- by David Halfpenny
- Published: 2 April 2014
When I’m commuting I can’t afford to get a puncture. They’re time consuming, frustrating, messy, and potentially dangerous. City streets seem to have it in for bike tyres, so they have to be tough to survive, and the commuting tyres that have survived in Australian cities are the Vittoria Randonneurs and Schwalbe Marathons. Visit any cycling forum and ask which tyres are the best for commuting or touring and you’ll have variations of those brands thrown at you with stories of how many k’s you can get on them and how much damage they can handle. Czech company Rubena have recently stepped into the ring in Australia and they’re offering local commuters and tourers a tyre that seems at least as good as the Randonneurs and Marathons.
Like many Australians, I hadn’t heard of Rubena before. The Czech brand however has been around in some form or another since the beginning of the 20th century. They definitely have a pedigree of rubber manufacture with the company having produced bike tyres and car tyres for most of their existence, as well as tyres for prams, billy-carts, and pretty much anything with wheels. In the cycling world Rubena have an extensive range of bicycle tyres across all disciplines and enjoy a solid reputation in Europe.
The tyres on review, the Flash Stop Thorn UItimates (Flash STU), are Rubena’s top of the range commuter tyre. There are other versions of the Flash model with differing technologies and levels of protection and, as with most things, the more you spend the better the product is. Better in this case, not in terms of quality, rather in terms of protection. The Flash STU relies on a 5mm thick rubber buffer between the tread and the inside of the tyre for puncture protection, as well as re-enforced sidewalls (which, incidentally, have a reflective strip around them). That 5mm of rubber is tough; actually, the whole tyre is tough, confidence inspiring tough.
The Flash’s toughness means that it’s a hefty tyre. The 700c x 35 model I am using is around 900 grams per tyre, which is an anchor compared to a racing tyre, but which is equivalent to other tyres of the same size and quality from other brands. The Flashes are not for weight weenies, but you really don’t feel the weight when you’re riding; the weight I put in my panniers has more of an effect on my ride. The small amount of tread on the tyres give you a little extra traction on the grass or gravel, but doesn’t affect its smooth rolling and doesn’t pick up debris.
Fitting the Flashes is very simple. The rigid sidewalls were surprisingly easy to mount on my wheels, and the beading locked into place without tyre levers. It was too easy compared to some tyres I’ve mounted, so I unmounted it and re-mounted it, just to be sure, and I didn’t encounter a single problem. To simulate a flat, I mounted the wheels on the bike and let all the air out of the tubes. They tyres still held to the rim and held their shape. I was tempted to give them a bit of ride with no air, but thought better of it. I’m confident, however, that if I did get a flat as I was riding, the tyre wouldn’t slough off and cause a loss of control.
The Flashes on my retro steel commuter. Just look at the tyres, ignore the dirt, primer, and stickers. The bike has been uglified. The tyres are beautiful (but dirty).
In the more than 1000km that I’ve ridden these tyres, I haven’t had a puncture. That’s far from a scientific analysis though, and even if I had a puncture it wouldn’t be statistically significant. The only thing I can comment on is the wear so far, and the tyres look as good now as they did when I first put them on the wheel (though a good bit dirtier). The front wheel still has that thin central rubber ridge that new tyres typically have, and the little side tag thingies as well (note the very scientific terminology there), while the back wheel has only just lost the central ridge. There is no other obvious wear, and no nicks or gouges, despite all of that Sydney commuting. I expect these tyres to be as durable as the other big brands, and by that I mean they’ll be 10,000 km + tyres. I’ll give you an update on the wear in about 6 months from now – BNA prides itself on “real use” reviews, and you can’t judge the durability of a commuting tyre after a few months.
From left to right: Vittoria Randonneur City Hyper (~5,000km), classic Vittoria Randonneur (~3,000km), Rubena Flash Stop Thorn Ultimate (0km)
Rubena offer a lot of different models and sizes of tyres, as do the other big manufacturers. Choosing the right tyre from such a selection is a bit of a dog’s breakfast, to be truthful. To make things easier, here’s the best way to go about it:
- Go to the Rubena Australia website or visit one of their retail suppliers (having a tyre in your hands may help you make the decision).
- Chose your application (in my case, commuting).
- Pick the tread type you want (Rubena do both a slicker tread and a deeper tread in commuting tyres, the Flash is the happy medium).
- Pick your tyre size (the fattest you can handle, trust me)
- Spend as much as you can afford (spend the extra, you won’t regret it)
Not too hard, is it?
Bad tyres are not worth the effort it takes to install them, and punctures are not something you should expect while riding, they should be unusual occurrences. I ride (or rode) with Vittoria Randonneurs on my commuter and touring bike, and I’ve ridden on Schwalbe Marathons more than a few times before on different bikes. After spending many years commuting on thin, cheap tyres, I decided I wouldn’t commute on anything less than the best Randonneurs or Marathons available. I am happy to add Rubena Flashes to that list now as well. Yes, they’re that good.
Rubena Tyres are available from select retailers or directly from Rubena in Australia (PCI Australia). Tyres in the Flash range are priced between $19.95 and $69.95 (for the Stop Thorn Ultimate reviewed here).