With so many good tyres around these days, for each trip I try to use something different. For me that’s usually a trail tyre for the getting there and being there (Morocco in November). So far, in terms or all surface grip and longevity, it’s hard to beat the Heidenau K60s I used a couple of years ago. Someone told me recently that Heidenau is the modern iteration of the notorious Pneumant East German brand from the 1970 and 80s. Many a prematurely grey MZ rider will know what I’m talking about.
This time round I’m trying the similar, Czech-made Mitas E-07. Front and rear delivered to the middle of nowhere for under £100. That will do nicely.
Getting the old Tourances off proved the usual struggle. The Mrs had to drive repeatedly over the tyre to break the bead so it had me convinced there was some annoying, tubeless-style safety lip in there. Far from it, so you do wonder how you’d manage trying to do a tube repair alone out in the desert. It’s why I prefer tubeless and/or Slime. The less need for lever swinging the better.
But when there’s no choice I’ve found tyre mounting is greatly eased with a pair of 350-mm Italian ‘Buzzetti’ Pro tyre levers. I’ve had my pair for years, as well as a little BMW number which is so old it says ‘Made in W. Germany’. Quality steel means both can be as narrow and thin as possible to help tuck under the bead, but without bending. In the UK this place in Buxton sells then for about £11 each.
The other thing I discovered recently is using Aerospace 303 as lube. It’s actually a UV vinyl/rubber protectorant I use on my kayaks, but lubes up nicely. Anything will do of course, but once dried, 303 gives a teflon-like slipperiness, rather than an oily or soapy film. Next time I’ll pre-spray the beads and the rim and let them dry – less wasteful that way. The blue things in the picture are home-made rim savers (bits of thick split hose), though they work best when removing a tyre. Going the other way there’s a risk of them being pulled into the tyre. That will not do nicely.
Despite all this superb equipment, a task that requires some application can produce a hasty ‘right, let me at ‘em’ attitude – or perhaps that’s just me. So much so that I fitted the front against the recommended rotational arrow. It’s not that critical unless I start pulling stopies for a living, though the tread pattern may wear better (i.e.: cup less) in the correct direction. And on the back I failed to give the tube a few psi to give it some shape so as to clear the levers – with predictable results. Oh well, all good practice which I clearly need. AdvSpec are doing Conti tubes for under £11 a shot.
It does remind me that familiarising yourself with the whole wheel-removal/tyre changing/wheel refitting business back home can save a lot of stress on the road. When you’ve done it once in the back garden (however much of a mess you made of it), you know you can do it again and are familiar with any required knacks or order-specific procedures unique to your bike.
Even with the 303 all over the front, it took a lot of pressurising/deflating/lubing/a run round the block and more repressurising up to 75psi to get it to sit fully. With that done it was time to do the 50-mile round trip to the shops as the larder was looking as bare as my old Metzelers.
Most of that run is a bendy single track road between mountain and loch (left) with plenty of hard breaking into pull-outs to dodge oncoming traffic. With the new E07s the Xcountry was transformed, reminding me how it ran when I picked it up less than nine months and a surprising 9000 miles ago. Where have I been? Since that time the bike has acquired a lardiness which I put down to the 10-15kg of extras I’ve fitted. With a steel subframe it adds up to 10% extra weight. The front end especially felt heavy, even after a Hyperpro make-over.
Seems it was only the worn down Tourances after all. Now that both tyres have round profiles, the 650 swung along that narrow road as if on rails. Cornering confidence was much improved and there was none of the new-tyre edginess that the ‘Catspaw’ K60 initially demonstrated on the BMW twin. Far from it; it just encourages you to push on towards the new limits. I did feel a bit of headshake at 70, but that could have been the strong crosswinds, the surface, the screen or just the fresh tread.
I imagine the chevron-bar ‘tractor’ pattern will work well enough on gravel, letting the tyres roll off small stones which will fall between the tread’s bars. In mud I’m not expecting miracles unless I drop pressures substantially. The depth of the centre tread – about 6mm front and back – seems less than the K60s. We’ll see how it performs on the road to Morocco where, as long as it was dry and you rode accordingly, last year’s Husky TR650 managed pretty well on the Dunlop Trailmax tyres. I expect the Mitas to be a bit more sure-footed on the pistes.