking up a new product review feature involving the ambassadors program. Mike announced it a bit back to the ambassadors and today is the first installment. I’ll take part in as many of these as I can, starting with today’s “winter training tire” review. If you like this feature, please make sure to drop Mike at GJ a note to let him know so he can decide whether it is worthwhile and so he can pitch it out to prospective GJ sponsors as he builds the network. Also, make sure you drop by the rest of the participating ambassador sites to see what they may have to say.

Specialized Armadillos

First off I’ve got to admit, I do not have these tires on my Cannondale; actually I’ve still got the Michelin Race Pro 3’s from the season on there. I have however been running the All Condition Armadillos on my Fixed Gear for the past two plus years. In that time I’ve had 1 flat, after about 2 years on the tires, which was actually due to an unavoidable puncture at the hands of some of the neighborhood trouble makers. The rear wheel, which is covered with skid marks (fixed gear) is worn through to the inner red surface and should have blown a solid year ago, but it still rolls along no problem. To me that’s a sign of a truly tough tire (and a truly cheap rider).

While they may not be the lightest or cheapest tire out on the market, I’ll swear by the armadillos for general riding/training miles for their durability, smoothness and traction. Like I said before the armadillos are tough, lasting two + years on my fixed gear through all riding conditions, a few car on bike incidents and more then their fair share of skid stops. The durability alone proves these tires capabilities to me as high mileage training tires beyond any doubt.

As for the issue of comfort, I’d once again rate the armadillos as champs. Riding the fixed gear can be a bit hard on the body, obviously since coasting is not an option. While on a freewheel you can stand and coast over tough and bumpy road conditions on a fixed gear you still have to pedal. While standing is an option it’s not always as physically easy (especially at higher speeds/cadences) or easy to remember throughout a ride. The armadillos don’t punish you over rough terrain and in my experience the tougher tires leave open the option of relatively lower tire pressure for added comfort. On the other hand, when run at high pressure you can really get these tires moving quickly and comfortably in group, or traffic settings.

My fixed gear is essentially my beater bike so when the weather turns bad the fixed gear gets the call to duty. With armadillos on it I’ve never felt sketched out by wet and oily road conditions. It sticks to the roads in tight corners and I’ve never felt like I was going to wash out on them. I think traction like this in a sketchy crit race corner like the Reston Town Center Crit would be very, very comforting.

While I’ve never tried the Elite or All Condition Elite tires, I’ve got a strong feeling they’d be just as solid. And, while the price tag on these seems fairly high, I think the 2+ year use you can expect should alleviate some of the sticker shock associated with them. As specific winter training tires I think you could really stretch your dollar on these for a few years (assuming you don’t “NEED” new gear every year). They won’t leave you stranded with a flat 40 miles from civilization on your long winter training rides and you can feel good rounding sharp bends on them in your Saturday morning “training”/ass handing rides with local hammers. If I manage to get my hands on the Elite tires, I’ll let you know for sure if I think they’d make good race tires though, for now I’d go ahead and bet that unless you’re racing for Michelin or Continental, they’d do the trick just fine.

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