Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Product Review: Rivendell Ruffy Tuffy 700x27c Kevlar tires

Update: I have had FIVE SIX flats on the GB Cypres 650b tires in approxmiately 5-600 miles of mostly road riding. Not a good track record so far.

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...


Jim G said...

You can't fit 32s and fenders on the Rambou? Damn. I'm pretty sure my Vent Noir will fit 'em, I'm going to find out pretty soon.

Gino Zahnd said...

Nope. With the Big Woods, the front barely fits, but the rear rubs a tiny bit using SKS fenders. Good luck!

After using the Ruffy Tuffies for so long, the GBC tires look HUGE...almost out of place. I'll be interested to do some climbing and descending later this week to see how they perform.

Unknown said...

I've been really interested in the Grosses Holz, but decided to hold off and try the Jack Brown's when they arrive. I've been a fan of the R/T, R/P profile since I first put 'em on my old Panasonic. Like you, they became my only "flatless" tires.

Aaron said...

Interesting post. I've been riding Ruffy Tuffies on my Romulus for countless miles and, like you, have never flatted, despite having pulled goatheads and shards of glass out on occasion. The Ruffy Tuffies just laughed at them and said "you're not getting in here."

However, in the interest of experimentation, I also switched tires recently, even though the RTs still have a lot of life left. But I went down a size, to the Panaracer Extreme Duro in 25mm. And so far they seem a lot faster than the RTs, while not being appreciably harsher, despite their smaller size.

The speed difference is clearly noticeable while climbing and on flats. With the Extreme Duros, the Romulus has become much quicker up hills, more responsive and fast on flats, and capable of quicker bursts of acceleration. But since I'm a general chicken shit on descents, I cannot comment on the ED's speed compared to the RTs, since I'm usually white knuckling the brakes in any case.

It makes me wonder what the RTs might be like if Rivendell came out with a version that employed the same casing and tread as the Extreme Duro, which doesn't have kevlar lining, but so far has been every bit as tough and flat-free.

Have you ever tried the Roll-y Pol-y? If so, how do they compare to the RT, in terms of harshness, speed, or durability?

Gino Zahnd said...

I've never tried the RP tires from Riv... anyone else care to comment?

Unknown said...

Great review, I love reading your stuff, alway informative and well written.

I may have to get a pair of those R/T's because changing a flat with fenders and panniers can be no fun.

Aaron said...

I may be switching back to my old, trusty Ruffy Tuffies really soon. I just got some of the new Jack Browns this past weekend -- green label, without the kevlar belt. They are certainly comfortable, but I had two flats in less than 25 miles -- a far cry from the RT's flawless record over many months and many hundreds of miles.

How are those Grand Bois treating you on the Rambo? Any recurrent problems with flatting like you had with the 650b version on your Bleriot?

Gino Zahnd said...

Well, sadly, the GB Cypres tires continue to flat. I've had four flats now since installing them.

They're smooth and fast, but apparently they're as tough as eggshells.

Unknown said...

Has a Ruffy Tuffy ever had a flat? Gino - 3000 miles no flats, Tony - 200 miles no flats (100 miles on the patchwork they call roads in Humboldt Co).

I'd love to hear what it took for your Ruffy Tuffy to flat, anyone?

Anonymous said...

I know a guy who was riding the R-T and loving it. Then a particular tire review was published, and he suddenly felt "as if a brake is dragging". He promptly bought the Big Wood tires and apparently likes them.

Gino Zahnd said...

I've tried the Big Wood now in both 650B and 700C. There had been so much hype (based on that certain article) that I figured I'd try them out.

So far, I've had six or seven flats, which, for me, outweighs any "performance benefits" the tire might provide. If I'm spending all that time changing flats, what good is any speed enhancement?

Once I wear these tires out, I'll either go back to the Ruffy or maybe test some other tire.

cyclotourist said...

I prefer Paselas to RTs. They roll faster. About the same speed as Col de la Via 650Bs do. The RTs just didn't "feel" so good when coming back to them...

josh said...

sorry for the long post:

I wish I had the same experience with my Ruffy Tuffies. While I do love the round profile and fun tread pattern of the tire, I have been less than impressed with puncture, speed, and comfort performance.

I've been running the R/Ts for about a year now, no idea of how many miles...they've moved between a few different wheels and a few different bikes, as well. Most of my punctures have been from glass, and in that year, I've had about 5 or 6. I am totally confident that this has something to do with riding on a college campus and in the surrounding college town, where apparently a fun pasttime on Thursday-Saturday nights is to throw bottles all over the place, so there tends to be a lot of glass around. That said, I do actively avoid it, but that hasn't stopped my flat issues. Most of the time, it would be TINY pieces that managed to get through the casing and belt and I wouldn't even realize I had gotten a flat until I was about to get on my bike to go to work or class a few hours later. One larger piece of glass made about a 3-4mm slash in the outer casing, which was heartbreaking when it happened because it was within the first month or so of having the tires. However, if memory serves, that shard never actually made it to the tube and was harmlessly removed. In my experience, it's the little tiny ultra-sharp glass shards that caused the most problems for me.

