Tyres are always a tricky choice. There’s innevitably compromises, and no one tyre will do everything brilliantly. Bear in mind that we’re miles from anywhere up in the Indian Himalayas, so don’t bring anything skimpy – best to err on the side of caution. Here’s some tyres that have worked for us – please add some comments if you have any ideas so everyone can have a look.
In the past, we’ve recommended Schwalbe Marathon XRs for laden, mixed terrain, puncture-free, reliable riding. There’s simply nothing to match them for all round touring duties, and it’s why they crop up on 90% of bikes in the Himalayas. However, they’re very heavy (up to 900g or so). While they roll relatively well on tarmac and can easily handle rough terrain too, people do complain they lack ‘bite’ at the front and can slide out. Although they’re really designed for heavily laden riding, this would be a good, no-nonsense, hassle-free tyre for both Manali to Leh and Sach Pass jeep supported trips.
But if you want something a little lighter or were planning to try out some of those linking singletrack goat trails (this is more for Manali to Leh), then more grip would be better, at the expense of some rolling resistance – a tyre like the Schwalbe Smart Sam or Bontrager XR. Of course, this means you need to be a little more careful, or bring a folding spare tyre if you’re worried.
The Spiti trip has the most challenging trails and is more off road, so mtb tyres are best here. In the past, we’ve run a mix by using a faster rolling tyre at the back with a shallower tread, and something more agressive at the front, to handle those slidey switchbacks and loose corners. But as much of this ride is on jeep tracks with a few smooth tarmac sections, there’s no need for anything too agressive and slow. 1.95 to 2.2in tyres or so would be good.
Here’s what some of these tyres look like:
They don’t get tougher than the XR. But you pay for this in weight. Make sure you get the Marathon XR – not the Plus or the Supreme. The 2in one is fine. Although, theoretically, it doesn’t roll as well as the 2.25, it’s a fair amount lighter and is perfectly comfortable off road.
The Big Albert is a chunkier tyre that works well up front on the Spiti ride… The Panaracer Trailblaster has been popular in the past too. Anything that can dig in on the sides.
Continue reading ‘Riding in India: a question of tyres…’