If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Getting a grip

I have a long journey over the weekend, picking up daughters 1 and 2 and D1's partner, and then taking them to the other side of the country for D1's graduation. And then back. Earlier this week I gave the car a good clean, as it had been used in true estate car mode for ferrying kitchen units to the house and piles of unwanted junk to the tip, and it was filthy. And as the car would be transporting a new Doctor Nowhere and her entourage back to her modest garret afterwards, I felt it incumbent upon me to make the best of what I had.

Part of the process was a quick check of all the usual, and I picked up that my rear tyres were on the legal limit. So today I rose early from my slumbers and visited ATS. £160 later, the Mundaneo had two new boots.

I had been considering winter tyres for the car after last winter's performance of Salchows and triple toe-loops every time it froze (a phenomenon I initially ascribed to the Ford's lousy grip and over-intrusive ABS, but which I later discovered may have conceivably been caused by virtually-bald front hoops), but for some reason winter tyres are all at a premium this year and not covered by any special offers, and were prohibitively expensive. Rosie has fitted a set, however, and I await her comments with interest.

ATS did the business, and I now have new Pirelli P7s on the front, looking very meaty, and the half-worn Michelins on the back. Plus a big hole in my bank account.

If they had been bike tyres, I would have paid the money willingly and been looking forward to scrubbing them in, and then reporting back on speed of tip-in, front end feedback, wet surface grip, squaring-off and all sorts. As it is, they are just car tyres, are phenomenally boring, and I resent every single penny.

Bikes are great, but cars are practical. When you have to get four adults 350 miles away and back in a weekend, nothing else will do. Any bike in the world, or train, or plane, or bus would not have the convenience and modest cost of a bread-and-butter Ford Mundaneo: you and your luggage, door-to-door, and 50 mpg full-loaded at the legal speed limit. The car has now achieved the status of appliance, much the same as my dishwasher. I keep it maintained, and as long as it keeps working I never think of it. I will keep it until it dies, and then I will get another. I like it, inasmuch as I like any machine that does the job it was designed to do, and does it well, but I don't love it, and if it was stolen tomorrow my only regret would be that I lost a few CDs in the process. And those tyres.

My journey to work tonight will be on a ratty old trailbike worth a few hundred quid at most, but I am looking forward to it already. If anyone stole that, I would be doing life for murder.


  1. Why bother with winter tyres, when Al Gore prophesies Global Warming?

    BTW, Anthony Watts on WUWT comprehensively busts Gore's "simple high school physics" experiment, and show it was fraudulent.


  2. Ideally you would put the new tyres on the back and move the old tyres to the front, if they are the same size. If you're out in the wet, and you brake, and the fronts grip & the rears don't, you might swap ends. While this can give an entertaining view of the terrified face of the driver (formerly) behind you, it is not to be recommended.

    Oh, and not all cars are appliances though - see my build blog at www.caterham-build.co.uk. I'll grant you that many are, though.

  3. Richard (at work)20 October 2011 at 22:53

    Joe - thanks for the link to that excellent article. Well worth 10 mins of anyone's time.

    Patently - the Mundaneo is a long old bus and most of the weight is over the front, plus of course it is FWD. I think your comments apply to RWD very well, but I did last winter with well-worn fronts and it was a nightmare. There is also the argument that, in the wet, a good front tyre clears the road of water so the rear has less work to do. That's the thinking behind a lot of bike tyre design.

    I would agree with your 'appliance' comment - I only referred to the Ford as one of those, because that's what it is. If I were lucky enough to own a Caterham or Porker, I think I might be slightly more positive about the experience.

  4. Doctor Nowhere

    Wonderful news. Congratulations.

  5. Richard (at work)21 October 2011 at 01:00

    Thank you! I am immensely proud of her.

  6. Last winter I flew from snow-bound slip-slide traffic chaos in UK, to double snow-bound Poland.

    Everyone here was creeping around, but still sliding horribly. Over there, they were cornering, braking, accelerating, lane-dodging; nobody ever slid!

    Apparently, it's not about tread, it's the rubber in winter tyres. Presumably they are less effective when it's warm. Everything in design is a compromise.

  7. Yes, and the key number is 7 degrees C. Winter tyres are at their best below it, whereas normal tyres are just about going on strike, grip-wise.

    I remember, way back, Dad had a pair of 'Town And Country' tyres for the driving wheels in the winter. Cheap as chips. Now, of course, with all the publicity, winter tyres are a premium product and everyone wants them. Hence the price is way above reasonable.

  8. Good work done .
    It always good to update your car time to time .


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