Technical FAQ: Of tires, chains and tricks of the trade

Lennard Zinn's readers weigh in on ways to choose, fix and maintain tires and those super-narrow 11-speed chains.

Dear Lennard,
I’m a 6-foot-1 225-pound cyclist. Most tires have a graph showing the more you weigh, the higher the psi needed. I do stop at the maximum level on the sidewall.

Do I lose comfort and get a rough ride with every tire or can I choose the max PSI rated tire and put in a little less? Any recommendations for a comfortable ride for a larger rider? I use Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX and Rubinos.

Dear John,
I realize that they’re harder to find, but I think you’d roll faster and be more comfortable on 700 X 25C Open Corsa Evo CXs, rather than the 700 X 23C that I assume you’ve been riding.

Then you can run similar pressure as your smaller riding buddies without increased pinch flat risk. Vittoria claims that you will only pay a 10-gram penalty for this (210g vs. 220g), and it is certainly worth it for 10 grams. You still get the benefit of a supple, 320tpi casing but don’t defeat its suppleness by pumping it up so high.

You can also get the Rubino Pro in 700 X 25C and 700 X 28C, with a claimed weight penalty of 10g and 15g, respectively. At 150tpi, it’s not as supple of a tire, but it is also cheaper. I know you know that from riding on them already.

I’m willing to bet that if you find another guy your size and do roll-down tests alongside each other with the same tire model and pressure, the guy on the 700 X 25s will roll faster than the guy on the 700 X 23s.

You should also realize that it is the deflection of the tire that provides the comfort you seek (as well as the rolling performance), and you can get the same comfort at a higher pressure than a lighter guy because you squish the tire more on the same road. This is called “tire drop,” and a good rule of thumb for optimal rolling resistance is to have the tire drop be 15-percent of the tire size. The smaller the tire, the higher the pressure required to not exceed 15-percent tire drop. Frank Berto, one of cycling’s great tech gurus, came up with a chart for this umpteen years ago; find it here. As you can see, a big guy needs over 20psi more in a 700 X 23C tire than in a 700 X 25C one, and over 40psi more than in a 700 X 28C tire.

Follow-up on tubular patching

Dear Lennard:
As a former leather worker, one caution. Those excellent triangular needles may cut your thread when you sew the second pass. I always repaired tubs on my 1967 Bianchi Specialissima by using a regular needle and vise-grips. You break a needle once in a while, but it’s much easier on your hands, and saves the thread.

Finally, if you ever need to remove a splinter (sliver), triangular (“glovers”) needles are the best thing in the world!

Me, I use clinchers these days, but don’t race.

Dear Lennard,
I can’t believe you didn’t mention for tubular patching. Most of us lack the ability or the time required to repair a tubular. Ron at has been repairing tubulars for years and does an excellent job at a fair price and quickly. But rather than patching the tube he inserts a brand new tube and installs a new base tape as well.

He has options for standard and lightweight tubes, extended valves, valves with removable cores, and can even repair a base tape alone if that is all your tire needs. After spending $100 or more on a tire the $20 Ron charges for a new tube is a steal. I’ve found his turnaround time to be a week to 10 days and return shipping is included in his price.

Ron hasn’t given me anything for this endorsement; I’m just a happy customer.

Dear Lennard,
Thanks for the Q&A on tubular tire repair. Interesting comments by you and Tom. I have immense respect for you both, but I do have few different points to make.

Like you both, I have repaired hundreds of tubular tires and, like Tom, I often did the “two for one” deal so that I could continue to ride “tubies.” Now in my “old age,” I ride exclusively on tubies because I want the best ride, because any day on the bike is a great day and I want that ride to be the best ride if by chance it is my last! So, my points are:

“It makes no sense to patch a racing tire.” I disagree. If done correctly, a patched tire has the same integrity as a new tire and considering that a new tire can cost $150, you bet you are going to want to patch it to get more miles out of it!

“Using a needle for leather with a triangular cross section tip and braided high-test fishing line.” I agree on the needle, but I found that such fishing line cuts into the casing, causing it to stretch. I prefer waxed, dental ribbon (not floss).

“It’s permissible to cut it (the base tape) and overlap the ends.” One should never cut the base tape. The base tape supports the casing and by cutting it, you will guarantee a flat spot in the repaired tire.

The “only way to fix the tubular is to cut all seven feet of stitching, replace the tube, and re-sew …”. That is too dramatic and impractical a fix, and nobody could sew consistently enough to create an even casing and tread for seven feet of stitching. However, I applaud and I agree with Tom’s splicing technique.
Al Budris
President, Sidi America, Inc.

Hi Lennard,
I got a bit nostalgic over your post regarding fixing tubulars, and like one contributor, I fixed them regularly for others as a junior on a fix one/keep one basis, as that was the best way for me to afford good tires. With today’s sealants, tubular repair shouldn’t be as big a need, though I don’t know that sealants work well unless the tires are on the rim being ridden upon. At least that’s the way they’ve seemed to work best for me on clinchers.

Should anyone actually still want try tubular surgery, I liked to use two upholstery needles along with upholstery thread (or dental floss works quite well). I’d work both needles from each side of the tire stitching in a crisscross fashion so the threads made an “X” pattern. This allowed me to create tight and even tension, preventing any bulges in the casing under inflation. As long as I pulled the threading tight, you couldn’t even tell when a tire was patched, and the repair was good for the full tire life. One critical procedure was re-gluing the base tape. If you didn’t give it a good contact adhesion, it could separate from the tire.

I’ll also mention that the “glue-less” patches I’ve tried are worthless over time and should be avoided.


Follow-up on 11-speed links

Dear Lennard,
I have noticed a new Campy 11 speed specific Superlink from Licktons. Any experience or opinions? I had used a 10 speed version Lickton Superlink on an 11-speed chain last season without issues. I replaced the link twice during the 2000 mile life of the chain.

Huge advantage: I can remove the chain and clean it every tenth or so ride. I have a 600 watt ultrasonic cleaner and find this works really well. Sonicate for for fifteen minutes to remove huge amounts of grit and leaves the chain super clean. Solvent is mineral spirits or Gulf Pride BBQ starter fluid. Lubrication with Chain-L applied with a 5cc medical syringe and a blunt needle. Lube is applied in very small droplets directly to each link on both sides. Total volume of lube applied is only 2cc. I found that paraffin based lubes, Pro-Link Gold, Boeshield T-9 and others did not work nearly as well nor last very long.


Dear Graham,
I actually did not know about this one. That’s very cool.

Dear Lennard,
You probably will get a few of these, but how do recommend cleaning a chain on the bike? I have yet to find a better way than to remove the chain and clean it in parts washer or H2O bottle filled with citrus degreaser. Vigorously shake said bottle, rinse in hot water, and voila! Clean chain.

Dear Paul,
I recommend wiping and lubing your chain after every ride. Then it rarely gets dirty enough to need cleaning.

When it does get dirty, a chain cleaner like this works great.

The way pro team mechanics do it, by scrubbing it on the bike with a brush, gets solvent all over the place but obviously very effective, since you never see a cleaner bike than the bikes ready to race each day in an event like the Tour de France, no matter how sloppy it was the day before. And those guys do not remove chains for cleaning. In fact, Shimano aborted its planned inclusion of a master link with its Dura-Ace 7900 chains because pro team mechanics couldn’t see the point.

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Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (, a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”

Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn. Zinn’s column appears here each Tuesday.