A Nurse with a Gun

Friday, August 15, 2008

Armadillo by Morning

I wore gloves for the pre-dawn commute today. I suppose, as one who works with his hands in infectious situations, I should wear gloves at all times while biking. I don't though. What made this morning different was that I was running new tires for the first time. Last night, I installed the 26 X 1.5 Specialized Nimbus Armadillos on the commuter bike.

The Specialized Armadillo line of tires is a kevlar belted tire that is billed as the most flat resistant tire available. They have a reputation for being hard to install on the rim, and for being a hard riding tire. I chose them for the virtual elimination of flats though. I commute through some rough urban areas littered with broken beer and wine bottles, and I do it in the dark pre-dawn hours. I see flattened puddles of glass shards held together by battered labels sparkling menacingly in the sun on my afternoon commute back home, and I wonder how I missed them on the morning commute. With the cheap Cheng Shin knobbies I was running, I would be flatter than Daddy's wallet one day after his daughter's wedding if I were to hit one of those. Intervention was needed.

Last night, putting the Armadillos on my commuter bike's 26 inch Araya aluminum rims, I used my hands only. I had no problems at all. I put them on with a tube, and pumped them up to 60 PSI. No big deal. This morning, I left home a half hour early to give them a preliminary wringing out.

The ride was more harsh. The cheapo knobbies had a mushy quality that cushioned the bumps, cracks, potholes, and all the other uneven surfaces that make up urban commuting. They hummed going across a smooth parking lot at speed. The Armadillos were silent, and rode more roughly. On a smooth surface, I am certain they would be faster. On the city streets, the comparison was similar to a Buick LeSabre and a Jeep. The ride was more solid, as well as more certain, but you felt the effects through the seat and handlebars. Suspension in either of those areas, or both, would minimize the effects. For a rigid frame bike like mine, tighten your nuts and bolts, and consider lock washers and Loctite®.

I may decrease the inflation to 40 PSI and re-evaluate, as that is the pressure I was running in the Cheng Shins. Maybe that extra 20 pounds of pressure in each tire made for an unfair comparison. When cornering, the Specialized Nimbus Armadillos were superb. No drift, and no mushiness. The commuter bike cornered like a quarter horse. I had worn the gloves in case I bit the pavement getting around turns. I didn't need them. One experienced reader had cautioned me about wet mornings, steel grates and manhole covers with the Specialized Armadillos. I will have to put the gloves on at another time to evaluate that. This morning, they were more than adequate in holding the road through turns.

One of the unexpected fringe benefits of these tires was the more narrow width. The skinny profile allowed me to swap out my fenders to some old rusty Raleigh classic middleweight fenders I had stashed in the garage. Saying that photography helps the appearance of these relics is an understatement. They are scratched, dented, rusty, and have a Rustoleum white paint job that is battered in it's own right.Click to enlarge The black and white color scheme is as stark as a Weegee photograph.

I wanted these old fenders on the commuter bike, and the Specialized tires allowed me to install them. They give the black and white Raleigh a quality of "don't touch me" that is usually reserved for rusty barbed wire, contaminated sharps containers, and lepers in Calcutta. OSHA may require me to place a biohazard sticker on the bicycle as a result of these fenders. In the genre of bicycle uglification, my commuter package is complete. With the rattling of the fender stays over bumps and such, a bell is redundant in warning pedestrians of my approach. I installed a bell on the handlebar stem anyway.

Do I like the Specialized Nimbus Armadillos? Yes. If they live up to their billing as being virtually flat proof, they are worth the money to me. Like the $70 Kryptonite lock that makes sure my bike is still there when I get off work, this $90 set of kevlar reinforced tires is insurance that will make certain I get to work on time in an unforgiving urban environment.

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Blogger Sevesteen said...

Higher pressure will result in a harsher ride. Be careful about lowering the pressure too much--Skinnier tires need more pressure than fat ones to protect against pinch flats, and Armadillos won't help here.

I generally run tires at or a bit above max rated pressure for road use--That is 75psi on my 700x38mm tires, about the same width as yours. I go 120psi our tandem, because it has to support over 450 pounds on 28mm tires.

9:40 PM  
Blogger stbaguley said...

About 20 years ago we lived north of Dallas in a place called Flower Mound. I had three kids with bikes. That with mine and the wife's made 10 tires. I could not keep air in them. Those mesquite thorns are nasty, however well they make your barbeque grill smell. Nothing like them in Chicago. Eventually I installed a thorn protective plastic strip between the tires and tubes. The wheels were noticibly heavier, and rolled harder but they were bulletproofed. I did not miss the constant patching and I have maybe fixed one or two flats in all the years since. We are back in Michigan now and don't need the extra weight and don't use it. I always tell the Yankees though that there are good reasons why Texans wear those boots.. and probably why bikes didn't seem as popular down there as up here. Don't know if that is truth or impression. Your kevlar belts sound like a major improvment over the thorn shields and good to know about. I ride an old Schwinn Sierra with fat mountain bike tires with knobbies towards the sidewalls and flat road tread in the center. Most of my riding is on pavement and that keeps it smooth but the knobs are there for cornering on dirt if I happen to be there. About the same level of civilized offroaditude as the Grand Cherokee. Enjoying your posts, thanks (Oh, and Nick says he thinks Ilsa looks hot with the scars, (Kind of like Renee Russo in Lethal Weapon II?)but he says that to all the girls of course, being a dog.)

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

those are some great tires.

1:03 PM  
Anonymous E said...

I know the 26x1.5" armadillos have a huge pressure range, but I'd run them at 55+. Personally I fill my 'dillos to 80psi or so. Sure, it's harsher, but it's MUCH less sluggish. A good saddle and proper padded cycling gloves take the vibration out.

Great choice in a tire.

11:18 PM  
Anonymous stacey said...

that is one seriously hard core commuter bike.

4:26 PM  
Blogger Nicholas said...

I'm not a huge fan of the armadillos. They're awesome in the dry and they're very tough. However they're not that great in the rain. You really have to take it easy when it's wet. I prefer Conti's gatorskins for that reason. They wear FAST though.

1:32 AM  

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