I love rubber. Not just any rubber, though. I like my rubber black and circular. That’s right—I love tires.
I like sporty tires best, of course— oversized with a low profile. And the stickier the better. When the UPS driver drops off new tires at my house, it might as well be Christmas.
This unhealthy fascination for tires started when I bought my red car about 10 years BF (before family). I bought my first set of sticky tires for it a month after owning it, when I bent a rim after spinning out at work (don’t ask). The cost of an OEM replacement rim was the same as new wheels and tires from Tire Rack. And so started my vulcanized path (no relation to Spock) on the road to the tire store.
“Reinventing the wheel is sometimes the right thing, when the result is the radial tire.”
One big difference with sticky tires and “normal tires” is the tread life. Sticky street tires will typically last from 10,000 to 20,000 miles. For this “feature” you get to pay extra. And so I was buying tires for the red car on a yearly basis.
When I started taking the car to the track, I start buying additional sets of R-compound tires for the car. This is when my local Discount Tire started to know me on a car-guy acquaintance basis.
A car-guy acquaintance is someone whose car you know pretty well. You will know the make, model and possibly year of the car, as well as at least one distinguishing feature. This happens a lot in car circles. You meet someone a few times on the track, and your greetings are something like, “hey, you’re the one with the black E46 M3 with the exhaust.”
“And you have the white GT3 with the BBS rims, right?”
Knowing a car-guy acquaintance’s first name is strictly optional.
I don’t take cars out to the track anymore, but I’m still buying a lot of tires. My four cars now have summer and winter tires, instead of summer and track tires, each on their own set of rims. I don’t even care that winter tires aren’t sporty or have no grip on dry pavement. When I put set of winter tires on a car, I go looking for snow to drive on to properly enjoy my new tires. I’ve gone up people’s steep, snow-covered driveways just to try out new tires.
There is, however, a category of tires I’m ambivalent about— the all-season tire. Engineering is about managing compromises, and that’s what an all-season tire does. It is okay in summer, and decent in winter, but not exceptional in either conditions. Its benefits are in the time and money you save from having to buy another set of tires that you have to switch every half year.
Such a tire has its place, and I use it on my wife’s car as a summer tire. I’m not allowed to make the kids go, “wheee!” in their child seats any more, and my wife likes a quieter ride. And so that’s the compromise I make in her car, all-season instead of ultra high-performance extra super duper extreme summer tires. I still put winter tires on her car, though, because I find them significantly better in winter.
“The guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot. The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius.”
I have to mention that I work for a company that also makes tires. We can buy 3 sets of tires each year at a hefty discount on-line. In the three years I’ve had this benefit, I’ve hit the limit once and exceeded it twice. And I’m not even a big fan of our tires.
In my attempt to impersonate a grown-up parent, I’ve tried to drive reasonably in my cars. I don’t need to buy the stickiest tires I can get. My company’s summer tires are adequate, and (most of) the winter tires are passable. Except for my daily driver.
The amazing Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec
My daily driver, the black car, gets sticky Dunlop Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec tires. This is not one of my company’s tires, but I love it. The Dunlops have one major drawback, though. They sound like bad wheel bearings. The OEM tires, Dunlop SP Sport 600, sounded so bad I actually took the car back to my dealer to have all four wheel bearings checked out. My friends and I couldn’t believe that tires could sound so loud.
But I really like the grip in both dry and monsoon conditions, so I just turn the radio up louder.
I did try company winter tires for the black car. The discontinued model I bought were without a doubt, the absolute worse tires I’ve ever owned. I don’t know enough languages to describe how much I hated these tires. I now use Bridgestone Blizzak WS70s for winter, which I really love. Of course.
The other cars have company winter tires, which as I’ve mentioned, are passable.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 winter tire