Home » How My New BMW i3S Fixes The i3’s Horrible Achilles Heel, Saving Me Thousands On Tires

How My New BMW i3S Fixes The i3’s Horrible Achilles Heel, Saving Me Thousands On Tires

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My “Holy Grail” BMW i3S may not have been the best financial decision given how much I paid for it, but there are some unexpected ways that it’s actually going to save me lots of money. One of those ways is its absolutely out-of-this-world warranty, which I’ll detail tomorrow; the other way has to do with solving the BMW i3’s most egregious Achilles Heel — it gobbles up tires at an alarming rate, and there’s only a single, insanely expensive tire option. Here’s how my 2021 BMW i3S fixes this problem, and also why I have three sets of tires stacked high to the ceiling of my girlfriend’s garage right now.

Back in April, I wrote the article “My 2014 BMW i3 Has A Horrible Achilles Heel, But It’s Still Way Cheaper Than Driving A Gas Car,” in which I described how, despite is egregiously expensive rubber, my BMW i3’s running costs are much lower than they’d be if I drove a gasoline car here in LA. Here’s how I describe the BMW i3’s biggest flaw:

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BMW i3s absolutely chew through tires, and though that’s the case for many EVs, the i3 is among the worst culprits. Hop on BMW i3 forums, and you find pages and pages of conversations about egregious tire wear. Some folks aren’t even getting 20,000 miles out of their set:

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Based on what I’m reading, if I’m lucky, I can make it two years on a set of tires before I have to spend $1,000 on a new set of tires, as — and this applies only to the i3 — the tire options are severely limited due to them being a special (skinny) size:

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A typical gas car’s tires will last twice as long, so whereas over a decade I’m buying five sets of tires for a total of $5,219.80, a gas car owner would have to buy only 2.5 sets, and likely at a lower cost due to more availability. One can get a decent set of tires for a typical gas car for $700 installed; multiply that by 2.5 and you’re at $1,750 in tires to drive for a decade — that’s $3,469.80 saved driving the gas car over my i3!

That’s right, the i3 chews through tires every two years, or roughly 24,000 miles. And each set costs over $1000! So over a decade, we’re talking over five grand! That’s absolutely ridiculous, and to many, ruins BMW i3 ownership.

But in 2018 BMW launched the i3s. Instead of 155-section front tires and 175-section rears, it has 175-sections up front and 195s on the back. The i3S’s tires are astonishingly expensive. Costco doesn’t sell the fronts, but the rears are almost $350 each!

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And if you look at the date code of the tires on my new i3S, which has only 20,000 mile on the clock, you can see that it’s already had both of its tires replaced:

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So $350 a tire for the rear tires and $250 for the fronts from Tire Rack. That’s $1200 a set, which again have to be replaced every two years or 20,000 miles. The good news is that, unlike on the non-S i3, the S model offers an alternative.

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You see, the i3S has wider wheels for wider tires, and they increase the car’s track width, with the car having flare that accommodate. So what BMW i3S owners have found is that they can fit 195 55R20s in place of the both the 195 50R20s in the rear and the 175 55r20s up front. The result is a ride height increase of about 0.35, bringing the ride height to the same level as the standard i3 (non-S).

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The most popular 195 55R20 purchased by i3S owners is the Momo Toprun M300, and my god is it cheap: $57 a tire! That’s about $200 less than the front factory tire and $300 less than the rear factory tire! Needless to say: I bought three sets:

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Because supply of these tires tends to dry up quickly, I snagged 12 tires for a total of $771 — about three quarters the price of a single set of factory tires. Not only do I expect the Momos to handle as well as the rather mediocre factory tires, I expect them to last longer based on their treadwear rating of 480 versus the stock tires’ 440. I bet I’ll get 25,000 to 30,000 out of these things. Will I lose a bit of range due to increased rolling resistance? Sure. I bet I’ll go from 140 to 130 miles per charge. I can handle that.

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So I’ve got probably 80,000 miles worth of tires sitting in the garage, plus probably 15,000 miles left on my existing tires. That’s 95,000 miles — oh boy, I’m really going to be pushing the 10 year (out of sunlight) lifespan on these things!

It’s all pennies in comparison to my i3S’s purchase price, but still: my god is that enormous savings. $57 a tire versus $250-$350. More importantly, it has now rid of the i3’s biggest paint point, making it extremely cheap to run. Especially if you don’t buy an expensive Holy Grail version like I did. 2018 BMW i3S Rex’s can be had for about $15 grand if you look hard enough.

