Also, in the first mile and a half of riding the Grand Bois Cerf 700x28 tire, the tire was punctured by a mystery object and rendered useless. These results don't bode well for Big Wood, my friends.
Carry on, and the original post is below.
The Rivendell-designed and Panaracer-made Ruffy Tuffy might be the best 700c tire in the world for sub-28mm-width reliability and, um, tuffness. Today, I reluctantly pulled my first pair off the rims of my Rivendell Rambouillet after 3,000 miles of hard use on and off road. I could have easily asked another 1,000 or more miles out of them, but I like to test products, and I was tired of looking down at the squared-off rolling surface of the front tire (which used to be the back tire).
Most remarkable is that in those 3,000 miles of riding northern California's goathead-laden roads and trails, I never had a single flat tire. I've pulled out countless goatheads, glass shards and other pointy bits; the kevlar belt is doing its job. The tire casing is shredded, but never a flat.
Ride Quality and Handling
When new, the tire is lovely, round and bulbous, like any good-and-fast tire should be. Compared to any 23-25c tire, the Ruffy Tuffy is legions above in terms of comfort. The only speed concern I've faced whilst riding this tire had to do with the engine turning it, and not the tire itself. I've read reviews and "scientific articles" on blogs and various publications that talk about how the Ruffy Tuffy's ride is harsh or slow, but to that I ask: What are you comparing it to? Please.
The tire has a fun checkerboardy pattern, which, while it does not add ridable value, it is certainly nice to look at when you're at the coffee shop or brewery after your ride (or before your ride!). On the other hand, the über-round aforementioned bulbousness of the tire inspires confidence, and even when bombing down steep and twisty roads (like Chico's Centerville Rd.) at 40mph, I never once felt trepidation to lay the bike down as far as I could to dig into any corners. In fact, I felt more comfortable going through sandy/gravely patches in turns than I ever did on smaller tires. Is bigger better? Maybe, to a point.
What's next? Well, I have Big Wood.
At the risk of falling into the Frenchy-frenchy fad that is currently underway in certain factions of the cycling community, I am going to try the Grand Bois Cyprés 700x32c tire. I like testing products, and until I absolutely stick on something (like the Brooks B17 Champion Special), I like to test out different products and setups until I find what's right for me. I'm excited to give the 700c model of the Grand Bois, which by the way in English means Big Wood, a go.
I have the Grand Bois Cyprés 650b tires on my Blériot, and thus far my results have been mixed. In short, the ride quality is quite great and handling is superb, but I've flatted twice in about 500 miles. I like to not worry about flatting when I ride, and I'll even take a little bit of weight in exchange for durability. But maybe I've hit a spot of bad tire luck on that bike, so I'm not casting judgement quite yet. More miles will tell.
One thing I've already noticed with the 700x32 Grand Bois is that it will not fit with a fender on my Rambouillet. It is a true 32mm, so they say, and on the Rambo, there isn't quite enough clearance for such a big tire. Come rainy season here in Northern California, the fenders and new Ruffy Tuffies will be reunited with the Rambouillet, and the Big Wood will be flaccid and shelved for the winter...