Saturday, November 2

ABC and Armadillo Tires

LaVogue Bicycle Shop in Hoquiam, Washington - Conveniently Next Door to Tully's Coffee
As noted here, I've been a fan of "Armadillo" bike tires in the past. However, as noted here and here, they are not without their faults. For older bikes, I'm coming to the conclusion that Armadillos may be more trouble than they're worth.

Lately, I've had a failure progressing on Frankenbike's Armadillo front tire. Having had "ABC" failures in the past, I have kept a close eye on it. One problem, however, is that there's really no place to get a 27 inch tire here in Ocean Shores. Ace Hardware actually has "Bell" brand 27 inch tires, but they weigh at least as much as the Armadillo and I really don't trust Bell components other than tubes and helmets.

Can You See Why the Tire Was Making Funny Noises?

There IS a bike shop 15 miles away in Hoquiam. What's more, an express bus runs from Ocean Shores to Hoquiam, though I've heard tales of where it discharges its passengers - a locale nicknamed "felony flats." Luckily for me, my brother-in-law (BIL) in Everett required a visit - going to Everett and back from Ocean Shores using public transit is really a multi-day affair if you aren't going to motor there. I first stopped by the bike store in Hoquiam, but they didn't have anything much more appealing than the Ace Hardware Bell tire. I like the Hoquiam store, though it lacks the "spiff" of a Performance Bikes locale. After continuing, I stopped at a bike store I favor that's close to my BIL's house. They didn't have anything fancy, but the Specialized Trisport, made in Taiwan, seemed several steps better than the alternative Chinese "noname" tire and it was much lighter than either it or the Armadillo it was destined to replace. Reviews on the Trisport are mixed, but unlike the Armadillo, it does not indicate it REQUIRES a hook bead rim. After conversation with the bike shop guy about the tire and its intended rims, I splurged for less than HALF what it's cousin, the Armadillo, would have cost. Heck, if my tire's going to fail due to tread separating from the casing, I might as well spend a little less.

In summary and without further ado, I do NOT recommend Armadillos for old (non hook bead) 27-inch rims. They will eventually blow off same if you pump them up to their specified pressure. Their tread doesn't stay attached to the casing any better than a $5 Chinese tire, and they ride like wood. And that doesn't consider that their traction in wet conditions is, to put it charitably, "challenged." Oh, forgot to mention that they weigh a ton and cost almost as much as the excellent Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tires that unfortunately are not available in 27-inch size.

Tread is Becoming "Dearly Departed" Though the Casing is Still Intact The Sidewall was Originally a Dark Red
On the other hand, even with the rubber detaching from the casing, the tire never actually went flat. Had I felt "ABC Daring," I would have pulled the rubber off the tire and ridden on the casing alone. Perhaps, someday, I will. For now, the love affair with Armadillos is OVER.

UPDATE: In response to Khal's comment, take a look here, here, and here to see more about using Continental Grand Prix 4 Season tires. They're still on my "good" list though they're even MORE expensive than the Conti Gatorskins. I like them despite their own particular faults. The Contis are not available in 27" size and I'd be VERY reluctant to use folding tires on an old rim in any event.

That's the TREAD, Not a Tube! The Red is the Remaining Vestige of the Original Sidewall Color


Pondero said...

Excellent analysis, and an entertaining report. Sure would be great to see you on the Ramble on 12/14.

Khal said...

Agree on the older Armadillos. They rode like round bricks.Only reason I used them was because the Kalanianaole Highway bike lanes were paved with broken bottles, not asphalt.

I've used the Conti Gatorskins and they seem a vast improvement. The 4 Seasons are really nice, but not sure if they are as durable. Time will tell, as I have a pair on one set of wheels for the LaCruz for winter.

Steve A said...

I didn't go with Gatorskins for three reasons. They cost twice as much as Tricross, but are no lighter. The sidewalls look as susceptible to UV damage as my Conti 4 Season tires while the Tricrosses had "basic and durable black" sidewalls. Finally, the bike shop doesn't carry Contis, unlike my bike shop in Texas.

Steve A said...

See also the update for more on Continental tires. Those sidewalls ARE delicate though the tires can be good for 4-6K miles if they're babied.

Khal said...

I've run 700-28 Gatorskins on the tandem for three seasons without any problems. They seem more resistant to goatheads down here than the Panaracer Kevlar-beaded tires we were using. Plus, the pair of 700-32 Panaracers didn't fit on the tandem wheelset--they were on the verge of blowing off the rim, so I put them on my cross bike/commuter, as they fit on Delgado Cross rims really well.

The 4 Seasons are pretty expensive but as you say, they are great for a fast commute. Those tires came on the cross bike when I bought it from a friend. I wouldn't have sprung for them if it was up to me, because for my commute the Gatorskins work pretty well and were considerably cheaper. I did note the 700-25 Gators look really small compared to the 28's, which I would prefer for commuting.

The 4 Seasons in 700-28 also fit my Cannondale weekend bike, barely, and I've used them for winter weekend rides.

cafiend said...

When I saw the term ABC I thought it would be a post about riding through someone's "Already Been Chewed" gum.

Khal said...

Around here, ABC means Alcoholic Beverage Commission.
Nashbar has five examples in 27", including some Conti Gators in 27x 1.25 if you can't find much at the LBS. I see 27" examples in Santa Fe, but no longer run that size on anything.

drummergeek said...

I had a love affair with Armadillos as well for a while. But when the tread separated on one a couple months ago, I thought that paying $45 bucks for a tire and not even getting to wear it all the way was a waste of money. I like Vittoria Randonneurs $30.

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