Friday, January 10, 2014

Christmas Gift Review: Bontrager AW3 Hard Case Tire

When Santa asked what I wanted for Christmas this year, I couldn't help but ask for a hard case bike tire for my front wheel. Nerdy, but hopeful? You bet. This was my "Official Red Ryder, Carbine Action, Two-Hundred Shot Range Model Air Rifle" for the gifts of 2013.

I've been a bicycle commuter in the Upstate for 3 years this February, and the conditions I ride on a daily basis are pretty rough. Debris-covered roads and shoulders. Rough pavement conditions. There's been a few too many times I've reached for my bike for my morning commute only to find a flat tire, and have had to change plans at the last minute.

A few years ago I came across the hard-case tires upon recommendation from a local bike shop manager. I gave it a try, and there was no looking back. Over the last several months I decided that I wanted an upgrade so that both wheels would be rolling with hard cases. So, when Santa asked with this girl wanted for Christmas, I requested a bike tire. Not too sexy...unless you get excited about the idea of fixing a flat less often - like I do.

Christmas morning I spied a circular-hoop-like object under the tree, and squealed with delight when I opened the Bontrager AW3 Hard-Case tire. With the promise of a sleeker, sturdier and more-responsive-in-rain tire, I was ready to give this thing a try.

Bontrager Hard-Case vs my previous bike tire.
Notice there's less knobbiness, but still tread on the
hard case. Can't wait to get rolling!
To inspire warm weather riding during the Polar Vortex of 2014, I decided to get my hands dirty and switch out my old tire for the new hard case. With a little hard work, using our dining room as a temporary bike-garage, I put things together. The wheel was removed, dissembled, reassembled with the new tire and pumped back up. Twice. I popped the first tube from too pumping too much air pressure. Interesting to note that though the hard case tire read 55-100 PSI, the tube popped at around 60. The second time around I was careful, and stopped once the gauge read 55 PSI.

Bike-Tire Air-Pumping Action Shot.
(If you notice the black figure in the bottom right corner of the photo, that's our puppy Owen. He likes to be in the middle of the action. He was "helping" me put air in the tire.) One of the coolest things I noticed about the tire was the word "Direction" with an arrow to indicate which way the tire should turn to achieve the best riding experience. Bicycle part designers and engineers are getting pretty fancy, if you ask me. Wouldn't it be nice if everything in life was this clear?

This way for a smoother ride.

Once the weather clears up, I'm excited to have the rubber meet the road and give this new wheel a spin. I'm interested to see if I'll notice a difference riding with a less knobby tire. I'm hoping that there will be fewer flats, too. (Fingers, crossed, right?)

Did any of you ask and receive any bicycle-related gifts for Christmas or the holidays? Or did you give any to your friends or family? I would be interested to hear. Please share!

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