Anyone remember the Seinfeld episode, “The Dealership” where Kramer & the sales guy see how far they can run a Saab on empty?
Every once in a while I find myself doing the same thing with rear tires on our tandems, noting the very soft Vredestein Fortezza performance‘ tires I prefer tend to wear out about 2x – 3x as fast as most OEM spec tandem tires. On the bright side, I typically buy them on sale in bulk every few years for about $25/ea. However, be that as it may, in my effort to extract the full life of the tire I’ll typically ride them until the tread compound has become squared-off and will replace them when the puncture resistant strip that sits under the center part of the tread begins to peek through.
However, there’s a down side to this strategy I forget about until we’re 1/2 way through a ride and begin to notice our tandem no longer has the ability to enter and exit a fast, leaned-over corner in a nice predictable movement. Instead, the now squared-off tire creates an abrupt change as the tandem leans back and forth across the ‘edge’ of the squared-off tire. It typically takes me a few minutes to figure out why the handing is a bit off, as was the case last weekend during the Tandems East Tandem Rally. In fact, it wasn’t until I was at the Cookie Stop that I realized it wasn’t a problem with tire inflation or the wheel and was, instead, simply a worn out tire that was disrupting my turns.
There are a whole bunch of other sub-optimal things that happen as a tire becomes worn, not the least of which is the tire’s ability to resist tread cuts and punctures, as well as how it feels and causes changes to bike handling. So, if you find yourself wondering just how many more miles you can go on that tire before it either wears through the tread or fails, you might want to (a) consider if it’s really worth it and, (b) start carrying a spare tire.