Tires are the most important component of your bike. Supple high-end tires roll faster and are more comfortable. A set of great tires transforms your bike’s feel. The down side is that high-end tires can be more fragile than sturdy utility tires.
How durable are Grand Bois tires in particular? They have no problems on amazingly rough terrain – even the 32 mm-wide Cypres can handle almost any gravel road, and the wide Hetres (see above) work fine even in rocky terrain.
What about flats and tread wear?
Last year, I kept track of my mileage on a brand-new Grand Bois Cypres 700C x 32 mm tire. The tire was mounted on the rear, which carries the most weight and provides all the bike’s propulsion, so it gets about twice as much wear as the front.
I rode the tire for 4512 km (2820 miles) on the rear wheel until the tread became very thin. During this time, the tire had three flats. Two occurred in quick succession between kilometers 2500 and 3000. The third was on the tire’s last ride: I knew the thread was thin, but for the purposes of this experiment, I wanted to ride the tire until it got another flat. On the front, with an older tire of the same model, I had a single flat during this period. All these flats occurred on debris-strewn shoulders of major roads. I didn’t have any flats on the many miles of gravel and backroads that I rode.
While I don’t enjoy flat tires, fixing one every few months is a small price to pay for all of those days of better ride quality and higher speed. Besides, even “puncture-resistant” tires have flats once in a while.
If I had rotated my tires from front to rear to equalize wear, then my set of Grand Bois Cypres tires would have lasted about 6000 km (3750 miles). On a bike with fenders, rotating your tires and riding the more worn tire on the front is a good idea, as you easily can see that tire’s tread, whereas the rear tire tread is hidden inside the fender. Whether you rotate your tires or not, don’t ride your tire until the tread has worn down to the casing. You’ll get more flats as the tread gets very thin, and eventually, the tire will blow out with potentially dire consequences.
Wider tires last even longer, because they spread the wear over more rubber. Ryan’s Grand Bois Hetre tires lasted a bit over 8000 km (5000 miles) on all kinds of roads. (That is his tire in the photo above.) He did switch the worn rear tire to the front to equalize wear.
With the many hours of enjoyment I get out of a set of high-end tires, I consider the tires money well spent. At 25 km/h (16 mph), 6000 km represents 240 hours… so the additional cost of two high-end tires comes to about 30 cents an hour. If you want to save money on tires, get a bike designed for wider tires. Wider tires don’t cost much more, but they last significantly longer. They also provide an even better ride and get fewer flats.