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Ben
Ben
24 days ago

To paraphrase: “These tires are hard to find so when they were in stock I bought 12 of them, even though the last set will probably age out before they wear out.”

Gee, I wonder why there’s a shortage if every i3 owner is like this. 😛

BOSdriver
BOSdriver
25 days ago

What modern cars, especially ones that are considered even slightly premium, do you expect to be under a grand for a set of tires these days? I know my 19″ tires for my Sonata N Line were easily over a grand, and the dumb 21″ wheels set us back over $2k on tires for our VW Atlas, ridiculous. There were some cheaper options but tires are the one thing I upgrade over stock, buying a cheap tire is not the way to save money in the long run. The folks I know who buy those cheapo tires usually have to replace them much sooner, they ride horribly (dry, wet and snow) and seemingly pick up more road damage compared to the standard premium consumer brands like Pirelli, Michelin, Vredestein, Continental, etc.

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli
25 days ago

Now that you’re flush with tires, it’s time to take you i3s to some autocrosses and a track day!

Cyko9
Cyko9
25 days ago

I think one extra set of 4 was probably enough, but the mountain of tires in the wine cellar did make me laugh!

Harmanx
Harmanx
25 days ago

You can improve rolling resistance by over-inflating the tires. The tires are cheap, so all’s well.

Lockleaf
Lockleaf
25 days ago

My goodness there is a great deal of tire fear in the comments. Its a city car with small sidewall. Even if a tire blows out, its not the kind of thing that would launch him in to oncoming traffic. Apparently there is a good part of the commentariat who has never bought a shitbox with 4 mismatched tires that has been sitting in a sideyard for years and rolled on those tires for a while. I have definitely driven many many miles on tires well over 4 years old. Pretty sure on tires well over 14 years old. Y’all need to calm down.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
25 days ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

I don’t really see that, most people are just rolling their eyes at buying tires 8 years early.

I drive a 34 year old crap can around, I’ve done hard commuting on a bunch of old motorcycles. I will not in any way compromise on brakes or tires. From a liability perspective if you get into an accident it will not go well for you if you are running old bald tires. But by all means save a couple hundred for life-ruining consequences.

Strangek
Strangek
25 days ago
Reply to  Lockleaf

I don’t cheap out on tires anymore, but growing up poor and in the desert where grip wasn’t much of an issue, it was not unusual to replace your blown out bald ass tire with a mismatched used one of a similar vintage.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago

David “Mr. Hollywood” Tracy now “saving money” by buying tires like they’re Costco paper towels. Up next: David purchases a second house in Malibu to store his bulk-purchased toiletries and spare carbon fiber monocoques. How frugal.

Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
Jesus Chrysler drives a Dodge
25 days ago

Pro tip: when your girlfriend says “put a ring on it,” I’m pretty sure this is not what she means.

The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
25 days ago

OK, dude, I will never ever ever question your automotive or engineering bonafides. I gotta step up, though, and pass along a gentle word of advice on intergender relationships.

I’m noticing your pile of tires stacked up next to Elise’s de facto wine cellar? Dude, please don’t push your luck in regards to your propensity to hoard cars and car parts vs her personal space?

It might seem practical to buy 12 tires, but until you’re storing them in a space that you, yourself, are providing? Maybe resist the siren song of 12 cheap tires?

Jb996
Jb996
25 days ago

I’ll second that. Fish, houseguests, and car parts, smell in 3 days.

At least stack them together, all the way out of the way. Or ask about it installing a rack up out of the way?

James Milton
James Milton
25 days ago
Reply to  Jb996

Out of sight is out of potential drama

Shinynugget
Shinynugget
25 days ago

Can other i3 models run non-OEM tire sizes as well to avoid this absurd expense?

Daniel Sloan
Daniel Sloan
25 days ago
Reply to  Shinynugget

If you get the 20″ wheels, yes.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago

Those tires aren’t insanely expensive. Pricing seems in-line for tires around those sizes right now.

I’m assuming this car is easy on brakes because of regenerative braking, and that oil changes aren’t required too often. Considering places like Midas are charging close to $1000/axle for brake jobs right now, you’re probably still coming out ahead buying a set of tires every 20k miles.

You would gladly spend $1000 on three rust buckets that would never be driven, but spending it on tires you need and use every day is a hardship?

