Beefy Wheels = Good Wheels

I’m not sure whether it’s cutbacks in road maintenance because of the tough economy, or if it’s just the wear-and-tear of a long summer combined with litter from restless teenage drivers, but the road conditions in my neck of the woods have been terrible lately. The gutters are filled with broken glass and nails, and it seems as if there’s a pothole around every blind corner. Thank goodness for 36-spoke wheels and beefy tires!

21 Responses to “Beefy Wheels = Good Wheels”

  • Thom says:

    Boo-hoo, come to San Diego sometime, I’ll show you bad roads. :)

  • Adrienne says:

    It isn’t you, Alan. The roads are horrid these days. A guy in SF is suing the City after riding down Hugo street one evening and hitting a massive pothole so hard, he had to have a testicle removed! While that is a fast bike ride, it is a HUGE pothole! Another friend of mine just broke his collarbone in 4 places after being thrown from a bike on a bad road just half a mile from my home. Don’t get me started on the nails and bolts that seem to self replicate in the bike lanes because they do not get swept enough….

  • Antoine says:

    I’m still recovering somewhat from the testicle post above but I have to agree with you. I’m currently commuting on 36 spoke MTB wheels that I was racing on in 1993 when I bought the bike, and despite worn sides from braking they are still going strong. The only thing to beat them and their Schwalble Marathon skins so far has been a two inch nail.

  • dickdavid says:

    It’s pretty bad everywhere I go, too. Not only that, but I’m forced to ride the sidewalk in some places. Some of those walks are not wheelchair compliant yet, and I’m constantly needing to hop curbs.

    What gets me is that it’s hard to find a bike shop that carries a good, fat, average priced, road tire around here. It’s either mtb with huge knobs or skinny slicks.

  • Tamia Nelson says:

    Every day I ride (which is most days), I’m given cause to be glad for my bikes’ rugged wheels. The roads throughout northern New York are not only in bad physical repair, but the amount of broken glass has become even more common than in the past. In my informal analysis of the brands of broken bottles, it seems that Bud drinkers are the most likely to smash them on the roadside. Maybe the beer bottlers will pay for the replacement tubes and tires…

  • Jon Grinder says:

    That’s precisely why I commute on a fixed 29er with 2″ slicks. The big wheels roll nicely, and the large air volume of the tires protects the rims and spokes.

  • Johnny says:

    On a large urban/group ride last night in Baltimore, there were flats every five minutes. I think part of that was folks running 23s in the city, but definitely not entirely. Someone hit a large hole and did an endo at some point, but I wasn’t there. Scary riding with bad roads at night!

  • ksteinhoff says:

    It’s not just glass and nails that’ll get you. An LBS sponsors Full Moon rides on the Withlacochee Trail, a rails-to-trails in west central Florida.

    I went up for it one month right after the maintenance crews had blown the leaves off the blacktop. THAT was nice of them.

    Unfortunately, it also picked up tiny shards of razor-sharp ballast rock and deposited it on the trail.

    Better than half the riders had flats that night. I had one, but a guy I stopped to help had three.

    I always carry one spare tube and sometimes carry two, depending on where I’m riding. I would never consider hauling three on a 20-something-mile ride. You just never know….

  • Alan says:


    Around here so-called energy drinks seem to get tossed in the gutter most frequently. Maybe people who are amped up on caffeine and guarana lose their inhibitions and turn into litter bugs. Whatever the case, I must admit it ticks me off. I probably inherited the trait from my Dad who often carried a plastic bag to pick up litter when we were camping or hiking. He used to cuss up a storm about litterers… LOL.

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    The pot-holes in the Boston area are horrible this summer. Even the Charles River bike path is so torn up in some stretches, that it is unadvisable to ride it. If it weren’t for the Schwalbe Marathon Plus on my Pashley and the Panaracer Pasela Tourguards on my roadbike, I honestly don’t know what I’d do. How did people ever manage without puncture resistance!

  • ksteinhoff says:

    The energy bottles don’t bug me as much as the abandoned tubes and empty CO2 cartridges left in the wake of the go-fast groups.

    It’s amazing how much weight those objects must pick up when they’re empty or useless. They were light enough to carry before, but now they’re too heavy to carry to a trash can.

