Thursday, December 12, 2013

New Shoes For By-Tor Part 3

Finally! Some snow testing!
In my last full on report on the Fatback Sterling tires, (seen here), I told you all about the on-dirt performance of the Sterling. Recently we have been thrust into mid-Winter, (despite what the calendar is telling us, this is mid-Winter!), and now I have had some decent trials in snowy conditions which has given me a good feel for what these tires are capable of in the snow.

One thing that I feel is true about anything branded "Fatback", and that is that whatever it is you are looking at from them, it has been optimized for use in Winter in Winter-like conditions. This really hit home with regard to the Sterling tires. Sure- they held their own on dirt, but when I hit the virgin snow....... The light turned on. Yep! The Sterling came alive in the snow. Even on slick, hard packed snow on the street, these tires could be trusted to grip quite well. Slightly better than Surly Larrys and BFL's? Yes, I think so. And they rolled well to boot.

Now a word about air pressures: I have gone down to something slightly above 10psi. Maybe 12-14psi, it's hard to say with these temps hovering around 0°F. But at any rate, the Sterlings do not need to go lower than this, in my opinion. I am on the brink of getting that front tire to not want to steer, which would happen for me with the Larry or BFL at about 4psi. The flatter crown of the Vee Rubber tire casing is why.

My nits? well, I still am peeved that these tires are way narrower than advertised. This is a 3.8" tire, period. That's fine, but it is not exactly what I was looking for when I bought these. In light of the actual width, the Sterling is a really good tire for fat bikes. I have great traction, but the tire rolls really fast, as long as you treat the tire with the air pressures it needs to do that with. To my mind, that is anything from 10-20psi, depending upon conditions. A Surly Larry or BFL, in contrast, is a tire I would never run over 10psi.

Secondly, due to the narrower than advertised width, you have to watch it when cornering or on off cambers. This tire grips until you tip the casing sideways, (or the ground falls away to one side or the other), and then the tire just goes away on you. Keep that tread contact patch fairly perpendicular to the ground though, and it does just fine. The line between holding its grip and losing it completely is a fine one though. This is particularly true with the front end, although I have had the back end come around on me a few times as well.

For a 3.8" tire, I think it is a keeper, but........I was expecting something wider and more forgiving in terms of float when I set out to buy tires. This tire fails at that. Look elsewhere if you need an "expedition worthy" tire. If you want lightweight, a tire that is capable in many conditions, and is fast rolling, look into this. Keep in mind that I feel the air pressures need to be higher than traditional, (read Surly tires), use.

Next step: Going tubeless. Stay tuned......


MG said...

YEEHAW!! Good luck with the tubeless conversion, Brother!


Tyler Loewens said...

Love my Nates in the snow...grip in all conditions and off camber sections.