After yesterday’s gravel slaughter, and with temps forecast to reach 105 in Chicago today, I rolled out early this morning to put in a few quality hours with the Mukluk. This was after installation of the newly acquired lightweight, 120TPI Husker Dü tires. I had a chance to do some gravel, some crushed limestone, some asphalt, and some trails.
That’s the Husker tread. On hard or semi-hard surfaces, the center tread rib is relatively continuous, and results in surprisingly low rolling resistance. At 15psi, the Huskers roll about as easily as my Big Fat Larrys at similar pressure. Like the BFLs, I run the rear Husker in reverse orientation, for improved traction.
Mounted on my Rolling Darryls, the 4″ wide Huskers have a very nice, consistent profile. This is one of their advantages for “normal riding” as compared to the BFLs. The BFLs are a bit wide for the Darryls, and balloon out a bit. That gives you a tread profile that is not consistent…so at certain pressures, when you lean the BFLs over in a corner, you have a gradual banking….until you reach a point where the tread profile suddenly changes and the bike precipitously drops into the corner. The Huskers’ more consistent tread profile, mounted on the Darryls, makes cornering a bit more predictable.
The more aggressive tread on the Huskers was much appreciated on gravel and limestone as well (mountain biking covered below). While I’ve long been pleased with the BFLs, the Huskers definitely have more ultimate grip when pushing hard into a corner. My bike setup on the Mukluk is predominantly biased towards the rear, so taking a hard corner requires consciously weighting the front end for best results. The Huskers hooked up well, and when they did reach their limit, they understeered predictably (no sudden washout), and when I backed off, they hooked back up and continued to turn. I simply cannot ask for better performance than that.
The lighter weight of the Huskers was also definitely palpable. With the rotating mass at issue here, any change is appreciated. The Huskers saved me close to a pound of rotating mass over the lightweight 120 TPI BFLs. I think the BFLs ultimately have less rolling resistance on hard surfaces, but it’s close…and that difference in rolling resistance is exchanged for the reduced weight of the Huskers. On acceleration, the difference is palpable.
Summary of road-based riding thus far (asphalt, gravel, limestone): I’d pick these over the BFLs for just about all conditions.
Important caveat: I have obviously not had the Huskers in the mud (no rain here in IL in some time), nor in snow.
That brings us to mountain biking. (And yes, living in IL, I use the term “mountain” loosely).
My riding today was in a forested area with well-drained, loamy soil. With the recent dry weather, the soil was dry and well-packed, and even the creek bed (shown above) was completely dry.
I was running about 10psi up front and 12 in the rear.
The Huskers flat rocked. They were completely predictable in cornering, and completely unstoppable on climbing. For example, there’s one climb in this area that involves riding around a 180 degree gooseneck turn while climbing a relatively steep grade on fist-sized rocks, in a wash. On a regular mountain bike, it took me a lot of effort and technique, and many, many tries, to be able to successfully clean that section. The Mukluk with the Huskers makes it stupid-easy. You don’t have to pick a good line…just get a low gear, point her up the middle, and pedal.
My Mukluk is a medium, so I do have to be sensitive to rider position…with my rear weight bias, I have to shift weight forward (especially with low gears and this much traction) to avoid lofting the front end.
Where I was riding today wasn’t a high-speed kind of area, but there are a few sections where you can carry some velocity. I found the Huskers to be more responsive than the BFLs, with less palpable tread and casing squirm. Turning was more instantaneous. The lighter weight was also very noticeable when cranking the Mukluk through corners at speed.
The Mukluk is set up for many conditions, but the geometry is not as aggressive, or as “mountain-bikey” as a Pugsley. For that reason, the Muk usually doesn’t particularly like being hustled through the woods. The Huskers’ responsiveness made me reconsider that opinion. If I were going to convert the Muk to more of a mountain bike, the first thing I’d do is ditch the Loop bars for something lighter and less ponderous…but the Loops are just so good at all of the other types of riding that I do–a bar switch is unlikely.
I will say that braking with the rear wheel took me by surprise the first time I squeezed the Avids on a downhill–it locked up far easier than I expected. That seemed to be a one-time issue, as braking performance was otherwise very good.
I’ll hold my ultimate thoughts until I get more miles on the Huskers…so far, I have only about 3 hours of ride time on them…albeit in some pretty varied terrain. Thus far, I would opine that unless the extra floatation of the BFLs is needed for some reason, the Huskers seem to outshine the BFLs just about everywhere. Call me impressed–more than I thought I would be.
I will be curious to see how the Huskers respond at very low pressures. This past winter, I was running 3psi in the front and 5 psi in the rear of the BFLs at times (although a more normal pressure would be 5 and 8).
I did get to ride the creek bed, with rocks ranging from fist to bowling-ball sized, as shown above. That’s the kind of riding that, in my mind, only a fatbike is competent at. It was easily controllable, surprisingly easy to pedal, and cushioned by 4″ wide tires, it was remarkably comfortable. I can see that riding a longer creek bed (as in Salsa’s recent culture post) would be super-fun.
One last scoop for today: the Mukluk is going to loose some weight over the next week or so…in a decidedly blingtastic way.