06 May 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Maxxis Re-Fuse tires

I hate getting flats. Nothing has the potential to interrupt a good ride, on road or off, like the ffft-ffft-ffft-ffft of a punctured tire. At the least, it means a 5-10 minute repair. More often, though, it's a messy job performed with frustratingly insufficient little pumps, aged (and sometimes pre-punctured) tubes and (on really bad days) cold, driving rain. Before moving to the desert (and a city where roadside broken glass is endemic), I wasn't a big fan of sealant or puncture resistant tires. Oh how things change. Sure, puncture-resistant tires are heavier, more expensive and don't ride or corner as well as their softer counterparts. Sealant-filled tubes can be messy, heavy and fail as often as they work. That said, it doesn't matter how light or fast standard tubes and tires are if they aren't holding air. You can still win a race or get to work on time with heavy tires- not flat ones.

Enter Maxxis' Re-Fuse. It's a folding bead tire with both a woven Kevlar belt and what Maxxis calls their "Silkworm" cap. Details are sketchy, but it's a material that's claimed to increase puncture resistance, cut resistance and rolling efficiency. It has a knurled tread, is intended to be the company's most bombproof training tire and comes in at a reasonable 245g (700x23c). Pricing is a very reasonable $31.

For a while, I believed that these were the bees knees. They ride well enough and can be ridden fearlessly through all manner of road debris. Despite using them on two commuting bikes (fixed and geared) 3-4 days/week for past two years, I have zero flats. None. Once, while a bike was in the stand, I noticed a cut in the tire with something in it. I used a dental pick to fish out a piece of glass that had installed itself between the casing and tread rubber. Looking harder, I found three or four others. Still, no flats. That's pretty darn badass. Compared with other puncture-resistant tires, the Re-Fuse ride pretty darn well and aren't nearly as scary in corners. Several years back, working as a messenger, I laid a bike out and slid across traffic and in front of an oncoming limo. I still place blame (at least in part) on a pair of "puncture-proof" tires' stiff casing and their hard rubber tread hard rubber. It wasn't fun and is something I'd like very much to avoid repeating. Compared to the competition, the Re-Fuses are very confidence inspiring, both in wet and dry conditions.

Recently, though, I've started to see problems with the Re-Fuses I'm riding and have recommended to others. Nobody's complaining about the puncture resistance, but Maxxis seem to be having trouble getting the rubber to stick to the casing. A co-worker recently pointed out a 3in x 1/4in section of the tire with no tread- it had come completely away and he was riding on the woven casing. No flats, but that shouldn't happen- an exposed section of rubber-free casing can mean (at best) unpredictable cornering. Of course, taking photos of my tires for this review, I found a similar section on my commuter. After about 700 miles, my tire had to go in the bin. That's far too soon, in my opinion, regardless of a tire's price. The mating tire had a number of wrinkles where the rubber looks to be decomposing (see second photo). Again, no flats, but it doesn't speak well for the tires' lifespan.

It's a shame- my first set or two of the Re-Fuse had none of these problems. Hopefully, Maxxis has just had a bit of a production hiccup and already remedied the problem. I will be trying to get mine warrantied, but am not holding my breath (tire warranties are a hard thing). If they can get the rubber to stick to what has proved to be a bombproof casing, they'll have one of the best tires available for folks in thorn, glass or goathead infested areas.




Matt said...

Shouldn't there be a statement in this report somewhere that says you ride a Fixie and skid a lot? ;-)

bikefix said...

While this tire is on my fixie, I don't skid- too hard on the knees... I've had the same problem on geared road bikes, so wouldn't tie it to bike style... How's the snow up there? Let me know when you decide to move back to the desert... ;)