Readers know that I’m a huge fan of Veloflex tubular tires; I’ve ridden probably 60K miles on them in the past 8 years, going through at least 60 tires (I’ve lost count), and I know how each model performs (Record, Sprinter, Criterium, Roubaix, and now Vlaanderen).
See review of the Veloflex Vlaanderen now includes extensive ride notes.
Tomorrow July 18, I’m doing the Alta Alpina 8-Pass Challenge club ride (50 qualified riders max, the usual late-June yearly event was canceled due to forest fires). Which tire to run on the front?
Front tire choice for a double century involves competing considerations:
- Risk of flats.
- Handling and traction.
- Comfort and stability for fast downhills, including behavior when hitting unexpected pavement cracks and other road hazards, particularly when fatigued and a bit less alert.
- Rolling resistance and weight.
For years my tire of choice for the front for events where I care about time and finish standing has been the Veloflex Sprinter which offers outstanding performance and low weight. When I felt the risk of flats was lower, the Veloflex Record was preferred for even lighter weight and quicker handling (front only, Sprinter on the rear).
After about 1000 miles with the Vlaanderen including usage on Sierra Nevada roads, I’ve concluded that its ~60 gram weight penalty over the Sprinter is well worth it. Moreover it seems to shrug off flats; I’ve not even had a pinhole leak as yet*. And hitting hidden cracks and such on a few occassions has shown just how nice the 27C volume can be. The large contact patch and spherical tire shape makes for superb handling on turns of any kind. The extra mass and contact patch adds a distincly more stable feel on high speed dowhnills (40+ mph), to the point that I feel comfortable at significantly higher speeds than with the lighter Sprinter and Record (and in the back of my mind is the more robust casing and higher volume for surprises at speed).
Bottom line: the sum total of the Veloflex Vlaanderen characteristics has persuaded me to use it for this Alta Alpina , in spite of its ~60g extra weight over the 20,500' of climbing.
Update, post-event: The Vlaanderen as a front tire just rocks as discussed above. Handling, comfort, rolling resistance, high speed descents—impressive. I think it will be my tire of choice for this type of event.
Outstanding handling and ride quality aside, the Vlaanderen allows me to descend significantly faster by perhaps ~5 mph. The large contact patch and ~+60g mass adds a stability over the Sprinter that to me really makes a difference in the feeling of being “hooked up” to the road, especially if there is buffeting wind or uneven pavement.
* For a double century, I generally use 1 fluid ounce (1/2 tube) of Stans NoTubes as a precaution in both front and rear tires (in advance); it’s no fun peeling a tire in a double century and the sealant usually makes pinhole punctures a non-event. This adds about 30 grams per tire, which makes the tire weight difference even less relevant in percentage terms.