Car Free – two years down the track – Part 2- Tyre and tube choices

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Punctures – inevitable, but they don’t have to be frequent!

For Part 1 of our ‘Car Free – Two years down the track’, click here. We realised there was way too much to include in just one post! This is Part 2 and will focus on the tyres and tubes we have used and continue to use now, two years later.

Embarking on a new lifestyle with no car involved making sure we had reliable gear that was unlikely to fail on us while we were out and about, particularly when we couldn’t just phone someone at home to come and pick us up in the car!

Bring on Schwalbe tyres!

Schwalbe Big Apple tyres on pub bike

Schwalbe Big Apple tyres on my ‘pub bike’. Mick has got 2.3″ (almost too fat for his mudguards) and I have 2.1″.

Our ‘pub bikes’, which are the old bikes we can use for anything and everything and are all about comfort, fun and practicality, have fat(tish) Schwalbe Big Apple tyres. These have a puncture resistant rating of 5/7 on Schwalbe’s own scale. All Schwalbe tyres have some puncture protection. The tyre with the least protection is rated at 4/7 and has a thin but visible layer of protective material, which can be seen when you cut the tyre (not recommended unless you’re throwing the tyre away).

Schwalbe tyres + puncture protection

Schwalbe tyres – yellow strip of puncture protection in the piece of tyre on the left. Thick blue puncture protection in the Marathon Plus tyre on the right.

I have only had two punctures in the past two years on my 2.1″ Big Apples.  One of those could have been due to a very old sad lightweight tube giving out rather than an actual puncture (Tip: do not use lightweight, and old, tubes when cycle touring with a fully loaded bike on rough terrain!). The tube must have been put on the bike when using up old supplies, and didn’t get noticed when preparing for the Charters Towers trip. It got replaced on day 4 of the trip with a Schwalbe tube however, and thrown in the bin!

Every other bike of ours has a variation of the Schwalbe Marathon. We rarely get punctures…(famous last words!) and this suits us just fine!

The other wonderful feature we looove about Schwalbe tyres is the reflective sidewalls! If you are going to be riding around at all times of the night and day, you need to do your best to be seen, and these tyres are one of the easiest ways of making sure you’re seen by cars when it’s dark out. Plus they just look really cool…

Schwalbe Marathons on the Bromptons

Schwalbe Marathons on the Brompton. Check out those reflective sidewalls!

We noticed early on that some tubes are better than others. A few years ago we would need to pump up our tyres at least every few days, otherwise the pressure would drop dangerously (if your pressure drops too low you are more prone to punctures). Tubes are made of rubber compound, which, as weird as it may sound, is porous. It leaks air. Some rubber compound leaks more air than others and we have found that Schwalbe tubes are as good as their word. Schwalbe tubes just don’t lose air like other brands we have used and sold in the past. I can go for three or four weeks without even thinking about pumping up my tyres, which is long time in the bicycle world. When you combine a good quality tyre with that tube, you have the perfect recipe for reliability!

Schwalbe Marathon tyres on Vivente Anatolia.

Schwalbe Marathon tyres on the Vivente. No punctures during this cycle touring trip in Tasmania!

Like cars, bicycles need to be ready to use every day and in all sorts of conditions. We want to be able to head out on our bikes and return home without having to bother with fixing punctures and pumping up tyres. It is definitely recommended on a regular basis, but do you pump up the tyres on your car every few days? Or have to fix punctures frequently? In this respect, living a car free lifestyle can be just as care free as owning a motor vehicle…if you have the right gear.

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