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So tired

November 8, 2008
Continental Zippy 1

The PX models its Zippy 1s (Orin O'Neill photo)

The PX has been running on Michelin S83s since it was new. That’s mainly because every time I wanted to switch, the tires I wanted were out of stock; I don’t much care for the S83s, so after hearing (and hearing and hearing) that Continental’s Zippy 1 is the best all-around scooter tire, I got a pair.

The S83 is Michelin’s “retro” scooter tire, like the Continental Zippy 3 (now called the K62 —Ed.), the one you buy if you want your vintage scooter to look the part. The S83s nibble bridge grates like potato chips (thank you, circumferential tread groove). I do a lot of riding on bridge grates.

The Zippy 1 is free of such a groove. It has a noticeably deeper tread than the S83, with a tread pattern that kind of looks like the “intermediate” tires made on the fly by trackside auto racing tire suppliers. The idea is to put as much rubber on the ground as possible, and get the maximum amount of water out of the way. That’s why tires have tread—otherwise, on wet pavement the tire would ride on a layer of water, a phenomenon known as hydroplaning or aquaplaning.

I had ordered two Zippy 1s (size 3.50-10 is what you want for a PX or Stella) in August. They finally arrived last week.

The same split rims that allow you fix a flat tire yourself make mounting a new one relatively easy. Deflate the tire, remove the nuts holding the rim together, separate the rim halves, pry (or prise, if you’re in the U.K.) the thin half of the rim out of the tire, then the thick one.

That thick one might be more difficult to remove. Especially so if you’re removing an S83, which has a very thick bead. If you have access to some kind of multi-ton press, that might be an easier way of separating rim from tire than a pry bar.

Mount Zippy 1s a certain way

Some tires are designed to work best if they rotate a certain direction. Continental sez Zippy 1s need to turn one way on the front, and the other way on the rear, as indicated by the arrows. It probably wouldn’t be the end of the world if you ignored this, but in the interest of conducting a fair, honest review, I will follow the directions.

Mounting is the reverse of removal. Kind of. I found it easier to insert the tube into the tire, then insert the thick rim half; you can get the valve stem into the rim more easily. Tire shops have a lubricant they spread on the tire bead to make mounting easier; I used a bit of dishwashing detergent on the bead and the rim.

Next, install the thin rim half, making sure the notches for the valve stem line up. Ensure that the tube is not hung up on a stud, or being pinched between the rim halves. I kneeled on the wheel to get the rim halves close enough together to spin the lock washers and nuts on. Tightening the nuts (which are 13mm, just like the ones that attach the wheel to the hub) will bring the rim halves together, and filling the tire with air will seat the bead on the rim. From there, adjust pressures (for a PX, 19 lbs front/26 rear (solo) or 36 rear (two-up)) and mount the wheels on the hubs.

You may know about ScootRS’ tubeless wheels for Vespas and Lambrettas. Zippy 1s, like almost all modern scooter tires, are tubeless (some will say “on tube type rim fit a tube”). I like the idea, and if money were not too tight to mention, I’d have bought a pair. Unfortunately, mounting the tire is very difficult for the DIY guy or gal (that’s why there are split rims). You’d be better off taking your tire and tubeless rim to a motorcycle dealer or repair shop, which will have a mounting device designed for tubeless tires. Most modern motorcycles have tubeless tires, so this shouldn’t be a problem. Maybe next time.

Oddly enough, as soon as I got the PX buttoned up and on the ground, the rainy gray skies turned blue. Time for a test ride!

Something to keep in mind is that new tires have a sprayed-on coating to prevent damage or deterioration in transit and storage. A car tire store usually cleans this stuff off, but it will still be there if you’re doing the DIY thing. This coating can compromise your traction on wet roads, so until it wears off, be a bit cautious. I figure once the white stripe is gone, the Zippys will be, as they say in racing, scrubbed in.

They seem to grip the wet pavement of California Avenue just fine. Going west on Admiral Way, there are dry spots, but no drama in the corners. The Zippy 1s are noticeably not as tall as the S83s, and have a wider tread. I suspect this would make the speedometer even more inaccurate (smaller diameter=wheel spins faster), and the radar readout on Fauntleroy Way confirms this: the speedometer is now officially 10 mph optimistic. The math will be much easier. (Click here to see how the Zippy 1s worked out.)


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