The Joy of Slicks*

I’m always puzzled whenever I see someone riding a so-called “mountain bike” along the street. These things are frequently supermarket models, with frames made from girders, useless & heavy suspension, brakes & gear components made from Kraft cheese, and they all seem to be fitted with super-knobbly tyres.

You can usually hear these bikes coming because of the noise those tyres make on the road. They sound more like someone ripping heavyweight canvas than a sleek, super-efficient machine.

All that noise is doing two things. Firstly it’s sending vibrations through the frame (and probably making that suspension work for all it’s worth to insulate the rider’s butt from the buzz). But more importantly it means work being put into the pedals is escaping instead of pushing the bike forward.

So you’ll only hear these bikes coming if you’re stationary – they don’t go fast enough to catch you. If you’re riding along, you’ll just wonder what the hell that noise is as you pass them.

But lots of people DO buy these bikes: They’re cheap, and if you’re new to cycling, you’d probably be nervous of splashing out on something you might not use. Chances are that you or your neighbour has one in the shed. It’s probably not being used because those tyres contribute to it riding like a dog through treacle.

But we can fix that, can’t we?

By doing as something as simple as changing those knobbly tyres for a pair of slicks, the ride is transformed. OK, “transformed” is probably over-stating it, but it does make a big difference. For as little as twenty quid, you can put a pair of slick tyres on that bike, and suddenly find the ride is quiet, smooth, and critically a whole lot less hard work.

That means you can either ride faster or further for the same effort.

It may be enough of an improvement to make that supermarket-bought bicycle-shaped-object ridable for a couple of months. That’s time enough for you to figure out if riding a bike is really your kind of thing. Or if what you have is an old steel-framed, no-suspension mountain bike that’s been unearthed from the back of your shed, it could mean that you’ve got a bike that’ll last you into next year.

Compare that with the price of petrol.


*For those of you who misread the title and were expecting some classic 1970s educational literature, there’s this that you might find informative:

Alternatively, you may find this useful:

I know, I know! Like me, you probably watched this, and had two thoughts:

  1. That saddle looks a bit high
  2. She should probably find some shoes with stiffer soles
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Posted in Bike Culture
4 comments on “The Joy of Slicks*
  1. “Or if what you have is an old steel-framed, no-suspension mountain bike that’s been unearthed from the back of your shed, it could mean that you’ve got a bike that’ll last you into next year.”

    Probably beyond, tbh. Those old steel mountain bikes & hybrids are often solid workhorses worth bringing back into service. My Dad’s Pioneer Elite has been his bike, my bike, his bike again, my bike again Mrs M’s bike, and is now my son’s bike. It’s been a city bike, light tourer, commuter and runabout – it’d probably make a good pub bike, trailer tower, winter bike for studded tyres, xtracycle base &c too.

    Which is kind of a long way of saying “I think Karl has a secret plan to get hold of all your useful, but old fashioned bikes here after you guys “upgrade” “. 😉

  2. […] McAdams rides a bike, or two, in Toronto. You can smooth out that bumpy ride by putting slick tires on your mountain bike. British bike justice, as a rider receives a bigger […]

  3. Ralph says:

    Another thing to reduce drag from tyres. Go to the slicks,yes, but also use the highest air pressure listed on the side wall. Perhaps go with the thinnest tyre that will fit the rim also. You won’t loose much in durability and may avoid pinch flats with the higher pressure.

  4. ofoab says:

    The new generation of Go-pro camera saddle cams , wait for it , it will be stupendous !

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