Friday, December 18, 2015

Friday News And Views

The lack of an industry wide tubeless standard is creating friction.
Just about a year ago now I posted up about the "State Of Tubelessness" in terms of gravel road going tires and rims. My take at that time, when a true tubeless system for gravel wasn't available, was that we were covering the same ground as 29"ers had about seven years prior. Riders were left to nebulous directions and self-experimentation which often led to disastrous results. Since that time, we've had progress. There are serious, systemic tubeless tire solutions covering both rim and tire which work perfectly. Then, as with tires for mountain biking, you have rim manufacturers that only do rims and tire manufacturers that only do tires making parts to be set up tubeless together. Sometimes the results are good, and sometimes they are so-so. In rare cases some tires and tubes simply do not work well together at all.

Yesterday I mentioned Taichung Bike Week, and in the industry magazine, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News, there was an extensive article concerning tubeless tires and road and gravel applicationsIn the article featuring TBW, tire manufacturers bemoaned the lack of standard rim and tire interface dimensions, tire width appropriate to rim width issues, and the proliferation of hookless bead carbon rims. This causes no small amount of "friction" when it comes to discussing wheels and how tires interface with them. Narrower rims and wider tires don't work as easily as an appropriately wide rim with the same tire. However; that same rim may not work well with a 28mm wide road tubeless tire at all. Then you have diameters of rims, tires, and even how the beads are constructed and from what materials, which lead to various issues. Carbon reinforced beads in particular are troublesome. However; they are deemed necessary when higher road pressures are contemplated.

Finally, there is the field serviceability factor. Say that your sealant fails, or that a tire gets cut beyond the sealants capability to seal it up. Then how the rim and tire fit can be a big issue. Too tight, which is great for lower pressures and security when it comes to tire roll over/burping, and then you may have a big problem even breaking the bead over the rim edge just to get a tube in. Conversely, a looser fit may cause burping and require higher pressures to maintain the tire's integrity in hard cornering. It's a tough nut to crack with the interfaces being all over the place dimensionally.

That's why it is still the best bet to seek out a true tubeless system that covers tire and rim. Like WTB's TCS system. Then you can have it all without being compromised in some way that may bite you in the butt down the road. Hopefully WTB and others will use the systemic approach to expand our choices by using tires and rims designed for each other.

The Ti Mukluk with the Cirrus Cycles Body Float post
 If Fat Bikes Could Float:

I got to ride the Ti Muk the other day after the big rain, and was reacquainted with the titanium shafted Body Float post by Cirrus Cycles again. It is a coil sprung suspension post that I had tried out on my Fargo last year at Odin's Revenge. I liked it so much that I ended up buying one and for now it lives on the Ti Muk.

The thing is pretty eye opening. For one thing, it obviously pretty much isolates you from all small chatter and small compressive bumps are almost erased. However, it also does something in regard to how you feel and absorb front end impacts and small compressive bumps that is hard to put into words. I'll just say it makes things "more better" and I like it. Now mind you- this is all at speeds I would term as "trundling" and anything faster is a different ball game. That's for off road- mtb type stuff. On gravel it just really takes out that frequency that buzzes your behind and pot holes and dips are dispensed with as mere annoyances as opposed to surprise shocks. It is not a rear suspension replacement. Maybe "soft tail like"? Okay, I could say that and live with it.

I will say that you just cannot really understand what it does for your riding until you have ridden it for a while and then ride a standard seat post. Suddenly the little bits of unweighting the bike and the times you level out the pedals and coast a micro-second to absorb a small dip which were unlearned while using the Body Float have to be relearned. Because of that, you suddenly become conscious of how much chatter you aren't trying to avoid with the Body Float that you have to when riding rigid posts. Then you have the "aha!" moment and the worth of the post becomes quite evident. My opinion is that during longer events, all that unweighting and leveling of the pedals a small fraction of a second wear you down. The Body Float takes that out of the equation, but you just don't realize how valuable that is until you try a Body Float and then get on a standard post.

By the way, the areas I usually ride the fat bike are all flooded now. Unfortunately the Body Float seat post doesn't help out with that. It'll be interesting to see how this plays out the rest of the Winter, but it might end up becoming a massive broken up ice field out there and fat biking will have to take place somewhere else this Winter.

Stud. The tire, not you, silly!

Gnarwalls Landed:

Studded fat bike tires are something of a rarity, yet high in demand, or so it would seem. Whenever we have been asked about them at the shop where I work, and we go to order some, no one has them in stock.  So we started just ordering in a pair to have around whenever we could get our hands on a pair. We heard about the Gnarwall last August and put an order in for a pair whenever they might come up as being available. Well, recently they popped up on the warehouse inventory at Trek, so we grabbed this single pair, one of which I have pictured here. We checked yesterday, and poof! Zero availability. Amazing!

45NRTH is like this as well. Anyway, we have a pair and I am sure they won't last long, especially with the conditions we're likely to have this Winter locally after the flood waters freeze up.

I know a lot of folks were dismayed at how the Gnarwall has fewer studs than what 45NRTH uses on the Dillinger, but when you take a look at the Gnarwall you see how the designer focused the stud pattern where the tire contact patch is, and not where it isn't. Makes sense. Anyway, also consider the tubeless ready nature of the Gnarwall and suddenly it starts to look pretty darn attractive as an ice/icy snow conditions tire. is expensive. Just about the same as a Dillinger studded tire. That's kind of a bummer, but the Gnarwall was designed as an ice/icy snow tire and being that they don't produce thousands of these, the price isn't really out of line. Since there probably aren't very many of these tires made year to year, that also contributes to the difficulty in getting them. Did I mention that they are spendy? Yeah?....... Okay then. If you gotta ride on ice or on icy snow, nothing beats a tire that was designed to be studded like this one was.

Have a great weekend! Thanks, as always, for stopping by!



Smithhammer said...

Couldn't agree more about the WTB TCS system. I recently threw some Team Frequency rims with Nine Line tires on my Fargo, and they set up flawlessly, with no mesing around or having to improvise anything and no issues since. It's what a tubeless system should be.

Peter Rhodes said...

My experience with road/gravel tubeless has been Easton and Stans. Neither of which I have ever had any issue with. Even using non-tubeless tires like Michelin Mud2 on alpha 340 or like currently using Nano Race 700x40 on Stan Grail rims. Both have setup flawlessly. My Easton setup is on my road bike with 23c tires and the only issue there was I ran a Schwalbe one tire for too long so the sealant started spraying through the now too thin casing. Any PSI greater than 40 or so would result in sealant coming through the very thin tire. I had to creep home 5 miles with that one. I do believe that had I had a tube in there though, I would have flatted on road debris, that is how thing the casing was.
Now my standard disclaimer is that I'm generally between 135-140lbs so I don't exactly stress out most systems, even riding "hard" or "aggressive".