How It Used To be

There used to be a time that in order to call someone, while on the street, one had to walk into one of these booths to make a call. One had to have change or in some countries, special tokens and for some reason, so the story goes, one never had enough coins to make a call. Long distance used to eat coins in unimaginable rate and on top of the calling experience, there were people staring at the person using the booth. Back when only one, nationalized, Telco operator existed, these phone booths were often the only mean of long distance communications for entire neighborhoods.

There is an episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine makes a call phone call, using an old GSM Motorola brick, to a friend to inquire about her father’s health. Both George and Seinfeld lecture Elaine about the etiquettes of using a mobile phone to make a health inquiry from the middle of the street.

When was the last time anyone opened a yellow pages? When did one memorize phone numbers? Addresses? Everything, pretty much all information that was ever created, is available at one’s finger tips. We no longer need to queue or have change in our pockets to make a call. In fact, most of us are no longer making calls at all. We FaceTime, we zoom, we WhatsApp, we certainly do not pay for call waiting or for voice mail.


Tire Obsession – Schwalbe G-One Speed

When the Elephant NFE was first constructed it was only natural to put Rene Herse tires on it. The tires were the Babyshoe Pass 650B x 42mm and were tan. Somehow the combination of a red bike, black rims and fenders and silver cockpit just looked off with tan tires. Of course, the same Rene Herse tire is also available in black, but the cost ($87 per wheel) and flat-tire likeliness of the extralight casing were a combination that was too risky for a ride that’s used in the city on daily basis.

There was enough room under the fenders to try something with more volume so after much soul searching and considerations, you decided to try the Schwalbe G-One Speed in 650B x 50mm.

  • Size: These tires are very voluminous! At 50mm they are like balloons. They actually “only” expend to ~48mm on the Velocity Aileron but these rims are relatively “narrow” at 20mm internal width. They will probably reach their advertised size on wider rims.
  • Weight: These tires are not light. According to Schwalbe, they weight 500 gram per wheel.
  • Suppleness: This is where these tires differ so greatly from the Rene Herse tires. These tires seem to be based on mountain bike tires which makes their sidewalls thicker than the Rene Herse tires. Since the air volume in them is so substantial it is hard for this rider to identify the difference between a similar sized supple tire and these, but subjectively these are solid, but are somewhat stiffer than other tires in the stable.
  • Color: Black….but….the black model has been discontinued. Anyone interested in these tires in 2020 will be forced to buy a model with tan sidewalls.
  • Tubeless: Yes although you have no personal experience.
  • Price: The original tire cost 49 Euro. Since they have been discontinued one can only find the newer tan colored version which is available at ~27 Euro. One can still find the 2019 model in tan which was much lighter (400g) and is priced at ~42 Euro.

Now that the technical details are out of the way, how do they ride? How well can they handle the mean streets of Berlin? What about off road riding?

Overall these tires are pretty great. You bought them in March 2019 and have ridden them almost daily since. So far they have not had a single flat tire (the rule is that as soon as one make such statements, a flat tire will arrive). The little round pattern on the tire surface are meant to provide an indication of the health of the tires. The one in the front looks brand new. The back tire thread is starting to wear, but is holding nicely.

These are not as lively as the Rene Herse, but they are very robust. Like most engineering decisions, any benefit also have a price and in this particular case, the price is the extra weight and the less than lively feeling. This being said, for a bike that often is used with groceries and always has fenders and a dynamo on, it is a reasonable balance.

It is interesting that Schwalbe decided to pull these out of the market and replace them with a tan version. The decision is probably based on two factors: tan is all the rage these days. More and more bikes are shipped from the larger manufacturers with tan tires. Tan sidewalls are what fixies were 10 years ago. The second possible reason for pulling these out of the market is that a 650B x 50mm tire is very niche. There are not many commercial bike frames that are at the same time “road” and can fit such wide tires. So one option is enough and tan won the fight.

A good tool is one that fulfills its purpose. The Schwalbe G-One Speed fulfill their purpose nicely. Do they live up to their “speed” name? Not that much, but further studies are needed to make an evaluation. Where they do excel is in providing a cushioning ride and their ability to run across a wide variety of terrains without flatting. At half the price of a Rene Herse tire, these are a great value.

