Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on February 26th, 2014 at 9:41 am
This review was written by Scott Kocher, a Portland-based trial lawyer whom I met while biking in Forest Park last year. He's also an alternate member of the City of Portland Pedestrian Advisory Committee and a dedicated transportation activist.
LIT 360 Ultra-Reflective Road Tire (Retail: $49.99)
It’s impressive that Portland-based Velo Products took the crowd-funding route to make their LIT Tires concept a reality. The tires themselves are equally impressive.
I pre-ordered a pair last April because the company is local, they partnered to support the BTA with their sales, and the tire design has Portlanders’ needs in mind. As the months ticked by, I got e-mail updates, mostly describing manufacturing snags. At one point they offered to refund our money because of the delays. I stuck it out, and my tires arrived last week. I’m glad I did.
The advertised stats are:
- 700x28 Aramid-bead, Folding
- Puncture Protection Layer
- Long-Life Tread Compound
- Ultra-Reflective 9mm Sidewall
- Weight 250g
They are true to spec. They weigh within my scale’s margin of error of the claimed weight. If you care, they’re only about 25 grams heavier than a 25mm Continental Grand Prix 4000s clincher, a stellar tire found on many race bikes including mine. As for width, the LITs measure almost exactly the same as the generously-sized 25mm Continentals, and the same as a 28mm Schwalbe Marathon Supreme or a 28mm Panaracer RiBMo PT. They fit fine in a standard road bike rim brake caliper and should fit any frame except some extremely narrow TT or aero frames.
The LITs mounted easily without tools on my Weinmann XC-260 rims (ETRTO 622x20). The beads seated in the rim evenly when inflated, and they spin without any lumps. The reflective stripe on the LITs is wide and even, putting the one on my pricey Schwalbe Marathon Supreme to shame. The stripe is especially nice with disc brakes, which don’t get the sidewalls dirty like rim brake pads do when wet.
So far, I’ve put the LIT Tires to the test on two hilly rain rides, on roads littered with storm debris. They performed extremely well. Most importantly, they have excellent grip on wet asphalt. To the touch, the compound feels grippy, not the waxy texture I’ve learned to avoid. The casing is supple but not thin, and the ride feels similar to other tires of similar width and weight. Compared to a 23mm tire, the extra volume certainly adds comfort and reliability. Given that the speed penalty—or possibly gain—of a wider tire is a topic of current debate, the 28mm LITs should be a popular choice. The tires appear well-made, so I’m optimistic about durability and flat-protection.
Targeted at the urban commuter market, the LIT Tires would also be an excellent choice for year-round touring or training. The highly reflective sidewalls are a nice feature any time or place. As with any retro-reflective material, they only help with visibility by reflecting light back to its source. That means they’re great to help a person driving a car see you when you are in the car’s headlights.
Bottom line, congratulations and thank you to the folks at Velo Products for getting a great product to market. I look forward to getting another pair of them down the road.
Publisher's Note: I've also used these tires and I've learned more about them from company.
Velo Products is a new company owned by Portland-based Velotech. Velotech also owns the Western Bike Works retail store at NW 17th and Lovejoy and several e-commerce sites including WesternBikeWorks.com, BikeTiresDirect.com, and Cyclocross.com. The LIT tires were designed and developed by Velo Products employees and made in Europe. The tires are just the first product in what's expected to be a full line of "reflective accessories and urban riding gear" to come, says a company spokesman.
I received a pair of the tires last week. I echo Scott's enthusiasm for both the tires and the company; but I do want to share an important caveat.
I used the tires for a big ride last Sunday down to Salem where I took part in the 50-mile "Gravel Grinder" ride (a.k.a. the "Perry Roubaix"). On the 70-mile ride to the start of the loop ride, the tires were great. Since the first two hours of my ride were before sunrise, I loved having the big reflective sidewalls and the tires themselves felt fast and stable.
Once on the gravel ride, however, things changed dramatically. I flatted right as the gravel started (most of the route was gravel). I chalked it up to just bad luck, repaired the tire, and went on my way. Then I got another flat a few miles later. Then another one. Then another. By the end of the day, I had pulled over 6 times to repair a total of 11 punctures: five in the front and six in the rear. All of them were classic snake-bites caused by sharp rocks.
I didn't flat once on the pavement during the all-day ride which totaled 182 miles once we rode home from Salem after the Gravel Grinder.
In hindsight, it seems I chose the wrong tires for the conditions. Velo Products says the tires are for "training and winter commuting." Not only does Velo Products not recommend them for gravel riding, but the type of gravel we encountered down in Salem was particularly sharp and nasty on tires. I heard there were a lot of flats on Sunday.
I told Patrick Croasdaile at Velo Products about my experience. After asking a bunch of questions about my set-up, he conferred with his design team and sent over this statement:
"We do not recommend using the current iteration of the LIT for gravel riding. This tire was designed as a performance-oriented, road, training tire. We suspect that, based on the sheer number of pinch flats, the tires were not adequately inflated. Once we have a 700x32 in production, we'll encourage you to give this a go again."
(And yes, as you can see below and in our sidebar, Velotech/Western Bike Works, is a BikePortland advertiser.)