Outsourcing

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Hang around me long enough and you'll learn that I'm a repeater of my own cliches. This year's model is that we'd like November to be better at doing a bunch of things than Mike and I are capable of doing those things. If one or the other of us doesn't have the time or capability to do something that's got to get done well enough, the thing's still got to get done well enough, so we have to find a way to get it done. Sometimes this is hard, sometimes you get lucky. 

For several years, we've thought that tubeless cross tires would inevitably get good. After a few abortive attempts to meaningfully test things, I used tubeless exclusively last season. It took some rooting through to get to where I got, but during the course of the season, I could definitively say that tubeless worked better than tubed. "It's better than pretty terrible! Alert the media!!" But with the right tires, I could run meaningfully lower pressures tubeless than I could tubed, with more or less zero chance of burping and a much reduced chance of flatting. That's progress. Not enough to say "time for everyone to ditch tubulars!" but progress nonetheless.

The problem is, I kind of suck at cross. I've got zero fast twitch fibers, and though I'm quite competent at handling a road bike, I'm not that skilled on a cx bike. Testing I do in cx tire setups has value, but it also has a lot of limitations. But as I said, sometimes you get lucky.

Through mutual acquaintances, we got in touch with Michael Wissell, who agreed to do some testing with us. I say again - lucky. Unlike either Mike or me, Michael is shoe-in to make the lead lap of a 1/2/3 race, and often enough is the first guy on said lead lap. He's got crazy bike handling skills, plus an orderly and methodical approach as well as an engineering mindset. Where you really shouldn't listen to me if you fancy yourself to be something of a stylish cross racer, you really should listen to Michael. 

Go down this on a cx bike at warp speed and let me know how it goesPerhaps best of all, he was an avowed tubeless skeptic when this all started. There's no getting around the fact that I, to one degree or another, wanted it to work. His inclination was more in line with proving that it didn't, but his job in this is not to prove one or the other - just to test as completely and as objectively as possible.

We set up a very good system for setting up, testing, and comparing notes. I patsied around with tires while Michael beat the living bejeesus out of tires and we've gotten a bunch of great info. A lot of tires just plain don't work, but some really really do. There have been a ton of cross course hot laps, and also a bunch of "let's just wantonly abuse these things and see what happens." Yesterday's update from the former die-hard skeptic:

 

"I sent you a bunch of pictures of just how stupid the terrain I was riding on was.
I cannot stress to you enough how robust this system is. 
I intentionally hit rocks, rode through some of the absolute worst s--t you can imagine at irresponsible and unmanageable speeds, and came out totally fine."
To be fair, the rear tire of the set in question has met an untimely end after coming up short on a gap jump and landing on an "axe-shaped rock" and suffering a sidewall tear. My life includes zero things which might be referred to as "gap jumps," and the studied analysis was that such handling would have seen the end of absolutely any tire anyhow.  
That's the story of how we've been testing cx tubeless. This isn't a type of testing that we see anyone else doing, or at least sharing. It's obviously a benefit to the world at large to be able to say "this tire works with that rim down to this pressure in these conditions," but with parts that you can get most anywhere, the benefit for our having done it doesn't inevitably flow to us. A lot of people get excited about brands that sponsor big teams, and have a bunch of sauce heads (anyone read today's headlines?) ride on them, and show up on tv and in huge ads. We have to hope that people get excited about the work that we do, which is much less splashy but about a zillion percent more applicable to what you're actually trying to do on your bike. 

 

 


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  • Dave K on

    We haven't seen anything on tubeless cx from Schwalbe. Their road tubeless tires are a fan favorite, but the new new stuff is not yet available through any channel we know about. It's safe to assume that any tire that is road tubeless approved will perform well as road tubeless unless the tire specifically advertises against compatibility with some rims (at least one tire manufacturer recommends against using their tires with Stan's Alpha rims). So always check that, but this project has been specific to tubeless. We tried the standard cx version Rocket Ron set up tubeless and it was "strongly not recommended." My guess is that tire options for tubeless cx will multiply in the next year. Clement has said they are committed to doing tubeless versions. When that happens, look out, it's on.The tires in use in this particular round were Maxxis Mud Wrestler and Hutchinson Toro. Both of these are very highly recommended. Maxxis and Hutchinson have been the favorites to date.

  • An on

    Thanks for all the work and testing with tubeless! I'm definitely going to commit to tubeless season but any word on the new Schwalbe stuff? It looks like their doing very interesting stuff with tubeless but like you said it could all be publicity with IAM on their tubeless stuff.

  • Dave on

    We're lukewarm at best on Kendas. The non-tubeless stuff just doesn't work reliably and Mike was able to burp their tubeless tires. The list of what we unreservedly endorse is short: Maxxis and Hutchinson tubeless models. Nothing that wasn't tubeless specific worked well enough, from any brand. We haven't tried Vittoria, Bontrager, or Specialized. Any of them may work well but this stuff takes an awful lot of time and buying a raft of tires at retail (we don't have unlimited distributor access) gets expensive REALLY fast

  • brian on

    Are you guys going to release your full results soon (I know you guys are all about transparency so I'm sure they're coming). I'm curious to see what you guys think of the Kenda tires.PS – Has Sky called you guys to run transparency PR for them yet?


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