Tuesday, April 10, 2018

New tire day

I really should have bought some new MTB tires last year, but I never got around to it. By fall, when trails get all dry and loose, I had essentially no tread left, which did not inspire confidence and I didn't ride the bike all that much from about August until now. I also got a number of flats that needed patching on that rear tire, despite it being the EXO casing. This could be due to the new 120tpi design, which means a faster, more supple tire, but each thread is smaller and weaker. It was the 3rd or 4th ikon I had, with the previous tires being 60tpi, with a non-exo, non-tr thrown in there that had no issues.

I didn't mind the ikons, but last time around I tried an ardent race up front hoping for a little more grip. That was not really the improvement I was hoping for, I think because of the minimal transition knobs. With a high seat post XC bike and racey tires, you spend a good amount of time in that part of the tread and it's hard to get the bike fully leaned over onto the cornering knobs. For me at least. I might just suck at riding. So my plan was to try something with a little more even spacing like a continental x-king, schwalbe rocket ron, etc. My understanding is that a well defined set of edge knobs does give more outright grip when you are on them, but you have to get there first.

Eventually I decided to try the schwalbes, and wanted to go with a rocket ron up front, which has even knob spacing, and a racing ralph rear, which seems a a little lower profile down the center.

I had my cart ready to check out at a german website, which offer the nice evo line schwalbes at way less than they cost here, but I waited a little too long to order. I wasn't sure how long it would take (weeks? a month or longer?), and wanted tires sooner rather than later, so I decided to just order locally. However, even with my discount at Missoula Bicycle Works, those $92 msrp tires were a little more than I wanted to spend. The high price of mtb tires (and other bike tires in general), makes no sense to me. It's absurd. And don't get me started on the price of a whole bicycle...

Moving on, Schwalbe does make less expensive tires, in their "performance" line. This year they are officially tubeless ready, have a new "addix" rubber compound, and "only" cost me $50 a piece. $50 a tire I guess I can live with, and I had a goal of trying out something more budget friendly with an msrp of under $70 (which leaves you pretty limited when looking for a tubeless ready XC tire). You can get x-kings in the $40-50 range, and I also looked at the michelin force xc, but decided to go with the original plan.

Hey look new tires. QBP didn't have the rocket ron in the performance/addix/tr version so I just have racing ralphs front and rear. Maybe later this summer I'll try to order one, or go with a nobby nic to get a little more grip once the xc races are over.

The evo line racing ralphs, with the snakeskin casing in 29x2.25, are listed at something like 630g. For some reason I didn't look closely to see what the performance line was supposed to be, and later found a claimed weight of 735g. Ouch, over 200g extra weight there. Then I went and put them on scales.

Ouch again. That's a little more weight than I wanted to add to my bike. My previous tires had listed weights of 670 and 740g, so the actual weight difference is in the 150g range. But maybe that will improve durability, as my 120 tpi 3c/exo/tr ikon didn't seem very tough.

On the plus side, it's new tires. They were fairly inexpensive, and they popped onto the bead and setup tubeless right away with no hassles on my easton ea70xct ust rims. They don't even need tape- install tire, add sealant, add air, go ride.

Then I checked the width and found more disappointment

These are supposed to be 2.25" wide. But, I don't have new fancy wide wheels. They are 24mm external width, so that's what, 20mm internal? And they are new, so maybe I'll get a little stretch after awhile. But an extra 1/4 inch doesn't seem likely. The previous tires, listed at 2.2, also measured smaller, so this isn't anything new.

And here's how worn out my ikon was. I think I'm going to notice an improvement

In conclusion, they were well priced and easy to install, but heavier, and narrower than claimed. Now I just need to go ride them and see how they feel, roll and grip. There is still a lot of snow out there so I'm getting anxious to hit the trails.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Crystal Creek

Crystal creek road goes from Turah, east of Missoula, to Deer creek. Done as a loop, less than half is on dirt, and there is minimal elevation gain, making this a great easy/beginner route or something you can do quickly after work. Usually I like to go out to Turah on pavement and then back on the dirt, but this can be done any way you want. From Turah on the south side of the interstate, cross the river, and turn right on Crystal Creek road.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Holloman Saddle

The ride over holloman saddle from Clinton to Miller creek is one of the more popular mixed-surface loops in the area. Total distance is about 55 miles with 3000 vertical feet of climbing with about 20 miles on dirt.

Holloman saddle is on what's called the miller divide, or the north end of the sapphire mountains. The sapphires extend south all the way to Chief Joseph pass and idaho and have lots of other roads and trails to explore.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Petty Creek Loop

I've been meaning to post more ride descriptions and routes, and I just rode this a week or so ago so I might as well post about it.

Petty creek goes into the clark fork near Alberton, and there is a bridge, and fishing access where it meets the river. Petty creek road continues 13 miles to the top of a pass, where it becomes Graves creek road and descends down to highway 12 west of Lolo. From Missoula, this creates a loop of 80-90 miles depending on the starting point, and the new path from Lolo to Missoula makes the last section of the ride much more pleasant. The upper part of petty creek all the way to highway 12 is dirt, but this can be done with no problems on a road bike, especially with larger, more durable tires (I have some 27mm vittorias that work well for rides like this).

Friday, March 23, 2018


It seems that bike season is officially here. Looking at March, I've done quite a few miles and a lot of riding in groups. Actually, only 3 solo rides for the month and they were all the first week. Two weeks ago we had the first weekend rides, and last week we started up MBW Monday and Wednesday Worlds. Next weekend is the Polson Speedwagon race, then a few weeks later the Montana Gravel Challenge, which is basically the hell ride and roubaix combined into one event. Then in May we are putting on a road race, possibly a multiple day thing that will use the old Bearmouth course and possibly have a hill climb and crit/circuit race as well.

So I'd better keep up the riding and cut back on the beer and junk food because that's a lot of racing coming up fast.

Here are some pictures from the last few weeks

Monday, March 19, 2018


It's starting to look like spring out there after another pretty long winter. It can be a little hard to stay in shape over the winter in Montana, as the cold, snow, and dark all conspire to keep you on the couch with a tasty local beer. While the couch and beer are appealing, and it is nice to have a bit of a winter break, I don't want to spend too much time sitting around getting fat and out of shape.

With thoughts of springtime bike maintenance, upgrades, and new equipment in mind I tried to keep my winter time expenditures to a minimum, so no, I still don't have a fat bike or a fancy backcountry ski setup. Or even XC skis. Those things would do a much better job at keeping me active during the winter as riding on a trainer is really not very fun. I did at least managed to stay a little active. After an early november snowstorm the roads cleared up and I manged to get a good amount of riding in during november and december. Then around mid-January things cleared up a bit, and despite being a little cold I got in a few more miles in Jan-Feb.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Gear ratios and calculators

You might have noticed I talk about gearing a lot, especially after buying two new drivetrains last year. The other point of view is "I don't care, I just ride my bike," but I'm not like that. Instead I like to stare at a bunch of numbers on a screen and try to determine which will be the better combination of gears. While there is definitely merit to just riding a bike, if going up hills seems too hard, or you are always spinning your pedals too fast on downhills, it's worth considering different combinations. And then, if you're doing what I did and going to a 1x setup, it's a good idea to compare what you're getting with what you have.