26 October 2010

Big rubber

One thing that's been super fun this past year is the chance to experiment -- after many years of Midwest riding and more than a few lucky weather days elsewhere in the country, I found myself getting complacent about tire choice. My biggest challenge was to decide between Kenda Small Block 8s and Kenda Karmas ... or, if I was feeling wild, a mix of the two. Especially with the confidence of the 29er-26er mixed-wheel of my Siren Song, I could afford to go relatively low weight, low rolling resistance, low volume.

Enter Pisgah.

The first change I made when I moved here was to go to an all-Karma setup: 29er 2.2 up front and 26er 2.0 in the rear. That was my race set up, but on my knock-around bike I was running a 2.2 rear. I liked the way the bigger tire felt, but I also caught a break: we had drought conditions most of the year, and with all the gravel roads around here, the smaller rear served me well.

In the midst of playing around on my Siren this summer, I got the chance to demo an Ibis Mojo with a Cane Creek Double Barrel shock. Not wanting to spend anything on it, I scrapped together the parts I needed (matched by the generosity of our "demo program"!), including some of the oldest tires I had in my quiver. It was a sketchy setup, especially as it's a 26er, and I wasn't too confident on it -- despite the awesomeness that is the CCDB.

I finally anted up last week for some "real" rubber: a Karma 2.2 in the rear, and -- going against the better sensibilities of my XC, Type-A mindset -- a Nevegal 2.35 up front. And oh my goodness, it was heaven! The Nevegal is consistently rated "the best all-around tire" by the mountain biking media, and now I can see why. I had more confidence on the gravel roads, right off the bat, and by the time I was ripping the singletrack I was sticking like Velcro. It was amazing.

Now, as I sit here writing, it's pissing down rain, the first big storms we've had in weeks. The timing is perfect: the leaves have peaked and are now falling, and the wet is creating what is known around here as "brown ice" -- a layer of leaf cover on the ground making riding, driving (and even walking!) pretty treacherous. And it's just in time: We're racing for 24 hours* this weekend.

So for the first time in my racing career, I'm going "big" -- bigger volume, bigger knobs. I might should have tried it 16 months ago at Big Bear in similar conditions, but I was overconfident and under-educated in the finer points of tire choice. I'll be mounting up my 29er 2.2 Nevegal on my front wheel today, and already have the 2.2 Karma set up on the rear. The arrow center tread on the Neve will cut through the leaves, and the big side knobs on both tires will help as we carve our way through the massive Pisgah Forest. I may lose a bit in rolling resistance on the fire roads, but the confidence I'll gain may have me attempting to descend Farlow ... OK, maybe not quite.

In the meantime, Kim and I gathered up my gear last night, and I was thankful that experience counts for something -- it's been a year since I packed for a 24-hour race, and last night was the easiest it's ever been to do so. If nothing else, racing an event like the Double Dare just a half hour from home is relaxing ... in a Type-A, geek-out sort of way!

(* So, when Greg talked me into Double Dare [it wasn't tough], I looked at the web site -- which said we raced 12 hours on Saturday and 9 on Sunday. Guess what? It's actually 12 and 12, with a mandatory 6-hour break in the middle. So despite taking a hiatus from 24-hour racing in 2010, I find myself again lining up for an all-day-plus epic! Bring it!)

1 comment:

Ben Welnak said...

Hmmm.... I'd like to get out there next year for that. It's sounds pretty interesting. Let me know how it goes.

I still owe you the damper back, I'll send it along this week.

Good luck out there.
Ben