John Coe has been an everyday, four-season bike commuter in a four-season town for almost 20 years. He blogs, when he blogs, mostly about bikes and skis and stuff at rockychrysler.blogspot.com.
I’ll be honest. As a bike commuter I am a bit of a renegade. I don’t like to ride on the road. With the cars. Hate ‘em. And I’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to avoid them.
Admittedly, my kind of commute can’t always be done in its purest form, completely road-free, but around here (and probably where you live too), with a little planning and a scoch of ingenuity, it’s quite possible to arrange such a nearly car-free commute heading in almost any direction. Trails, tracks, gaps, alleys, fields, dirt roads, vacant lots, loading docks, etc.
Give me an interstice that’s basically car-less and I’ll ride it. That’s how I roll. As in: always.
So, perhaps I’m not the ideal person to review the 700×32 Panaracer Ribmo Commuter Tire.
The Ribmo is obviously a road-commuter’s tire. As in its tread is mostly smooth and its shape is more-or-less roundish. On the pavement it rolls fast, corners with confidence, and hums along with a pleasantly audible note when you’re spinning in the pocket of a nice tailwind. Its Kevlar-belted PT Puncture Resistent Technology inspires confidence, too.
What the Ribmo doesn’t do well is ride on dirt. Or snow. Or ice, or muck, or mud. I know: I rode it on all of these at one time or another.
Curiously however, what conspires against the tire’s performance isn’t it’s roadish design. In my opinion, there’s nothing inherently wrong with riding a skinny road tire on dirt. Over the years, I’ve ridden plenty of road-tires off-road with varying degrees of success. I am not averse to such an arrangement. To the contrary, in fact. I think it’s a heck of a lot of fun to ride road bikes off-road! Everyone should do it now and then. Just because.
Instead, what defeats the Ribmo is the tire’s odd, oblong-ish profile, which Panaracer calls its All Contact Tread Shape. Per their own product description, the unconventional design is intended to accomplish four key objectives:
1. Transition from center to side is smooth and predictable
2. Tread designed to maintain contact at all times
3. Unique shape supports all riders and riding styles.
4. Elongated sidewall surface reduces tread cuts.
But what it does in practice, on variable riding surfaces, is cause the tire to dive, sketch, surf, and wander unpredictably. Not a feature anyone likes in a tire.
Perhaps I’m being unfair. The Ribmo is, after all a road tire. But to me, a tire that bills itself as a commuter-specific tire, that builds in flat-protection and derives its name from the phrase Ride Bicycle More–which is written right on the sidewall–should be more capable over a variety of riding situations. I can’t be the only commuter in the world that mixes it up now and then, riding from road to trail to alleyway, as a means of getting around. Nor am I asking for an unreasonable degree of high-performance. Just predictability. On variable conditions, on varying terrain, under varying circumstances. Which is something the Ribmo lacks.
Prices for the Panaracer Ribmo Commuter Tire are all over the place, from $27 to $45 depending on the size and where you buy them.