If you’ve been around vintage British three speeds enough, you’ll know that they use a “peculiar” tire size: colloquially referred to as 26″ x 1 3/8″, it’s also known as 650A, ISO 590, and EA3. This “twenty-six inch” tire is not the same as the “standard” 26″ tire common today, usually found on mountain bikes and balloon tire cruisers. Though way back when, 26″ x 1 3/8″ was considered the “standard” 26″ tire size. But those days are long gone.
Anyways, 26″ x 1 3/8″ tires are not as plentiful as they used to be, as many consider this to be a “dead” tire size. There are a decent amount of “okay” options in this size, but few truly great offerings. Many consider the Panaracer Col de la Vie tires to be the “best” option in this size, so last year I went through the trouble of obtaining a pair for my Raleigh Wayfarer. (They aren’t easy to find, believe me.)
At first I really liked them. The tan sidewall and “brick” tread pattern screamed “classic”. And yeah, they did feel a bit zippier than the Schwalbe Delta Cruisers they replaced. I believed the hype for a moment.
Then I ran into the problem when lightweight supple tires that have a max pressure rating of 45 PSI runs up against my fat ass and the weight I put on the bike: flat tires. At first the occasional flat was just part of the deal of “supple” tires. Then it seemed the tires flatted every time I needed to count on the bikes, especially any time I left town with the bike. And most of these punctures were of the minuscule, slow-leak, impossible-to-detect-the-source variety. Pinch flats? Small piece of glass that quickly fell of the tire after the damage done? I didn’t know, and soon, I stopped caring. I just knew I needed to get rid of the tires.
So now I’m back to Schwalbe Delta Cruisers, the “next best” tire in the 26″ x 1 3/8″ selection. Yes, these were the tires that were on the Wayfarer before the Col de la Vies. Yes, they have a reputation for being on the heavy side (though not as heavy as people like to think they are), but they do look cool, and best of all, the flatting rate goes way down. (I think I had a handful of flats over the course of three years, vs. three months with the Col de la Vies.) I went again for cream color because they do look sexy. (I do realize that they make tan sidewalls in the Delta Cruisers, but I already had one unused cream tire, so buying one tire is cheaper than two.)