Friday, March 13, 2009

Eastbound and Down; a visit with Vittoria tires

I had another “you know you’re in SoCal when driving to work this morning; looked in the rear-view and there it was, that ubiquitous yellow; the Mavic team car. Did I miss something? Is there a Tour of California, Round 2? If I experienced a flat tire, would they go NASCAR-style and come out with a spare and start turning the four-bar to get my wheels off? Too funny.Speaking of “tahrs” (that’s tires in southern drawl), I am getting set to meet up with Rudi Campagne of Vittoria tires. I am a guest of Rudi, Vittoria North America’s Ryan DeLong, and Vittoria to do something I’ve long wanted to do: tour a leading tire production facility. This trip will take me to their production facility in Bangkok, Thailand for a tour next Friday.

Rudi and I met two or three years ago at the San Diego Wind Tunnel; as a supplier to then-CSC, he was there with Cervelo and Zipp testing tires as they relate to wheel and rim shape. Tire pairing with rims is without a doubt the next frontier in aerodynamics. It’s the very first thing the wind sees, and smoothly transferring wind from the tire onto the aero sidewall of the rim is a true science. And Vittoria is, really the only tire manufacturer that I have seen paying attention to and developing around it.

This year, Vittoria is working with Cervelo Test Team, which is no surprise; Phil White and Gerard Vroomen only paired with those brands that are endeavoring to optimize the ride. Those two don’t go after slick marketing; they go after testing results, and let that speak for itself.

Not to kiss anyone’s ass, but speaking as a guy who still buys his tires, Vittoria has long been one of my favorites. While Conti has always been a default day-to-day ride due to its longevity (it just seemed tougher), when I really, really wanted to treat myself, I’d buy a set of Vittoria Corsa CX’s. There was something about the silky casing and the ride it provided—I still haven’t found a tire that as closely replicates the ride quality of a good tubular.

I’m looking forward to seeing whether Vittoria has an answer to my durability question. A tire as light, flexy and silky as the Corsa CX couldn’t possibly be as flat-resistant as a denser, heavier tire… can it? Of course, I held onto my Corsa CXs without a casing or tread cut, so, maybe I’ve subconsciously proven it to myself. Yet I still auto-default to Contis for training…

So as I get set to take off Tuesday night and arrive Thursday (damn international date line), I’m putting it out there to you: what do you want to know about Vittoria’s tire production? Casing? Tread? Rolling resistance? Aerodynamics? Puncture resistance? File tread versus slicks? I already know what I want to find out, but if you have any burning questions, hit me up, and I will hit up Mr. Campagne himself, as well as his engineers. I’ll hopefully get to take a bunch of photos during production, so hopefully it’s an enlightening experience as to what goes into the rubber that hits the road.

I’m also looking at a side trip to Laguna Phuket; just an hour flight from Bangkok, I’ve never been there for the Laguna Phuket Triathlon, but from everything I have heard from the pro triathletes that have been there, the race is brilliant, but the venue is second to none. One of the race hotels, the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket Hotel, was listed last year by Conde Nast Traveler Gold List as one of the best places to stay in the world. I am sorting things, but I think me and my hosts will be staying there. Shame that I have to fly an hour south to get in my training for Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, on the Laguna Phuket Triathlon course, eh? At least I’ll be heat and humidity acclimatized!


Nico said...

Nice blog.... keep going!!!

Jay Prasuhn said...

Will do... the season is upon us, so lots to write about! Will update from Thailand for sure!