Totally not a robot
Totally not a robot
26 days ago

Mr. Hollywood buys a whole new car when it’s time to get new tires.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
26 days ago

If DT don’t stack them tires up against the wall, it looks like a small earthquake could topple them into the wine rack.

And stack em up straight and neat Loretta.
You ain’t in Michigan anymore for God’s sake…

Racer71
Racer71
26 days ago

Meanwhile my wife’s tdi jetta that gets 80k miles per year and is over 500k miles gets 100k per set of Yokohama 15” tires while achieving a consistent 55-62 mpg. Tell me again how your bmw is cheaper to operate.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
26 days ago

Seems like a lot of hassle to avoid buying a Prius

VanGuy
VanGuy
26 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

Quick Google search says the newest plug-in Prius can only do about 40 miles all-electric. Makes it better than a Nissan Leaf, but that’s a low bar to clear.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
26 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Good point, totally a better idea to store piles of questionable Chinese tires that are going to be heat cycled in a garage for 10 years than give up electric miles

Last edited 26 days ago by Rabob Rabob
VanGuy
VanGuy
26 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

The i3 also has a better interior, and I’m sure there’s multiple articles here about the i3’s design in general. I’m not particularly interested in i3’s myself, but I could sympathize with anyone wanting more “luxury” interior than Toyota’s average.

Being comfortable in slow traffic and not contributing to bad L.A. air sounds like a good deal to me. As for “questionable”, well, let time sort it out! For that price it’s not a huge loss if they don’t live up to expectations. And the garage should significantly buffer/slow changes in temperature anyway.

We had snow tires in our garage for an E-150 when I was growing up and they were always fine, and that was in Pennsylvania with much wider temperature swings than L.A. on average.

Rabob Rabob
Rabob Rabob
26 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

You’re right, that’s why the i3 is a massive successful automobile and the Prius isn’t

VanGuy
VanGuy
25 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

It’s an EV first, and without a massive range, it’s unlikely to be anyone’s only car, whereas that’s a niche the Prius could fill. That alone reduces the i3’s sales potential, but we’ve already discussed how it’s a “compliance car” for BMW in many ways.
Still, it appears to be a fantastic commuter EV for certain areas. I’d look into one myself if it fit my use case, but it doesn’t. I work from home; I live in an apartment with no access to charging; my friends and family that I regularly visit are hours away on highways and also wouldn’t be able to charge it.

Matti Sillanpää
Matti Sillanpää
26 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

Also worth noting that the i3s was rather fun to drive. I would claim so far most fun I’ve got in EV as it’s very tossable. Kinda Mini that looks a bit challenging.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago

I’m betting $50 tires cancel a lot of that fun factor.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

The factory tires were engineered for max EV range at all cost in 2013, I bet ANY tire released this decade, at any price point, would be noticeably more fun.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

I’ve had that kind of tire. My FR-S came equipped with the Primacy Prius tires. They were not awesome.

I guarantee you that PepBoys brand replacements would be worse, and I don’t believe they’ve made that much progress in the past 10 years. There really haven’t been any revolutions in tire design lately.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

I’ll defer to your experience on this, I’ve never had cheap tires. Maybe it’s different in the 200TW Summer tire world, where every new model seems to render the previous gen totally obsolete.

Then again, if they’re both terrible, I’d rather be doing silly one-wheel-peels in the cheap tires with a square setup.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

I don’t think they were cheap tires (Michelin Primacy HP). They were just what you got with the original BRZ/FR-S. Toyota said the limited grip made the car more slide-able and fun. I also assume they were trying to get any possible MPGs they could.

Now that I think about it, it must have been all about the MPGs, because the electronic nannies did not allow for too much slidey fun.

Last edited 25 days ago by Jj
Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Yeah, it was probably to boost the fleet emissions and lower MSRP, though I also suspect it helped with advertising as every journalist who got their hands on it pulled a big fat slide on camera.
Also didn’t mean to call your tires cheap, I thought you might have borrowed a car on newer Linglongs and compared them unfavorably to the Prius ones.

Last edited 25 days ago by Ricardo Mercio
Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

Even with the nannies ‘all the way off,’ the thing would go into ‘ice mode’ if you got too sideways and all the warning lights and controls would go crazy. I think you could totally disable everything by doing some weight tapdance involving turning the key a certain number of times, tapping the brake and opening and closing the door.

