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RBAQ&A

By Neil Shirley

Send your questions to: [email protected]

^^ Q: What's the best tire advice for ^^ riding in the rain? Are there special rain tires?

A: Bryan Holwell of Maxxis Tires responds:

Absolutely. There are rain/wet specific road tires, although they are relatively new to the market. Models are available from Vittoria (Corsa Evo Tech), Schwalbe (Ultremo Aqua), and Maxxis (Radiale-23C). The advantage to running wet-specific tires is the increased level of grip these tires provide in wet conditions. This added traction is largely the result of a special rubber compound used In the tread. Such compounds generally have a lower hardness (durometer). The tradeoff is usually an increase In rolling resistance, and increased tread wear. The Maxxis Radiale-23C, however, utilizes three different compounds within the tread. The compounds on the shoulders are progressively softer, and the harder center retains a good wear rate and rolling resistance.

The shoulder or entire tread of a rain-specific tire is also usually textured or siped. Contrary to popular belief, this feature is not designed to channel water out from under the tire. At normal speeds, It is impossible for a bicycle to hydroplane. Rather, the sip-ing allows the tread to flex slightly during heavy cornering. This helps to increase the amount of traction by keeping the tread element in static contact with the road surface for the brief moment the two are touching. Because the static coefficient of friction of a rubber compound is always higher than the kinetic coefficient of friction, the ultimate goal is to keep the tire from sliding. So it Is desirable to have the tread move slightly to maintain contact with the ground. This feature also gives the rider some warning before the tire breaks free and loses traction completely. And if you don't have a wet specific tire? My advice: 'Go wide, go low.' Lowering the pressure of your tires will increase the contact patch, and will help to provide more traction in slippery conditions. This will also increase the chance of pinch flats, so it will help to have a wider tire like a 25C. Also, make sure the tread of your tire is free from any mold release or waxes that have bloomed to the surface before your wet ride. The waxes that bloom to the surface of rubber compounds over time are designed to protect the rubber from ultraviolet light and ozone, but they will reduce the level of grip of the tire.

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