11 year old rubber isn't the safest option when you consider the critical importance of tires to your riding experience. Not wanting to take my chances I opted for fresh tires and went with a decidedly on-road approach since I have a set of dirt ready wheels ready to go if the mood strikes. The new tires are mainly for the daily commute, and for better grip in the wet, foggy conditions that often occur in San Francisco.
I set about removing the rear wheel and eventually got the old tire off. I decided to save the old tube to use as a spare and installed a new one along with the new Bridgestone Battlax rear. I muscled on that new tire and thought I was being careful but the narrowness of the wheel combined with the depth of the rim made it tricky to see just how the tube was situated. Inflating the tire to seat the bead revealed a large leak right at the valve stem. I had to backtrack and remove the new tube, replace it with the old one, and try, ever so carefully, to get the tire back on. This time I adjusted the tube every few minutes while carefully levering the new rubber into place. It really is just a matter of technique and patience.
In the fading light, I decided to swap out the front too. Having learned my lesson, I took my time and took special care with the new tube while reinstalling. I had to inflate the tire to over 60 psi to get the bead to seat properly, but once on it held pressure and the job was done.
The next morning I headed out into Marin County on the Bolinas-Fairfax Road. It's a favorite of mine and has enough curves to scrub in a new set of tires on one 60 mile round trip. I planned to meet some friends at the Bolinas Museum to walk them through my latest exhibition "The Ceiling of Our Day."
I was surprised to find it had rained in the early morning hours and the roads were wet. New tires are already slippery because of the release agent used when formed at the factory. Even on dry roads caution is generally encouraged. Undaunted, I set out with great care and gingerly made my way out to highway 80.
When I hit the San Rafael Bridge, which is heavily grooved, the new tires started dancing. It felt like the wheels had come loose and the bike was shimmying under me. The dual-sport tires I had on never behaved like this but I knew it was normal for grooves to impart this kind of wiggle so I relaxed into it and all was well.
The other nice thing about this road is the lack of traffic. Even on the outskirts of a major city like San Francisco, you are unlikely to encounter more than 4 or 5 cars along this 10 mile stretch.
After it scales the backside of Mount Tamalpais, the road descends in a flurry of twists down toward Bolinas Lagoon.
My friends and I spent some time in the show and got to catch up over lunch and discussions of architecture, education, nature and the arts. Inspiring conversations with terribly bright and kind individuals of great vision.
We watched a few Osprey and Harbor Seals at the mouth of the Lagoon and said our goodbyes. I buzzed back along Highway One, the road baked dry by the sun and the bike handling beautifully along the cliffs and sweeping coastal hills.