I never bothered because that also shut off ABS and I very much like having ABS on the street.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Huh, today I learned. I’d have sworn the 86 would be fully defeatable.

JumboG
JumboG
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

In fact, I’d say cheap tires are getting worse. Particularly in the wet traction area.

VanGuy
VanGuy
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

If anything, I think the mental impact of knowing my tires were only $57 apiece would let me have more fun with them.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  VanGuy

I run UHP summer tires on my Miata and enjoy wearing them out. If I get 20k miles out of a set, I don’t feel like I’ve driven hard enough.

In Miata sizes, even crazy sticky tires are like $150 ea.

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Man, I love my Direzzas

Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  Ricardo Mercio

I have ZII Star Specs on there right now. Just saw a clearance deal on TireRack for the Z3’s. Maybe I’ll buy 3 sets and stack them in the garage. (205/50/15 $139.67ea)

Ricardo Mercio
Ricardo Mercio
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

I’m running Z3’s, and they’re awesome.

Matti Sillanpää
Matti Sillanpää
25 days ago
Reply to  Jj

Might be, but on other hand it doesn’t really have that much power. But I think the s mode has quite lot more rubber than the non-s. So I think even with some shitty budget tyre, it might be more engaging to drive than the non-s. But my experience is entirely limited to test drive, so take that with pinch of salt.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
25 days ago
Reply to  Rabob Rabob

I spent maybe $1200 on gas last year in my prius and that was driving 15k miles mostly for work. I did IT contractor work for the school system and got reimbursed 69 cents a mile (nice). got a whole set of bridgestone tires for $550 from costco last February. No range anxiety. No plugging in. for 30k David could have got a brand new prius.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
26 days ago

Huh, TIL Momo makes tires.

Fix It Again Tony
Fix It Again Tony
26 days ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

I just lost all respect I have for Momo if they’re willing to slap their name on some $50 tires.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
26 days ago

Maybe it’s the other Momo.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
25 days ago
Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Well that’s disappointing.

Momo, you used to be cool.

Andy Individual
Andy Individual
26 days ago

Is there something about offsets that preclude using aftermarket wheels? How would I be able to put on winter steelies?

Bill Garcia
Bill Garcia
24 days ago

When faced with that I had to buy the most expensive (for me) winter wheel/tire setup ever – BMW sold a set of wheels that would work some Bridgestone Blizzaks… I really don’t want to remember how much it all was (~$2.5k?) ouch

StillNotATony
StillNotATony
26 days ago

David Tracy, certified Cheap Bastard, RIDES AGAIN!!!

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
25 days ago
Reply to  StillNotATony

“lets save money by buying a bmw.” Bro it’s a luxury car it’s expensive. Just own it. If you can’t afford to play then just don’t.

Toecutter
Toecutter
26 days ago

Good thing you can get less expensive tires, because i3s are GREAT at doing burnouts.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuiLs-cU4Gk

Torque
Torque
24 days ago
Reply to  Toecutter

That looks really stupid…
Where can I sign up!?! 😉

Mr. Canoehead
Mr. Canoehead
26 days ago

Not only is David hoarding Holy Grail cars, now David is hoarding Holy Grail car’s tires…”I found a great deal, so I bought every tire in CA!”

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
25 days ago
Reply to  Mr. Canoehead

“I can not tell you about this because I have cornered the market and inflated the price! “

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
26 days ago

The problem is that nobody makes tires in those sizes, and BMW was literally using it as a cheat on what was always essentially a compliance car. (Compliance cars don’t just tick boxes; they also are used to go ‘look! We’re doing the thing! So you don’t need to change the rules!’)

And as we know: width = traction = friction = drag. Drag goes up, fuel mileage goes down. Compound gets softer, traction goes up, fuel mileage goes down. By going with tires skinnier than a 1995 Ford Escort Pony (no, SERIOUSLY,) you’re talking additional miles of range. Coupled to one of the most insane alignments I’ve ever seen (and I have the factory spec for the 997.2 C4GTS,) it’s a recipe for … let me check my notes … forcing customers to the dealer.

