Schwalbe Kojak tyres

“Cheap rubber is not necessarily good rubber” was the advice I gave to a friend recently looking to buy new tyres for her hybrid; I suspect the same applies to spotty adolescents nervously buying condoms in the chemist too.

When you think about it, you can spend hours and hours mooching around bike shops, trying to figure out which bike is best for you: mountain bike, road bike, hybrid, BMX, cruiser, cyclocross, tourer, folder, singlespeed, fixie or hack…. And, there are probably some more. Then, you’ll probably spend as much time trying to settle on the colour of said bike and you’ll try on every helmet and pair of gloves in the shop but, and be honest, just how much attention do you pay to the tyres? I’ll wager it’s perhaps not as much as it could / should be.

Now, there is a lot of talk about how you shouldn’t ride a mountain bike on the road and you shouldn’t ride a road bike on the trails and you shouldn’t ride a Brompton at all; whilst I agree that Bromptons (in fact all folding bikes) should be banned for all eternity, I must say I conform more to the idea that you can ride whatever you like, wherever you like.

I ride a Merida Matts mountain bike from the 1990s with a rigid steel fork on the road… In fact, I ride it on road, off road and everything in between. Also, I ride a cyclocross bike with a rigid carbon fork (which is essentially a road bike with clearance for mud) off road so, it’s really not an exact science; very basically, the various types of bike will give you very different riding positions so it’s more about finding one that works for you.

The thing that really matters is the 2 small contact patches connecting you to whatever surface you happen to be rolling over and this is where the science really does make a difference; so, here are some basics to help you out:

  • Tarmac – The smoother and thinner the tyre, the smoother it’ll ride on the smooth surface; the same is true with tyre pressures, the higher the pressure, the smoother it’ll roll. Beware, however, that the narrower and higher pressure the tyre gets, the less it’ll deform over lumps and bumps so the ride will be less comfortable but much more efficient.
  • Mud – If you want to get down and dirty, it’s quite the opposite; you want something wide and knobbly to grab hold of whatever it can in the squishy stuff. Equally, a lower pressure will help the tyre to deform under load and assist with the grabbiong onto stuff, giving you more traction than you thought was even possible.
  • Gravel – Now, I hate to break this to you but nothing, nothing actually grips on gravel surfaces but there are some semi-slick / semi-knobbly type tyres that help move some of the gravel out of the way and grip the hardpack underneath. Choosing something with a smooth central section and knobbly ‘shoulders’ run at a mid range pressure and spending some time working on your riding style will give you the confidence you need to safely navigate the loose stuff. There’s absolutely no shame in slowing down; it’s much more fun than face surfing!
  • Snow – Again, very little will provide much in the way of real grip here but a good quality knobbly tyre suited to deep, wet mud will work great on fresh, soft snow. There are also specialist snow tyres with metal studs that will bite into hard packed ice but these are very expensive and not for the average cyclist, in my humble opinion.
  • Sand – Now, I can’t say I’ve ever actually ridden on sand but, as I understand it, the only way to go is with the widest, lowest pressure tyre you can lay your hands on. Surly and Salsa are now building ‘fat bikes’ specifically for this klind of riding; very cool indeed but again, very specialist kit.

So, what do I ride? Well, on my go-everywhere-do-everything Merida, I run 26 x 2.00″ Schwalbe Kojak slicks at 70 – 80psi which give me an incredibly comfortable, stable, predictable ride.

I love my Kojaks so much, I had a custom wheel built for my BOB Yak and bought a 16 x 1.25″ version which has significantly reduced the rolling resistance over the awful knobbly tyre that came with it as stock.

What I simply can’t explain with science (or anything else) is the awesome grip level these tyres give in all conditions. I’ve ridden them on really hot days when they seem to almost stick to the road, freezing cold, icy days when they seem to… well, they almost stick to the road and, because I live in Manchester, I’ve ridden them in just about every type of rain there is from the annoying fine stuff that makes the roads greasy right through to full on monsoon rain and, you’ve guessed it, they just stick to the road! I suspect it’s the larger than average contact patch but they’re as predictable in cold and wet conditions as they are in hot and dry ones.

With Schwalbe’s excellent Raceguard puncture protection, they’re also bombproof and mine have reflective tyre labels so they give me the much needed side on visibility I need for commuting in the dark without a full on reflective sidewall – very cool indeed.

With a little skill and an awful lot of courage, they’re also great on gravel paths and they’ll even handle hardpack dirt without any problems. They suck like a $2 whore in any kind of mud, though. You have been warned.

14 thoughts on “Schwalbe Kojak tyres

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  6. I’ve been trying to work out what the difference is between the brompton and schwalbe kojak tyres. as far as i can see, the brompton has a different bead (?kevlar) which means it’s foldable, whilst the schwalbe one has a wire bead. The brompton one appears to be lighter, bt do you know if there are any other differences? thanks

    • Hi Shaumik, thanks for stopping by!

      I’ve never used the Brompton version of the Schwalbe Kojak but from what I can tell the only real differences are the ones you point out; with the Kevlar bead, they’re a bit lighter and foldable which, if you’re really worried about saving weight or maybe carrying a spare tyre around, is a bonus.

      It might just be a new design for this year but I think the Brompton version also comes with a reflective strip running around the whole tyre whilst the regular one just has reflective tyre labels.

      Other than that, the rubber compound, size, puncture protection and everything else is exactly the same from what I can tell.

      For me, the wire bead version (which is considerably cheaper) works perfectly fine so I guess it’s a matter of personal preference with the small amount of extra visibility and weight advantage.

      Hope this helps – let us know what you decide to go for.

  7. What size rims are those on your Merida; they look rather narrow. By size I mean the inner width. I’m thinking about getting Kojak 2.00s for my commuter. My rims have an inner width of 19 mm. People have advised me that the 200s will work but that I have to be very careful about my tire pressure: too high and the rim may fail; too low and the tire may roll off the rim.

    • Hi David, unfortunately I sold that Merida a while ago so I can’t measure the rims. They were really wide though; it was a set of Onza Half Fat wheels which (according to the interwebs) are 31.4mm wide but I also used the same tyres on a set of Ritchey Rock Comp which were much narrower (probably close to your 19mm rims).

      I used to run them at the higher end of the pressure range and never had any problems. The whole too high / too low thing is true for every wheel and tyre combo in my experience but I’d say you shouldn’t have any problem running a 2″ tyre on a 19mm wide rim – seems like a fairly standard setup to me.

      • Oh, by the way, I currently run 2.2″ tyres on what Halo describe as a 24mm rim; I think that’s measured from the outside edges. I’ve run them everywhere from 50 – 85 psi without any problems.

  8. Thanks much for the input. The Kojaks are ordered on the way. I’ll let you know how I like the tires, but it won’t be soon because I’m essentially going to rebuild the bike when the tires arrive. After I’ve ridden some miles on the rebuilt bike with the Kojaks, I’ll give you some feedback.

  9. Why did you have to rebuild your Bob Yak wheel for the Schwalbe Kojak’s? Were the stock rims too narrow to accommodate the Kojak’s? Thanks

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