The cost of tires; what the hell?

If there’s one thing that continues to baffle me it’s the cost of tires.  You’d think with the cost of oil going down, tire prices would have hit a plateau and leveled off.  But, not so.

And, it doesn’t matter what kind of tires they are: car, truck, motorcycle or bicycle.  And, quite frankly, the more research I do the more I come to realize that the price we pay for tires in the U.S. is somewhat out of line with the cost of tires elsewhere in the world.

So, here’s the deal.  As mentioned, the Calfee tandem wore through yet another Vredestein Fortezza and when I looked into my spare parts cabinet I discovered most of the tires that were taking up space were 60% worn-out 23mm racing tires, not the 25mm or 28mm tires we’ve started to use of late.  So, after chucking out the dregs, I went out to do my homework on tires, hoping to find some 25mm – 28mm Vredesteins.  Yeah, well… when bicycle tires are going for $50-80 a pop something’s wrong.  Suffices to say, Vredestein and we have parted ways.

As part of a “what the heck” tire trial that I conducted when we bought the Triplet a few years back, I fitted a set of Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tires to both the triplet in 28mm and one of my single bikes int he 25mm size.  It took a little getting used to during the tire break-in period as the Ultremo’s had a somewhat lower friction compound that didn’t hug the road like the Vredesteins.  It became an acquired taste, so in the back of my mind Schwalbe tires have remained my 2nd choice.  Well, that’s not entirely true: I’d really like to throw a set of the Compass 28mm folding tires on the Calfee to see how they perform, but… once again, they’re cost prohibitive at $75/ea.

So, with just one more set of 25mm Vredestein Fortezza tires left in the tire bin and Debbie’s Calfee Luna Pro needed some new skins, I went ahead and ordered up two sets of 25mm tires from my current go-to source for tires, Wiggle / Chain Reaction cycles in the UK.  I feel bad because as much as I’d really like to patronize my local shops, I can’t wrap my head around paying 45% more for a set of $55 tires that will wear out in about 4-6 months.  They’re tires… consumable items, not meaningful upgrades.

Now, some of this is just being bullheaded when it comes to having a desire to ride on “performance tires” as I know that there are skins out there like the Panaracer Pasela that are more affordable and will last 2x – 3x longer than my performance tires.  But, there’s just something about being able to dive into a curve with a soft, grippy tire that makes the climb up that hill worth it.  Sadly, it’s the climb up those hills that eat away the tire compounds and send these grippy performance tires to the trash bin prematurely.

Anyway, more to follow.  Looking forward to wearing out a few more sets of tires this year than we did last year!


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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4 Responses to The cost of tires; what the hell?

  1. I’ve been ordering all of my tires direct from Europe for a few years now — the price difference vs. the USA is dramatic. Ditto for other components like chains, cassettes, bar tape, etc.

    Wiggle is good, but you might also try Ribble in the UK. Depending on the brand, Ribble can be cheaper. Also check into They’re based in Germany, and to get USA prices displayed (without VAT), you need to first select your country at the top. Note prices are all shown in Euros. They charge a flat 19.99 Euro shipping to USA for all orders, which is more than Ribble or Wiggle, but depending on what I need, the product prices can be so much lower than UK, it makes up for the higher shipping. I run Continental tires on all my bikes; since they’re made in Germany, Bike24 always seems to have the best selection and prices on those. Just topped off my own bin for the upcoming year!

  2. Christian Bratina says:

    I have tried a variety of tandem tires over the years, including the Compass Cypres on which I found the kevlar beads stretched to much, and settled on Conti Gatorskins in 700x32c. I get great life out of them, few flats, and they roll well as confirmed by the BQ roll down tests. I do have a new set of Conti 4 Seasons to try.

  3. Alex says:

    I recommend Specialized Armadilo Elite. Have been using them for 2 years on our tandem. Good performance and flat protection. The average about 2400 miles a pair as I usually rotate at about 1000 miles. We changed from gatorskins after 2 bead failures.

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