I’ve been putting in a lot of mountain bike and fatbike miles of late…predominantly because it’s winter. Winter means early dark…so if I’m riding solo, I try to ride off-road. It means snow and ice (though we’ve had precious little snow), which means road riding can be perilous. Even a little ice on the road (or a frost, for that matter) can ruin your day at 20mph on 23c tires. So that’s meant lots of doubletrack and singletrack (which has been pleasantly frozen), lots of gravel, powerlines, and various and sundry other forms of biking entertainment.
A few years into this whole biking thing, I still have discoveries that seem earth shatteringly new to me that are old hat to others. Todays’ theme: of knobs and zen.
I’m firmly in the weight-weenie category, selecting parts for function and durability, and also for lightness. Given two otherwise equal parts, I’ll select the lighter. Given two otherwise equal tires, I’ll select the faster rolling. What I’m finding is that the ‘otherwise equal’ thing is pretty rare.
This winter, I’ve been running Husker Dus on the Mukluk, in lieu of the Big Fat Larrys I ran last year. The BFLs undoubtedly spin faster…even though they’re larger. But the HDs hook up in just about any conditions, much better. Seeing the difference in traction even in the light snow we’ve had…or on glazed ice on the road…or in mud…or in sand…it’s singularly impressive. Our snowfall, on the other hand, is unimpressive.
But at least the bikes look good.
My Superfish is set up as a lightweight build, with my beloved Maxxis Ikon tires. Of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Singlespeed El Mariachi, with its comparitively boat-anchor-ish OEM Stans rims/spokes/Continental Trail King tires. The Trail Kings weigh in at close to 900 grams, each. My Ikons, by comparison, weigh 545-560 grams. That’s 3/4 of a pound, per tire, in weight difference. Historically, I would look at those two tires and say, without a doubt, the Ikon is the right tire.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been railing corners on the Trail Kings. Sure, they’re heavier…but the big knobs on them are confidence inspiring. They hold on a lot longer than the Ikons, and don’t threaten to low-side me when I bend it like Beckham. The Ikons are great tires–don’t get me wrong–but I’m beginning to see the merit of tires that are a bit knobbier and more aggressive, even for non-muddy conditions.
In the coming months, I’m going to start my hunt for a tire that strikes a bit of a better balance between weight and knobbiness than either the Ikons or the Trail Kings. Perhaps running a Nobby Nic up front on the Superfish would add just a bit more cornering confidence (and I likely can keep the Ikon in the rear). We’ll see. For now, I’m enjoying a little bit of knobbiness all over…even at the expense of greater weight.
And here’s Chad, enjoying epic beard status on the frozen singletrack, astride his tasty Dos Niner.