I remember getting my first ‘proper’ racing bike, a blue and chrome Colnago from Whisker’s in Kilburn. They took one look at my scrawny frame and said “right, you need a pair of 19mm tyres”. Ever since then I’ve always ridden on skinny tyres, because Alan – the grumpiest salesman you could meet, but who was always good to me – said I should.
Fast forward a few years and I finally made the leap to 23mm tyres and amazingly, I didn’t go any slower – although I was sure that somewhere, Alan was sadly shaking his head. Most readers will no doubt be aware of the current trend towards tyres and rims getting wider. Some of this is down to improved aerodynamics, with rim and tyre creating a unified aero component, and the rest is down to improved performance due to slightly increased grip, reduced rolling resistance and increased comfort.
Whatever the reason I had avoided anything fatter than a 23mm, as being too fat; fine for a training tyre, fine for tourists and commuters, but not something that a dyed in the lycra roadie would ever have on their race bike. Ok so maybe if your were riding a cobbled classic it might be permissable, but that was the one exception…
Last year I rode the Omloop Van Der Dries Dorpen, a League of Veteran Racing Cyclists event. Although its name may smell of moules et frites, it actually takes place just to the south of Birmingham. What the organisers have done is to create a race that has the flavour of a North European race, without all the bother of having to actually cross the Channel.
With forty per cent of the race being run over farm tracks, this is the one event where I could run a pair of fat tyres without being accused of being a tourist!
My tyre of choice was the Clement Strada LGG. Clement is a name with a long history to it. Production first started back in 1888 in France, before a move to Italy after the First World War. The final move was to a manufacturing plant in Thailand during the eighties, where it slowly ran down until being picked up again in the 90’s.
During their long run, Clement tyres were used by riders like Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, and Ole Ritter. According to company history “more Tour de France and single day Classics were won on Clement tires than any other tire in the world.” Not a bad recommendation.
The Strada LGG – LGG is the airport code for Liege, Belgium – comes in a variety of widths and types. There are tubular and clincher versions, although the tub only comes in 25mm width. You also get a choice of 60 or 120TPI, with the 120TPI version having a dual compound tread and a puncture protection layer. You can also go all retro and get tan sidewalls in some options.
I went for a 28mm, 120TPI dual compound tyre, tipping the scales at 238g each, pretty good for a tyre this wide. My reasoning was that I was going to need something with a deep cross section that would lessen the chance of pinch punctures and take some of the sting out of the rough road surfaces. With such a wide tyre you’ll have to make sure you have enough room, but as I was using my ‘cross bike this wasn’t a problem.
First impressions of the Strada LGG are good, it feels light, soft and supple and mounts easily to the wheel. First ride I make the obvious error and run them at the same pressure I always do, 120psi. After banging around on an incredibly hard tyre, I realise my mistake and drop the pressure to 100psi. Instantly the Strada LGG feels much better. Since then I’ve gone down to 90psi and they still feel fast; you’ll probably have to play around with pressure to see what suits you.
Any worries about the Strada LGG being a sluggish commuting tyre are left behind on the first ride, it feels like a proper race tyre! With it’s light weight and all that wide tyre goodness behind it, it’s a great tyre.
The first real test is the Omloop, at 32 miles it’s hardly Classic in length, but the farm tracks make up for the lack of distance. Switching from tarmac to broken brick, gravel, grass and rutted hard pack, the Strada LGGs didn’t falter. With riders dropping out from punctures all around, we sailed majestically on without stopping. Grip is good even when light rain starts to fall.
Cornering was a little sketchy due to the rims I was using being only 19mm wide. This pulled the tyres into a very round section, which meant when cornering hard you would get to a point where they would feel like they were rolling right over. Changing onto wider rims has got rid of this, making cornering much more predictable.
Since then I have used the Strada LGG for club runs, some long commutes and early season sportives, where they have helped me on to gold times with their speed and ability to soak up some frankly horrible road surfaces. The Velopace Spring Classic route was particularly bad, with broken roads, mud and stream crossings, but the Strada LGG’s saw me through all of them puncture free.
In almost a year’s riding the tread is in very good condition, considering the type of riding I have put them through. The puncture protection obviously did its job, while still providing a fast ride. I would happily run these as race tyres, although my road bike would have trouble squeezing them in, so it will have to be the 25mm version.
If you are looking for a fast, fat tyre, then the Clement Strada LGG is all you need.
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