Alright, so I bought this Cannondale and it came with Continental 3000 tires, but after two training seasons, a Northeast AIDS ride, and a winter of Polar Bear Bike Club rides, well they had quite simply have had it. The first ride I did with Team In Training I managed to collect three flats, after which I suggested that they forget I existed and ride on without me.
This began my search for "Bullet Proof" road tires. Now there is no such thing as really bullet proof tires. All tires will flat, but I wanted the best possible odds against all the glass and road debris that we enjoy on our pathetic Nassau County Roads. My search led me to The Michelin Axial Carbons. I had researched my purchase on the internet and had found folks who claimed to be quite happy with them. They extolled their puncture resistance, and they also alluded to their great wear resistance. The manufacturer claims 3000 miles of useable life. So, I called the Bike Junkie and ordered them. One of the reviews I read mentioned a certain difficulty in mounting the tires, but what the heck, if the tires bombed, hey, I could write a miserable review and get even. So I waited about three days, the Bike Junkie came through, and I picked up my tires. I guess with the Standard Weight Proline Tubes and some Proline Chain Lube my purchase came to around $75.00 so the tires were around thirty something.
I went home and immediately started mounting them in the dining room. (Lee really loves it when I do this stuff.) Anyway, I found these tires just a little more difficult to mount than remounting used tires, but that would just make sense. Finally, I found the following trick, which made it much easier.
Most of us put some air into the tubes when we remount our tires so that the tube centers itself in the tire and on the rim. This also helps prevent pinching the tube with your irons. Surprisingly the small amount of pressure in the tube also tends to make getting the last bead into place much harder as well. Once I let all the air out of the tube for the last couple of inches of bead mounting the process went quite easily. So for initial mounting ease, I'll give these a "C" or a five for those of us who are more numerically inclined.
Now I had two rims with brand spanking new tires in my hands and I stepped back to look at 'em and frankly, I loved the way they looked. Those yellow stripes on the nice glossy black sidewalls really were sharp. Pumped up to the maximum pressure, these tires were HARD! The material from which the tires are made is not a very soft product. I found it to be a sort of waxy plastic kind of stuff that was weirdly reminiscent of the stuff hula hoops were made from. Yes softer and more flexible than that, but it had that same waxy plastic feel.
The tread profile was much different than the Continentals I had just removed. These tires were very rounded, quite like a perfect "O" in shape. The tread on the Continentals was more flattened on the road contact portion so it more resembled an upside down U with a flattened bottom. This is not apparent in the unmounted picture of them but when mounted and inflated they are quite flat on the bottom.
Time to mount the rims and go for a ride. My first and enduring impression of these tires is that they are very agile, and very hard! You feel the road through these tires. The aluminum frame of the Cannondale is quite harsh in it's ride, and these tires do nothing to reduce the road feel. You know if the surface is macadam, or rolled asphalt without looking. But handling wise, these tires respond. The older Continentals with their flat profile had a "threshold" for turning, subtle but you knew it was there. These tires you think about turning and you are gone. I assign it to the very round profile, the slightest lean and you are on the side of the tire turning. With the flatter profile you had to get over the "edge." The rounder profile also makes for less surface area in road contact and the harder material makes for easier rolling, so I would call these tires faster as well. The harshness of ride I mentioned before is something you do get used to fairly quickly and I would again call it "Road Feel," rather than something any more negative. So for RIDE, I'd give 'em an A- or a 9.5.
Now for the Big Question, Road Debris and Punctures! Quite simply, so far so good! I have taken the liberty of riding through suspected tire killing piles of road detritus and thus far I have escaped unscathed. I would guess that I have put somewhere around 3-4 hundred miles on these tires since I purchased them and seriously, I have driven straight through glass and debris piles and thus far no damage. From the time I first inflated these tires until I topped off the air, I had ridden them at least five times. So the tube/tire combo is definitely keeping air. I suspect that I actually lose most of the pressure I put back as I attach the pump. Thus far puncture resistance is rated A+.
Downsides... Now this could just be the road condition, but these tires seem to deposit an inordinately high amount of road dust on the frame and grit upon my face. Now I can actually get into the road grime as it is a really neat macho thing, I mean shades of Lance and all that, but hey I mention it! The other thing is that these tires really, and I mean REALLY rocket stones. This is probably part of the mechanism for puncture resistance, forcing debris from under the tread rather than into it, but stones and the like are really shot out from under the tread with a resounding PahBoing sound! So, for being really cool and neat to look at, listen to, and shooting stones at riding buddies, I rate them another A-.
I'm glad I bought 'em!