I like to beautify and customize my bicycles almost as much as I like to ride them, which is why I’ve had my eye on Continental’s Retro RIDE tires for a few years. They’re relatively inexpensive, have a bit of tread for light gravel cruising and are simply stunning on a bike frame resplendent in purple sparkle paint. When I acquired my Bridgestone MB-3 and discovered the existing tires had disintegrating sidewalls, I had finally found an opportunity to try a pair of Retro RIDEs.
The Retro RIDEs are cruiser-style tires that are higher quality than run-of-the-mill beach cruiser rubber selling for a few bucks at big box stores. They feature puncture protection under the tread and reinforced sidewalls. That tread, which is modeled after Conti KKS 10 moto tires, has just enough grip for casual gravel and smooth dirt cruising without slowing you down. At least, what I believe is really slowing me down is the weight of early 1990s steel and a winter spent not exactly staying in shape.
The ride is very comfortable on multiple surfaces. Each tire’s pressure range is narrow, just 45-58 PSI. But as owners of fat bikes well know, just a few PSI makes all the difference. Fully filled, the tires roll fast and smooth, and corner confidently on pavement. On the lower end of the range, the tires offer a bit of extra bite and cushion on rougher surfaces, though lower pressures make the tires bouncy when you return to smooth roads.
The reflective sidewall is a nice touch. These are wire bead tires, which keeps the price down but also means they can be a beast to mount. After puncturing one, I broke two tire levers and took a chunk out of a knuckle trying to get it off. I finally had to give up and take it to a bike shop, where I was reminded that some tires just don’t mate well with some wheels.
If you happen to mount Retro RIDEs to early-90s Ritchey mountain bike rims, you might need Herculean strength to get them off. Despite the struggle, I feel strangely trusting of these tires and still might attempt some light and local touring on the setup you see pictured.
There are certainly more practical tire options out there but, of course, the real benefit of these tires are their impeccable good looks and class. Retro RIDE tires also come in black and a reddish-brown color, in addition to cream. They are primarily available for 26- and 28-inch wheels in widths of 2.0 and 2.2 inches, weighing between 865 and 950 grams, each (for the 26-inch versions). There are a few 700 x 5o/55 mm versions lingering on the interwebs, as well. You can find these tires online for $22 apiece, give or take a few bucks.
More info: Continental Retro RIDE