VEE TIRE CO BALDY TYRES
700x32c tyre 519g £32.99 each
The VEE Tire Co Baldy 700x32c tyre are described as an “excellent city tyre with a tread pattern designed for urban use”. Far from a one trick pony, by my reckoning, these make dependable training rubber, with scope for some lightweight/weekend touring too.
Pros: Reasonably quick, yet reliable and seemingly rugged
Cons: Less compliant ride than some, 32mm section only option for UK audience.
Dependability is the theme here. We are talking 72tpi casings, not the fastest perhaps - quite apparent coming from a comparable 120tpi competitor. Don’t construe that to mean the baldy are sluggish, they’re not.
Talking of which, looking at the semi-slick tread, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Baldy moniker a bit odd. I did. However, I’m told this is the MPC (Multi-purpose compound), a fairly hard compound designed with “all terrains” and longevity in mind.
Superior resistance to cuts and premature wear caused by rocks, glass and similar sharps. A bomb-proof aramid belt continues this theme; albeit lacking the same degree of protection as their Zilent stablemates or Schwalbe’s Smartguard system.
On the subject of beads, ours were the wire version but there is a folding counterpart, ost obviously for those seeking to trim a few grams, but also making carrying a spare on a big ride that bit easier.
In keeping with its contemporaries, it features retro-reflective sidewalls, direction specific tread and operating pressures ranging between 45psi and 80psi. Theoretically, this bottom end should give better scope for negotiating slippery roads, in the depths of winter.
Aside from observing the directional arrow, the Baldy have slipped aboard standard depth road rims, including this Mavic Open Pro, tool free and like the proverbial black Labrador. Deeper sections, such as this Shimano called for a single tyre lever but no straining, or grunting required.
Run at their maximum pressure, coming from something like Schwalbe Marathon GT, the baldy give a firmer, though by no means harsh, ride. This was pretty much forgotten after the first 40miles, in any case.
Once, 32mm sections were the preserve of traditional tourers, winter/training was around the 25-28mm mark. However, thanks in part to cyclo-cross’s influence upon bike design and geometry, 30/32mm are increasingly popular options.
Relatively quick on the uptake, at 519g the coarser casings meant washboard tarmac and slightly raised ironworks were more readily felt. Dropping to 75 psi rewarded with plusher passage and for me at least, hit the sweet spot between rolling resistance, comfort and grip.
Mind you, though fairly portly but traditional roadie standards, 28/30 and 32mm sections engender a more spirited, “flick round”, rather than, “cruise through” approach to holes/similar hazards.
Talk of the devil, VEE Tire brag about these compounds being “virtually invulnerable” to sharps; so I’ve made a concerted effort to ride clean through shards of glass, thorns, tacks, flints.
There’s been plenty of rain too, these past few weeks, which has given these plenty of opportunity to work into the casings over time. Nothing has cut into the casings, let alone induced a flat.
In the strictest sense, road bicycle tyres do not require a tread pattern. Rather these are more psychologically reassuring than a slick tyre. However, the baldy’s pattern appears to use water to flush contaminant away as you ride.
Grip is dependable, wet or dry, although I’ve found their tyres, employing a “continuum” compound, have an edge when it comes to speed and cornering prowess. The Baldy are relatively light at 519g, so I wasn’t surprised by their responsive, perky personas.
Brisk enough for training, they keep commutes fun, especially in stop-go traffic, where you might need to accelerate out of danger, or make rapid getaways at the lights.
During an extremely wet week, I had a couple of pregnant pauses when negotiating a manhole cover, filtering through congested traffic. I suspect a drizzle of spent diesel aided this but turning sharply across these and similar ironworks, gave a gentle warning. Again, Soma Fabrications Shikoro , or Schwalbe Marathon GT could be pushed a bit harder in these context.
Nonetheless, the Baldy were still pretty well-mannered. In fact, (epic skid-stopping aside), their coarser casings are also welcome on a fixed. Especially if you’re not running a cable operated rear brake.
Late night slalom sessions through town centre cones at 18-20 plus mph couldn’t reveal a spiteful side either. Long, steady rides around the 40-50 mile mark and along dark, winding, waterlogged roads gave ample opportunity to catch them out. Comparable sections, with softer compounds, including this Panaracer T-serv (below) bite harder when cornering hard and gave better feedback. This was most apparent when I’ve been hurtling along 1in 4 and 1 in 7 descents at 30 odd mph. To be fair, the Baldy are £7 or so cheaper, too.
Not that the Baldy have turned remotely spiteful, even with laden Yak pattern trailer following behind. I just needed to remain a bit more vigilant, at these speeds- especially when tiredness started creeping in.
Cruising along the open road at 20-25mph in the same, slippery conditions, they were perfectly well mannered. I was able to sit back, turn a brisk cadence and be alone with my thoughts. At the other extreme, they’ll manage a quick bit of dry smooth trail/towpath but that’s as adventurous as I’d get, frankly.
There are faster tyres within this price bracket and while 32mm, is a sensible choice for this kind of tyre, other manufacturers, such as Schwalbe, Panaracer and Vittoria offer comparable performance … with a choice of widths.
Nonetheless, there’s still a lot to like, here. Summing up, I’d recommend taking a closer look at the Baldy, if you want a fairly swift but dependable middleweight tyre.
Verdict: 3.6/5 Decent middleweight, mid-range tyres for commuting and winter duties. However, wider choice of widths, would be welcomed.
PUBLISHED APRIL 2018