Even though I’m not riding my Trans-Iowa rig yet — sticking to the Pugsley for the wintery stuff — it doesn’t mean that I haven’t spent quite a bit of time thinking about gear, parts, and their various configurations.
The right tires can make all of the different when riding the gravels. Some folks prefer to go light and fast, riding 32-35mm cyclo-cross skins. Not me. I want some meat under me to smooth things out and float over the nastier stuff.
Given that, I’ve narrowed my tire selection to three candidates.
WTB Vulpine (700×50/52). The KM has been wearing Vulpines most of the time since before the 2011 Almanzo, with a few breaks for Schwalbe Big Apples. A semi-slick 29er tire with good volume and a decent tread. Currently in use. 650g.
Schwalbe Marathon Mondiale (700×40). Grant’s been using these on his Soma Saga for the past half-year and reports the good traction and toughness you’d expect from one of Schwalbe’s long-distance touring tires. 650g.
Clement MSO Xplor (700×40). Michael’s been running these on his Cross-Check since the middle of the summer or so, and seems to love them (and I mean love). A newer entry into the gravel tire market, but one that’s excited quite a few people. 520g.
I’m sure there are plenty of other options out there in the same general size/width zone, but I’m not really paying any attention to them because I don’t really need any more options — and more importantly, these three are known to me either in person or by direct recommendation from one of my Trans-Iowa riding partners.
So how do I decide — especially since I’m going to buy a fresh set of whatever I’m riding anyway? We’ll just have to see what happens when we’re all out riding together as we prepare for Trans-Iowa. I don’t have any compelling reason to change, as yet.
Kinda handy to have a team of tire testers, ready to hand, isn’t it?
Incidentally, the three bikes pictured above are the bikes we’ve each selected to ride Trans-Iowa. As far as I know, anyway.