So what’s the REAL fix? It’s not shitty Momo-rebranded Linglongs which are most definitely lying about their UTQG. (They literally claim 500AA on the entire M30 Toprun ‘motorsport’ line. Uh, NO. Traction requires wear, guys.)
You need to find room for 9.6″ of tread width, or 8.5″ of tread width. Then you need to call a good wheel company (I like SSR Professor MS1’s for this, they can do 18×7’s in 5×112, but they are pricey.) If you can find room for 8.5″? Congrats. Throw all your tires in the fucking bin and gaze upon P215/55R18. Which is just about every goddamn thing with 18″ wheels for the past decade. And it’s only -0.7% on the speedometer.
But say you find 9.6″ of room? Open up the real flood gates with a set of 20×8 wheels and P245/40R20, AKA “every fucking 20 inch wheel since probably 2003.” Hell, go autocrossing with Conti EC DWS06’s at $200/ea with a 50k warranty!

Peter Andruskiewicz
Peter Andruskiewicz
26 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Do 18s fit on the i3? It looks like there’s plenty of clearance to the brake rotors, but I can’t tell about the ball joints or other suspension parts

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
25 days ago

Because BMW, the i3 shipped with 19″ or 20″ wheels.
Yeah. 20″ wheels. On a compliance hybrid that’s supposed to be super efficient.
This, by the way, is extremely stupid as well. And stupid looking.

But yes, in terms of brake and linkage clearances, frankly you could probably go down to a 16″.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

That looks like a lot of clearance between the brakes and wheel.

It looks like a Civic with big wheels mounted to it. (for the record – not a great look)

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
26 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Aw shit!
Welcome back RootWyrm.
And with that, I’m out.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
26 days ago

Did you take the wrong meds AGAIN

Phantom Pedal Syndrome
Phantom Pedal Syndrome
26 days ago

Nope. Dudes a fucking asshole. Always has been. I’m simply choosing not to breathe the same internet air as him anymore…

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
26 days ago

Not agreeing or disagreeing, but why engage?

The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
The Artist Formerly Known as the Uncouth Sloth
25 days ago

this comment seems to be out of sync? Wouldn’t Root be dropping the GFY?

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
25 days ago

This isn’t the airport. There is no need to announce your depature.

But thank you for demonstrating to everyone else that you’re exactly the kind of asshole we don’t want around here.

Jj
Jj
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Please don’t bring this there. I like it here.

Plenty of room for everyone.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Come on, dude, let it go.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

 Coupled to one of the most insane alignments I’ve ever seen”

Yeah I was also thinking that the OEM alignment specs are a big part of the problem and can be alleviated with a custom alignment that isn’t as hard on the tires.

RootWyrm
RootWyrm
25 days ago

The alignment on the i3/i3S is batshit. And this is coming from someone who has to align an AWD supercar annually.

Per BMW, you have to go to the dealer, and have them use their special BMW sauce to do individual wheel alignment. Not a 4 wheel alignment. Literally each wheel being set by itself based on weight carried on the wheel. (Without the driver in the car, yeah, already going great there.) Or in the alternative, split axle.
Which has predictably awful results. Hey great it’s straight at 30MPH, but pulls right at 70MPH. Or now it pulls left but the dealer insists it drives straight (because the mechanic weighs 100lbs less.)
And apparently there may also be some crazy sensor crap going on too, which is just, “WTF?” But the one sheet I saw had something like -0.7 camber and -1.1 camber across the front axle and BMW spec claims -1.58 to -1.75 minimum rear camber.

Realistically? The damn thing needs a basic damn alignment. No fancy crap. No extra special sauce. Match caster across the axle. Give the front 0 camber, the back a smidge of positive to get it solidly flat. Maybe 0.1-0.2 toe in. Not sure on thrust, but not much.

JumboG
JumboG
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

I know on my former BMW 7-series they weight the cars with sandbags before doing an alignment. Or at least they are supposed to.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

BMW spec claims -1.58 to -1.75 minimum rear camber.”

And I bet the toe-in is just as nuts and likely the leading cause for tire wear

“Match caster across the axle. Give the front 0 camber, the back a smidge of positive to get it solidly flat. Maybe 0.1-0.2 toe in.”

+1

I think the OEMs do this shit to make them feel/be more stable when driving it at the limit.

I would argue that a tire-wearing alignment it’s a crutch some OEMs use to mask bad suspension design choices.

Bassracerx
Bassracerx
25 days ago
Reply to  RootWyrm

Contact patch increases grip not width. So a normal prius tire 195/65/15 would be more square but the i3’s contact patch is actually larger it’s 155mm long but because it’s on a 19 inch wheel the contact patch is rectangular and larger. The size of the contact patch is comparable to a wider wheel however it saves weight.

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