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Q. Hello Umbra,

Through years of bicycle riding, I’ve never been able to pinpoint the exact reason why bicycle tires suck so badly. One fills a car tire with air maybe once or twice a year (really just checking the overall pressure), but a bike tire, it seems, has to be topped off over and over. Why are bike tires so lousy at their intended job of holding air under pressure?

John B.
Ann Arbor, Mich.

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A. Dearest John,

Do you view topping off your tires as burden or pleasure? Because I will admit, I enjoy the ritual of checking the air pressure, marveling at how low it has gotten, assuming my best Groucho stance to operate the floor pump, wondering if I’ll expend all my strength before the ride has even begun, then taking off on nice taut tires. It makes me feel vaguely well prepared and vaguely mechanically inclined, two characteristics that are not among my foremost qualities.