  • ksteinhoff says:

    And, don’t get me started on cigarette butts. Now that smoking is becoming more socially unacceptable it’s gotten better, but remember how every intersection was covered with the discarded contents of ashtrays.

    Maybe there’s a blessing to cellphones. Smokers are too busy yakking away to empty their trash on the road while they’re stopped at a light.

  • Alan says:


    I haven’t noticed tubes and CO2 cartridges around here, but then again, I don’t see too many bicyclists either…LOL.

    Another bummer is the little mud rivers created by lawn and flowerbed overwatering. Just yesterday, Michael took a spill (she’s OK) when her front wheel slipped out due to sand washed onto the road by someone overwatering a flowerbed (probably the City in this case).

  • Donald says:

    These days you really have to be observant on your bike as well as in your car. You scan the roads ahead looking for those wheel eating holes that will destroy a tire or throw you down. On the freeway I was wondering when cars will start to be marketed for their ability to handle the rough condition of our roads. If you are in the right two lanes you better be scanning the road ahead.
    It sounds like bicyclists are already there, picking wheels and tires for their durability in rough and puncture prone conditions. Unfortunately it is probably going to get worse before it gets better. Federal stimulus money is starting to fix up some of the freeways, but the last on the list for maintenance and repair will probably be the bicycle related “recreation” facilities such as the American River Bike Trail, bike lanes, and others.
    Sacramento, CA

  • ksteinhoff says:

    My dad built roads for a living. He was always amused when someone would ask, “What are you going to do when all the roads are built?”

    “Fix ‘em,” he’d answer.

    “The problem with road maintenance,” he’d muse, “is that every politician loves to get his picture taken cutting the ribbon to open a new highway. They don’t cut ribbons at pothlole patchings.”

  • Molnar says:

    I lived in California when Proposition 13 passed, and my puncture rate increased dramatically as a result of the cutbacks in street sweeping. I’m in Massachusetts now, but it looks like the recent end of road repairing is a national phenomenon. I had a theory (more of a hope, really) that local road repair authorities were a little slow in getting the trickled down stimulus money, but I’m afraid ksteinhoff nailed it – broken pavement and street cleaning are not sexy enough to get funded as infrastructure improvement when there are billions of dollars to be spent.

  • Ari Hornick says:

    I roll on the widest tires I can put on the bike. 80 or 90 psi is super high considering how smooth the roads aren’t. right now, i’ve been rolling on marathons for a few months – no flats regardless of road conditions, which are atrocious.

  • Keith Walker says:

    I roll on 50-622 wide Schwalbe Big Apples on 29er Mavic Rims on my Surly Cross Check frame.

    I can’t comprehend how people ride on the street with 23’s. Masochists!

    And if you wish to go fast, just pump them up to 70psi, the rated maximum, and they are almost as responsive as a smaller tire.

  • Alan says:


    I need to try some Big Apples one of these days. Sounds like a nice set-up…


  • Iain says:

    @ Keith

    I run 26 x 2.0 Big Apples on my converted MTB that I now use as my commuter, they have done over 800 miles with no flats and some the of the country lane potholes and holes around drain covers are big on the usual commute route. Fast rollers too.

  • Paul Johnson says:

    @ ksteinhoff

    True story –

    Saturday morning I was riding home from a friends house in Poulsbo….about 11 miles away. The entire ride takes place along a highway. There are places to cut off, but we live on an island so you have to cross the one bridge that everything funnels into. As I was leaving the bridge (typically, much slower than traffic) a guy yelled at me, for slowing down traffic, and continued to drive by. About a half hour later the same guy was at a light in town. I rode up next to him just as he flicked his cigarette butt out the passenger window (he was driving) in front of me. I picked it up and caught up with him at the next light. I flicked it back into his car and said, “you dropped this”. He stopped, got out of his car and started to tell me everything wrong with “you *#@**&*$* cyclists”. About 20 seconds into his diatribe a State Patrol pulls up. He had been watching the action from across the street. He calmed the motorist down by writing him a ticket for littering and for, and get this one… BURNING REFUSE!!! Apparently it is required that the driver come to court and the officer told me it would cost the driver close to a grand..!! The officer also told me that my actions were not advisable (totally understand) but that he “appreciated the enthusiam”, as he was a cyclist also. Again, I probably could have handled it better….but in the end, everyone was happy…except the dude in the truck.

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