Tire Obsession – Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass

When you designed the Seven Mudxium, the bike was built for Bruce Gordon’s Rock’n’road tires. The BGs measure 700cX43mm and weight 540 grams. They were great to start with, but pretty soon after the bike was completed, you joined some Brevets (long distance rides) and the BGs were a total overkill for these rides. This is when you started looking for alternative tires and came across the Compass Tires Snoqualmie Pass.

Rene Herse tires used to be called Compass Tires until Jan Heine, the owner of Rene Herse, bought the rights for the name Rene Herse. From your perspective, Rene Herse tires are the baseline against which all wide tires are measured which is the reason why the first Tire Obsession article is focused on this brand and more specifically on their large volume 44mm wide 700c (i.e. 28 inch) road tires.

Let’s get the details out of the way:

  • Size: 700c 44mm or 28″ 1.73″ depending on where you are on the planet. In other words, these are wide tires that many bikes typically can not accommodate. Even these days, where every cycling brand has an all-road or gravel bike, 44mm is still out of reach. Moots for example, just introduced an update to their Routt RSL model that can accommodate 45mm tires. These tires are true to size on wide rims and can even come out a few millimeters wider depending on your rims.
  • Weight: There are four “models”. Each model is differentiated by the casing starting from extra light and ending with Endurance Plus. Your casing of choice at the moment is the endurance which comes in at 378 g. You have been riding the standard casing which also weights 378 gram.
  • Suppleness: The Rene Herse tires are considered the “OG” in suppleness. In fact,before they came out with their tires, the word supple was rarely used in the cycling community.
  • Color: The endurance casing has a dark tan color while the standard casing comes in light tan. This is actually one design choice you’d love to see changed and the reason why you only use these tires on this specific bike – tan works well with titanium frame. For the other bikes in the stable, black tires look much better.
  • Tubeless: Yes. Although, no personal experience. There are stories about how difficult it is to set these up as tubeless exactly due to the suppleness. A quick search will reveal interesting videos on YouTube where people even record the air leaving the tires. Since you use tubes, this has never been an issue.
  • Price: These tires are very expensive. The Endurance casing will set you back $87 (before shipping) or 84 Euro. These are probably the most expensive tires you own. There are reasons why a small brand have to charge a lot for small runs of made by hand Japanese tires. Still, for the price of one tire one can buy 2, 3 or even 4 tires with much less suppleness.

The Rene Herse Snoqualmie Pass are amazing tires. They feel like road tires without having to suffer from every little crack in the road. They allow the rider to take off the road and traverse almost any terrain. They allow you to float on rough forest roads and provide you the confidence to bomb down a mountain without worrying about loosing traction. They are very light for their volume and with the Endurance casing are also rough enough to withstand the “normal” Berlin city road – broken bottles, broken streets and all sorts of random nails.

There is also something very Germany about these tires. They adhere to standards and have been known to be rather picky when it comes to the rims they match best. For example, according to Jan Heine, the Velocity Blunt SS rims, do not have enough of a lip to actually hold these safely in a tubeless configuration. Another example is mounting them on Zipp carbon rims where multiple layers of tubeless tape are needed to make them airtight. Regardless of such small issues, all of which are easily fixed, these tires are amazing. You never knew that tires could make such a difference in a ride before putting these on.

If your bike has room for 44mm tires on 700c wheels, you will be loving these.

Tire Obsession – KPIs

Bicycles tires are somehow an obsession. It is unimaginable how much time one can spend researching tires. Yet, it also makes sense. If you ever changed the touring tires on your bike, the ones with the puncture protection and white reflection strip on the sidewalls, to supple, volumenous tires, you’d understand.

