Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Schwalbe Big Apple Tire 2.35 Review

Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 Tire Review - Intro

I have been very pleased with by 2.0" schwalbe big apple tires (old tread design), so when we needed a new set of tires for the bike stable . . well the choice was an obvious one.

I am still using the tires 4 years after this post was first published.

I had always fancied a pair of 2.35 inch big apple tires so I went large on this occasion, after carefully measuring my frame to make sure they would fit.

Soooo Haaaaapy!

Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 Tire Review - Mudguards / Fenders

In the past I have not bought these larger 60mm / 2.35 big apples because I was fairly convinced I would need 65mm mud guards. You can in fact get away with 60mm provided they are perfectly aligned.  The front mudguard did not pose any problems and was easy to adjust.

60mm Mudguards / Fenders on Big Apple 2.35

However the rear mudguard was right on the line, clearance wise. The seat stay cross member was mounted quite close to the tire, and the mudguard is butted right up against the underside to allow for enough clearance. I had to make a custom bracket and rivet it directly to the mudguard to achieve this.

So the main issue may not be the width of your mudguards / fenders I had had long suspected but the limitation of the the mudguard anchor points.

If you are buying mudguards then you wouldn't go far wrong with a pair of SKS Bluemels B65.

Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 Tire Review - The New Tread

Schwalbe have changed the tread pattern since I purchased my last set of big apples around 3 years ago.It looks a bit more trendy, and I think I still prefer the old tread.

Big Apple - New Tread 1

Big Apple - New Tread 2

Big Apple - New Tread 3
I do not think the new tread is as grippy as the old design off road. If you require little more grip perhaps a Big Ben or Fat Frank might be a better choice. That being said, I have not had any issues with traction. And for predominant road use I would opt for a big apple.

Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 Tire Review - Punctures

The single number 1 reason why I liked my old big apples soooo much was because they never got punctures, apart from that time with the flint. The older tires had Kevlar guard whilst these newer tread pattern tires come with "race guard". I had an unlucky puncture on my first ride out (sharp flint again), but now after 10 no. rides still no punctures. So the boat is not in on the puncture resistance levels.

If I can report back a year from now with no punctures then will be happy. . . . .

4 Year Update: Well I am still using these tires in 2018 4 years after purchase. I have had perhaps 10 punctures over that period, all from blackthorn or hawthorn twigs. This is a seasonal thing, and happen every autumn when the farmers trim the hedges. If it wasn't for this seasonal bounty I doubt whether I would have had any puncture at all.

Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 Tire Review - Feel / Rolling

I wanted larger tires because I wanted to increase my tire circumference. My old tires were 2075 mm circumference, these larger ones are 2160 mm. So I gain 8.5cm per revolution.

2160mm is a larger circumference than most race bike tires. I know this is only part of the storey.

On the road they role well at there max pressure of 4 bar or 55 psi. They feel harder than my old 2.0" tires even at this lower pressure. This would suggest that if you want to enjoy the "balloon" tire affect, then pressures of 30 - 40 psi would be required.

Large Tread Blocks - Big Apple 2.35

Big Apple 2.35 - Mudguard / Fender Clearance

Schwalbe Big Apples 2.35 Tire Review - Conclusion

I think I would still rather be riding a tire with kevlar guard rather than race guard, but apart from that the quality and finish I expect from Schwalbe was delivered yet again.

To conclude: This is my fourth set of schwalbe tires. . . need I say more.

4 Year Update: I have suffered 2 or 3 punctures in "kevlar guard" tires over the last few years. It would appear that no puncture proof layer that I have tried will resist a hawthorn or blackthorn thorn. The list that I have tried is:

  • Puncture Guard
  • Kevlar Guard
  • Race Guard
Read my guide to puncture prevention perhaps for some pointers.

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Upgrades for a Folding Bike

Upgrades for a Folding Bike - Intro

Now . .
. . . and then.

About 2 years ago I purchased a Giant Conway Folding Bike (£110) it was OK but needed some upgrades to make it more useful, I supose my main reason for writing this post is find out the rough cost. Would it have been cheaper to buy a higher speck bike to begin with.