To me, when first using the tires, they felt a little slow, but they were a bit more comfortable than the cheap 25mm tires I had been using, so I didn't think much of it. I rode the bike for a few more months, and then converted it to a fixed gear and the R/Ts came along. But, after being frustrated with 2 flats in a very unlucky single day with the R/Ts, I decided to throw on set of Continental Gatorskins, a brand-new 25mm in the rear and a slightly used 28mm in the front, that my ex-roommate had left behind when he moved out.

From the first ride on the Contis, my old Raleigh felt like a new bike, far faster and more comfortable, even with the 25mm tire in the rear pumped to a higher pressure than I ever ran with the R/Ts (120psi vs. 90-100).

Incidentally, I noticed the sidewall on the front Gatorskin was bulging, so I replaced that with a like-new Serfas tire pulled from a bike I parted out, and rode that for a few flat-free weeks before having to sacrifice it for my girlfriend's Trek which needed a new front tire and couldn't fit the Ruffies that were now sitting in my storage bin. So, one R/T returned to my bike, and this made it apparent to me that the R/Ts were to blame in my case. I didn't notice a significant difference in speed, however, as I think what I was noticing was just the added difficulty of spinning the heavier R/T on the rear of my fixed-gear. But, since I found the Contis to be more comfortable and more flat-resistant, the fact that they are lighter and feel significantly faster to me eliminates the reason I bought the Ruffy Tuffies in the first place.

FWIW, I still have that Tuffy on the front of my bike, with the 25mm Gatorskin in the rear, and have had no flats since switching to the Continentals, and it's been probably about 2 months and I've been riding more than before.

Anonymous said...

My experience has been quite different than that described by hazyvariable. I too must ride through the "student ghetto" at the end of my 18km daily work commute and I ride over all kinds of glass shards (mostly broken beer bottles).

Since 1996, I have averaged around 5000 km (~3000 miles) per year and have had more than my share of flats (700 x 28c - 32c tires). Eventually I decided to switch to kevlar-belted tires and my bike shop ordered some relatively cheap tires (IRC Tandems). Those tires were great. Although I had several pinch flats, I only had two exterior puncture flats (and both of those were through the unprotected sidewall). Eventually the tread wore thin and the sidewalls started to disintegrate, so I had to discard them.

I had them replaced with generic tires (the original bike shop had gone out of business), and after a few years of switching between different brands of 'commodity tires' I decided to buy Continental Ultra Gatorskins. After only 50 miles, I had a puncture flat (a very nasty piece of copper wire through the belt). Needless to say, I was not impressed. After putting another 2000 miles on them I had another flat (the slow leak variety). After examining the tread carefully I saw many scars, small holes and pieces of glass embedded in the rolling surface. Some had even started to make their way through to the tube side of the casing. So I knew that it was time to change tires.

Early this summer I installed my RTs (after hearing lots of good things about them on blogs) and after almost 2200 miles I'm happy to report that I have not had a single flat (not even a pinch flat). My hope is to keep using them until the sidewall casings disintegrate (perhaps in another 5000 miles).

For me, performance is not an issue (I own a $300 hybrid). On weekdays I want a reliable tire so that I won't be late for meetings or lectures and on weekends I want a tire that will allow me to ride on the rough rural roads and mountainous trails that are plentiful in this region of Quebec. Moreover, on late fall nights when the temperature dips below the freezing mark, I don't want to have to patch a tube in the pitch dark far from any vestiges of civilization. So I will continue to put my faith in the RTs and try to report back on their performance.

ablejack said...

I've been riding Ruffy Tuffy tires on over 1000 miles of loaded touring and who knows how much urban commuting. So far, no flats. Knock on Bois!

bikecommuter said...

I promised to try to report back on my experience with the RTs (see my long post above). I'm happy to say that they have far exceeded my expectations.

I have put about 7200km (4500 miles) without a single flat! I haven't even had a pinch flat. The latter is somewhat miraculous because: 1) they usually only have a pressure of about 70psi or less (I have no shocks and I want a smoother ride); and, 2) about a month ago I went over the nasty lip of a sidewalk curve at too oblique of an angle and bent/cracked my rim (hoop crack). The sidewall of the tire withstood the blow but I had to immediately change the rim.

When I changed the (front) rim, I seriously debated whether I should use the new RTs that I had in reserve. The belt of my old front tire had a large number of big holes/slices in it and I even picked beer-bottle shards out of some spots.

Nonetheless I am still using my old RTs and hoping that they will continue to serve me well. At some point the sidewalls will disintegrate, but that may not happen for several thousand more kilometres. I will try to report back on this issue.

Conclusion: Amazing tire!

bikecommuter said...

After putting about another 300 km on my RTs after my last comment, I had my first flat (rear tire). Unfortunately it occured just before a scheduled meeting with a municipal permit inspector. Since I was only about 2km (about 1.5 miles) from the meeting venue, I decided it would be much faster to continue biking at a much reduced speed (as opposed to changing the flat on the trail). The rear RT performed admirably and I was only five minutes late. I could not find the reason for the puncture in the tube so I decided not to put on my new reserve pair of RTs.

I was hoping to get 10000 km (about 6500 miles) on the RTs but I had another rear tire flat late last night while biking home. The back tire has huge cuts and holes in the tread and I fear that very small, sharp pieces of rock are working their way through (most of my travel takes place on a trail composed of rock dust). So after about 8800 km (5500 miles), I'm thinking of replacing at least the rear tire.

Nonetheless, the empirical evidence clearly shows that the RTs are amazing tires.