You never claim to be a reviewer, but since you do spend time investigating tires, it may be a good idea to share. So in no particular order, here are some bicycle tires key performance indicators (KPIs) worth considering

  • Size. This one might be obvious but many people still follow the popular thinking that narrow is fast. There are long tirades written by modern cycling heroes such as Jan Heine about the benefits of the wider tires. The very short summary is: narrow tires feel faster since they are pumped with more air and are very stiff, but they produce a lot of vibrations which require the rider to compensate for the loss of momentum. In short, wider is better to a degree. Like every solution, no single KPI stand by itself. Size is typically measured in rim size (e.g. 700c or 650b which are international standards for 28 inch and 27.5 inch rims respectively) and tire carcass width.
  • Weight. Tires vary widely in their weight. For example, the Continental Terra Speed 650b tires at 40mm weight 390 grams. For comparison, the Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires, at the exact same size, come in at 920 grams. Like every other solution, one has to look at the customer requirements in order to make a decision on the correct solution. The Schwalbe tires are great for people who really never want to worry about getting flats and are looking for a tank-like tire. The Continental tires are likely to wear out much faster than the Schwalbe and are likely to be more flat-prone (no personal experience). One aspect to keep in mind that shaving weight off rolling elements on the bike (tires, tubes, rims, spokes, cassette, hubs) is the most effective way to becoming faster. Riding your bike a lot also helps.
  • Suppleness. There are complete YouTube channels dedicated to this term. The short version is that a supple tire is one with flexible sidewalls. It provides a lot of cushioning and with it reduces or absorbs a lot of the road vibrations which makes one faster. One should experience supple tires to appreciate the benefits.
  • Color. There are two main sidewall colors for bicycle wheels these days: black or tan (often called gumwall as well). This KPI will probably not effect the way the bike ride, but it will impact the way the bike looks. Your own personal rule is: if the bike has a natural color (like unpainted titanium, stainless steel, gray, white etc.) tan sidewalls look amazing (see above). If the bike is colorful, black tires are the way to go.
  • Tubeless or not. Some people swear by tubeless, some find it messy and see less value. It is a KPI to consider, but its value is really up to one’s personal preferences.
  • Price. Bike tires vary in cost immensely. One can purchase a tire for under 20 Euros or spend 90 Euros on a single tire. In fact, the Schwalbe tire in the example above cost 24 Euro while the Continental tire with cream sidewall cost 45 Euros. The cost of a tire has many factors such as country where they are produced, size of production, popularity, perceived value and more.

Now that we defined the key performance indicators for tires, we can dive into all the tires you love and some that have opportunities to improve.

The Shifting Laptop Market

You don’t own a laptop or a desktop or any such device that could be considered a personal computer. This blog is written on an 11 inch iPad Pro. The 30,000 (give or take) photos you produced since your first digital camera (a Fujifilm just for the record) are all stored in an Apple cloud somewhere and are accessible from iOS on any device. These pictures have backups on Flickr (unlimited storage). For more recent photos, Adobe is keeping copies. The chances of the Photos library disappearing are slim to none.

You do have a large collection of MP3s that you started converting 25 years ago. Probably one of the first heavy duty CPU usage on your Machintosh Performa was converting and sorting through mountains of CDs to MP3s. They all sound like rubbish these days. Instead, you spend your days connected to bluetooth headphones listening to the same music you have been interested in only using Spotify. Often you are reminded of a tune and have only, on a few occasions, have not been able to find them (Spotify is missing on some early Virgin Prunes albums for example).

The move to the cloud and the fact that most large companies now support their employees with a choice between a Windows and Apple laptop means that you have been living with a laptop, owned by your employer, but without the need to buy your own device. Strangely, Given that Apple’s market evaluation as of today is at 1.68 Trillion dollars, it seems that you do not symbolize a trend. In fact, according to this market analysis, Apple’s Laptop market share has grown in recent years.

How did we get here? You have no insight into the Apple boardroom, but the smart money is on the fact that large corporations buying Apple laptops for their employees is a much larger market than individual consumers. Corporations offering a choice to their employees also mean that people that did not use to buy Apple laptops are now using them.

It is fascinating how the move to the cloud freed this user from a laptop. Apple took the opportunity to sell an iPad Pro making up their lost revenue and your employer picked up the extra tab. Brilliance.