Upgrades for a Folding Bike - Tires (Cost £30 - Discount Bike De)

I was desperate to get some decent tires. I hate punctures, and weigh 90 kg so I needed some that would run at a high pressure, and be fairly wide. 

Schwalbe Tire are the best I have numerous variety on all my families bikes and they are great. I went for Marathon 1.75" x 16" with Green Guard, havn't had a puncture since I put them on two years ago.

Upgrades for a Folding Bike - Gears (Cost - £65 - DIY Wheel Build)

For hilly area a gear range close to 300% is nice. But with a narrow rear hub my choices were limited. I did try to "force" a solution involving spreading the rear drop outs, and trying to lace a 36 holes MTB hub in to the  28 hole rim. Disaster. No harm done but lots of time wasted.

So in the end I converted from single speed, to 3 speed with a new old stock 1988 Sturmey archer hub gear from Freemans.

This is OK, but the lowest gear was still not low enough for my taste so I swapped out the 46 tooth chain wheel for an MTB 38 chain wheel and cranks.

Swapping out the original hub meant loosing the rear drum brake, so a rear calliper brake was fitted.

Upgrades for a Folding Bike - Brakes (Cost £15 new front brake calliper and lever)

Brakes were rubbish when I first got this bike and they still are not very good.

I first upgraded the front calliper brake which originally was a pressed steel long reach calliper, with about a 90mm reach. . . which is pretty long. This results in rubbish performance regardless of the model of brake.

The replacement Tektro 984 Calliper Brake was not much better. But this is not a reflection of the build quality, it just you will never get a good mechanical advantage with a very long reach calliper brake.

The original plastic levers were swapped for some alloy ones.

My only advise here is try to get a folding bike with v brakes.

Upgrades for a Folding Bike - Lights (£65 Hub Dynamo, £30 Lights, DIY Wheel Build)

This bike has a 65mm OLD front hub, and so I was limited to buying a Brompton DH-703-SB which was very expensive, twice the price of a none Brompton equivalent. Shimano do a 24 hole hub dynamo, but you try and find a 24 hole rim to go with it . . . .

For lights I chose a Axa Pico for the front and a B&M Toplight for the Rear.

Upgrades for a Folding Bike - Conclusions

So . . . .

£110 for the bike
£30 for Tires
£65 for Gears
£15 Brakes
£95 Lights (!)

This tots up to about £300.

What can you get for £300? Well you can get some pretty good folding bikes, but they wouldn't have dynamo lighting or marathon tires. But they would have better brakes and better gears.

So as always swings and round-abouts, You get what you pay for etc.

Cracking conclusion!

Monday, 18 August 2014

A Cheap Hub Dynamo Setup (£50)

A Cheap Hub Dynamo Setup - Intro

I have slowly been upgrading all of my bikes so they have hub dynamo lighting. I am a careful cyclist and so I consider increasing my visibility to be one of the best things I can do to increase my safety.

My Wife's Bike Fitted with Hub Dynamo
Hub dynamo lighting is a hassle free and silent method for providing powerful lighting on you bicycle. Its always there when you get on your bike  . . . . ready to go.

Problem is it can be:

  1. Tricky to Fit. The lights as easy to attach, but if you have to build a wheel to incorporate the hub dynamo that will put people off.
  2. Expensive. If you are not careful a setup can cost a lot. But if you shop around (German) then you can get a setup with a ready built wheel for £50.

 A Cheap Hub Dynamo Setup -The Dynamo (£31 + Postage)

Taylor Wheels UK sell a ready built hub dynamo wheel for £31. It is as good as you could wish for , and is a 19mm Grunert Rim with a Shimano 3B31-NT Hub Dynamo. If you are buying a wheel for a sports bike, with narrow rims, you will probably have to build you own or spend a bit more else where. It is not really possible to get a budget hub dynamo pre built in to say a 13mm rim.

