The direction of a bicycle tire is important
How do I orient the tread direction of my bicycle tire? and why?
This is a much controversial issue, but some "facts" should be kept in mind.
First, as Grant Petersen (of Rivendell Cycles) pointed out in his text, for hard, paved roads the best tread pattern is zero because the tire rubber deforms around the asphalt or concrete structure and therefore the zero thread provides a greater total area of the rubber pavement surface for locking .
The exact opposite, the super-gnarled MTB tires, are intended for use in terrain where the surface deforms and exhibits a visco-plastic mechanical behavior. Instead of just the tire rubber that matches the road texture, the soft terrain is actually indented and "flows" around the tire handles necessary to transfer reaction forces to the ground without slipping during traction, braking and cornering.
In the middle we have all the other creases of plaster (sand, gravel, hard pack) and thread patterns (grooved, semi-smooth, etc.).
In my experience, the directional pattern is only found on mountain bike tires designed for off-road use or in certain types of trail terrain. There are tires with a single directional pattern that should be swapped between front and rear. There are tires whose rear-front pairs are dedicated counterparts. My favorites were the IRC Mythos Kevlar 1.95 and the Pararacer Smoke / Dart 2.2 (be careful, kids, this last one is VERY OLD!).
Also, I've found that sometimes putting a rear tire on the front (Specialized Cannibal, a typical rear tire, was great on the front) doesn't matter that much or committing other heresies. In the end, the general thread pattern, button size and spacing, total tire width and MAJOR rubber properties count more than the orientation of the thread.
But that's not what Ritchey's "vector analysis" tire line would tell you. By the way, these tires were KING !! (Mainly because of their structure and rubber I would say).
Well that's a lot of chatting, but the bottom line would be:
- Always pay attention to the direction of the tire at the front.
- In the rear you can choose whether you want to drive more traction (uphill) or more braking (downhill).
- Don't believe in magic too much.
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