Thursday, November 09, 2017

Trans Iowa v14: A Discussion About Tires

What you want for tires in Trans Iowa can vary.Typical dry Spring conditions like this call out for one thing.
Hey, I'm back again with the last question for the series.These last few posts were generated by a Rookie's questions that I received and he graciously allowed me to share with all of you so that the answers could be a benefit to many. Thank you especially to those Trans Iowa and gravel road savvy veterans who have chimed in on the comment section for these posts which has enriched the discussion immensely. Please continue to add to the discussion in the comments again today if you are so led to do that.

Okay, with that, here is the final question:  "If it is wet are you better to run a smaller tire for more mud clearance?"

Answer: That's a more complicated question than you might imagine. First off, having some mud clearance is best. Coming in to any gravel event in the Mid-West with your tire clearances maxed out by some fatty tire choice is only asking for trouble. One sticky, gooey, muddy section will make you regret that choice! Even if 99% of the rest of the course is dry! 

Secondly- If you see muddy roads, especially minimum maintenance roads, it may be best to pick up your bicycle and walk! Mud tends to cling to everything in the Mid-West and it is tenacious! Even just rolling your bicycle on muddy dirt is a really bad idea because it doesn't matter if you have weight on the bike or not. This mud doesn't care!

About as mushy as gravel roads can get. This scene is from T.I.v6
Sometimes it rains hard enough or long enough that the roads get mushy. This won't require you to have copious amounts of mud clearance, but you should have at least 3mm-5mm around your tires where they pass under the fork crown, the "brake bridge" and seat stay area, and in between the chain stays and the tire.

This will allow your frame to pass any wet, sticky bits that might get pulled up by your tires. This is especially important on carbon fiber frames because hours of grinding muddy,  fine limestone paste will abrade a hole in your frame where it passes by the rear tire. That's right- and this has even been reported on a titanium frame as well, but it is much more common on carbon fiber frames. So, if you have to go with a skinnier tire to get mud clearances, then maybe you should do that.

Let's say that tire clearance isn't an issue for your bicycle. Then it may become a question of how wide do you go. Tire choices have been debated since even before the first Trans Iowa began, so I've been around for all of it. I've seen Trans Iowa finished on 28mm tires and fat bike tires, but either extreme will make you pay a big price. The reasonable choice is to run something in the 35mm-42mm range. This will be what the bulk of the Trans Iowa field will be running for tires, and has been since about T.I.v3 onward. (Many mountain bikes were used for the first two versions of the event.)

My personal favorite and a tire bourne out of Trans Iowa riding- The WTB Resolute
There is a tire which was conceived of and developed with Trans Iowa in mind, and that is the WTB Resolute. It has the unique characteristics of being a pretty decent mud shedder and it rolls very fast on hard surfaces like chip seal and cement. However; it is a pretty puffy tire and measures out to more like a 44mm tire. It is tubeless ready, by the way. Also, it is offered in a 650B size.

I might also recommend the Panaracer Gravel King SK, but that tire also is pretty puffy for its size. It may not fit your frame in the 40mm, tubeless ready version. (This tire goes more like 42mm in size, by the way.) There are skinnier versions of the Gravel King, but not all are tubeless rated. Tubeless is a highly recommended thing for Trans Iowa, by the way. Terrene makes a nice 40mm-ish tire in the Elwood as well which I really liked in 650B X 47mm size.

A skinnier, tubeless ready tire choice is available in the Donnelly MSO in the 36mm size and WTB has a 37mm Riddler which is pretty good as well.

Those are my top tire choices for Iowa gravel and some tips on how to choose a tire for your bike to ride in T.I.v14. Of course, many other choices exist, so feel free to use whatever you are confident in.

Tomorrow: A Bonus bit of advice and a review!


Phillip Cowan said...

I would think the Compass Steilacoom would be a good choice if gooey mud were imminent.

Ari said...

I think that tires are a lot better than they were 10 years ago, that's for sure. I remember thinking I had "wide" tires riding Ritchey Speed Max at 32mm. I think the tire choices are amazing nowadays. But my comment has to do more with Rims. I really like the wider rims. They help to keep the tires from getting that light bulb effect. Wider rims make bikes handle better and they offer more comfort on the tire side. A 42mm tire paired with a wide rim is a great choice.

blooddoc23 said...

Do the WTBs and in particular the Riddlers work well with Stans No-Tubes wheels? I have an older set of clincher ATRs.

Guitar Ted said...

@Robert Ellis- The answer is no. Stan's rims are meant primarily to convert non-tubeless rated tires to a tubeless set up via their slightly larger bead seat diameter on their rims. So, "true" tubeless ready tires, with their tighter tolerances and tendency for slightly smaller bead diameters, to help with sealing against actual tubeless ready rims, typically are a kludge fit, or are outright incompatible with Stan's. WTB TCS is notorious for NOT fitting Stan's rims, as an example.

Derek said...

@Robert Ellis--what's a clincher ATR? I have Stan's Iron Cross wheels and have had great experiences with the Donnelly (Clement) MSO 700 x 36c. The Panaracers are also reported to fit well on Stan's rims; I have a set, but have not mounted them yet. My only complaint with the 36c comes when I hit patches of deep, fresh spring Iowa gravel. (Incidentally I'm not recommending the Iron Cross, but they were cheap used.)

blooddoc23 said...

Sorry quick typing over a hurried lunch. Those are Alpha 400 ZTRs Stans no Tubes. Some years ago I DNFed a Odin's Revenge as I had mounted some Hutchinson tubeless tires and the back tire blew off the rim with a ruptured bead at about mile 118. It was a real drag and I was later eaten alive by mosquitoes while waiting for my son to pick me up. So I'm hesitant to use those wheels again on any significant ride. If I could find a good fitting tire I would mount them and see how it went this winter. Those wheels are good for stretching new tubular cross tires before a glue on.

Noah said...

WTB Horizons fit very well on Stans Valors (the lighter carbon rims) - easy to get on and off, no problems. So their Road Plus tires may be an exception to the usual concerns about WTB/Stans compatibility.