This Budget Hub Dynamo Wheel is fine for daily use.

A Cheap Hub Dynamo Setup - Lights (£12 front & rear)

You can still get the older incandescent lights for use with you Hub Dynamo but try and stick to LED lights. They have built in overvoltage protection, and also the bulbs pretty much last forever.

bike-discount.de have some very cheap lights for sale, and postage costs are reasonable. For around £12 you can get front and rear LED lights that will do an OK job.

I chose an AXA Ray Steady for the rear light (£4.80) which I have on another bike and am pleased with it. The Ray Steady has a standlight function, which really is a must for a rear light. It means that when you stop moving (ie when the hub dynamo is not turning) the light will stay on for around 1 minute. If you cycle in traffic then this is  must.

The AXA Ray Steady Cheap and Good. Dog Ugly though!
For the front light I chose an AXA sprint LED light. This light costs £6.50 but does not have a standlight. It would cost around double to buy a light with a standlight. So on this occasion I went without.

A Cheap Hub Dynamo Setup - Installing

You can use any sort of thin twin core cable you may have lying around in the garage. I used door bell wire. In the past I have used the wire from an unused power adaptor, or you could spend £2 on the proper stuff, when you order your lights!

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Race Guard vs Kevlar Guard

Race Guard vs Kevlar Guard - Intro

Any one in the market for some Schwalbe Tires may have noticed the move away from Kevlar Guard to a new puncture protection system, called Race Guard. IT IS NOT VERY GOOD. It is still better than most other tires but if you are used to trouble free riding given by kevlar guard then think agian.

On purchasing some new big apple tires (2014) Kevlar Guard was no longer an option. So is this this an improvement?

Updated as of 28/04/2016 - Findings based on 6 months of use.

Race Guard vs Kevlar Guard - Performance

Kevlar Guard - With only 1 punctures in 2 YEARS of cycling I was VERY happy with my Kevlar Guard 2" (50mm) Big Apples.

Race Guard - With 4 punctures in 4 months of cycling I am a little worried about the performance of my newer Race Guard 2.35" (60mm) Big Apples.

I may have been unlucky. Time may prove them to be equal, but I have my doubts.

Race Guard vs Kevlar Guard - Conclusion

If you can still get hold of older tires with Kevlar Guard, then get those.

Race Guard vs Kevlar Guard - Other Choices

I am trialling a pair of Marathon Mondials in 26 x 2.15 at the moment, but there are not slick enough for me, so have ordered a pair of Fat Franks, which still come with Kevlar Guard. The fat franks however are a different compound and have a smidge more tread they feel squirmy by comparison to the big apples.

Update: 17/12/2014

One thing I have overlooked is that my old tires with kevlar guard were 2" whilst the new ones were 2.35", and I am using the same inner tubes so the tubes will be stretched more, and thus have less puncture resistance.

I have swapped my standard tubes Continetal 1.5 - 2.5 tubes for some michelin C6 downhill tubes, these are thicker and designed for fatter tires (2.2 - 2.8) so we will see how things go over the next 6 months.

Update: 03/07/2015

Well 7 months since my last post and another 4 punctures.  3 of which were thorns from hedge trimming, 1 from a metal object. This despite the very heavy tubes I am running. The C6 tubes mentioned above are designed for use with 2.25" - 2.6" tires, so there is very little stretch when using them with the big apples. So after nearly a year of use, I have to conclude that Race Guard is not as good a Kevlar Guard.

This is a bit sad, because the big apple is a very practical tire in terms of its tread and size etc. but now is more prone to punctures.

Update: 28/04/2016

After my last post I purchased some fat frank tires another balloon bike tire from schwalbe. Thos one uses the kevlar guard option and is alos 2.35" wide (60mm). To mt surprise I suffered 3 or 4 punctures in these tires within a few months! SO the question arises is it the type of puncture protection or the width that is the problem. Do schwalbe use the same width protection band in a 2.0" tire, as they do in a 2.3" tire? If si this would leave more the tire vulnerable to punctures.

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