Panaracer: Creating a legacy at the Little 500

The Panaracer Pasela is standard issue in Bloomington.

Ride through the streets of Bloomington, Indiana, and you’ll quickly notice something. Like most college towns, bikes are everywhere. But in this one, there’s one bike in particular that stands out. Parked up by the dozen outside cafes, in the racks by the library on campus, and sat idly in front of houses on the outskirts of town are hundreds of Schwinn bikes. One piece cranks. Coaster brake. Flat pedals. Panaracer tires. The Little 500 bikes are everywhere.

The unique event is held in April each year. The 200 lap race is a fundraiser for student scholarships, and was founded on the basis of creating a level playing field. The equipment is a large part of that. Each team is given two identical bikes for the race. Panaracer Pasela 700 x 32 tires are standard issue for every team, ensuring that only athletic ability and tactics will decide the winner.

Race direct Jordan Bailey talks about how they chose Panaracer tires for the Little 500 “We were looking for a company that understood the culture behind the race. When we met up with Panaracer, they knew the story already. They understood the importance of having identical bikes for every team.”

When Bailey started inquiring about the kind of tires that would be suitable for the race, Panaracer knew the answer. The Pasala is an all round urban tire, designed to go the distance on a range of surfaces. The Little 500 is raced on a quarter mile cinder track - the fine black gravel creating a fast but loose surface to corner on. As an urban commuting tire, the Pasela was perfectly suited. It’s hard-wearing tread pattern would easily last the 50 mile race distance, but more importantly, it would survive the miles put in on the bikes after the event, too.

Speaking to Jeff Zell at Panaracer USA, it’s obvious to see why Panaracer was interested in supporting the Little 500: “the race creates cyclists out of students. No where in the US is bike racing such a huge part of college life. We wanted to be a part of that passion”

In a race that often comes down to a last lap sprint, reliability was a key decision for Bailey in choosing the Pasela. Unlike most race directors, Bailey has the responsibility of making an equipment choice for every team “With the Pasela’s we don’t get flats. It’s a fast and loose surface, but punctures aren’t a problem”.

The 2015 event was delayed due to stormy weather. When the men finally went off on the damp cinder track, tire pressure was the talk of the teams. With little else to gain a competitive advantage, the difference in a couple of psi could be huge. It’s this attention to detail that makes the Little 500 a perfect match for Panaracer. In the end, the winning Sigma Phi Epsilon team went with 85 psi, and won the sprint by 0.24 seconds over the defending Black Key Bulls.

As you cruise away from the campus through Cascades Park, it’s easy to see how suited the Pasela is, not just to the race, but the town of Bloomington as a whole. By supporting the Little 500, Panaracer has created a legacy in the town. The bikes are used for decades, not just one race. The Panaracer Pasela tires will outlast most of the students studying at the University of Indiana, and will be ready to introduce a new generation to the culture, passion and speed of the little 500.


All images copyright IU Student Foundation