By Barry Wicks
Should I run the 32c or 34c today? File tread? Semi knob? Mud tire? Sticky rubber or normal? Maybe Dual Compound?
Why do i have so many choices?
I wish I could just strap on a thin layer of rubber to my perfect casing, go pedal as hard as I want, and the tire could magically morph into the perfect combination of grip and speed that I need to power to victory. That’s a bunch of wishful thinking, but how much difference does my tire choice really make?
Tire talk consumes an inordinate amount of conversational time when one engages verbally with an off-road bicycle racer. If you based your entire perception of this species on said conversations, you would be lead to assume that the entire outcome of a race is decided by how thoroughly one adjusts tire pressures, clips knobs just so and changes heart at least four times in the five minutes before the start of the race.
In reality, we are just a bunch of dorks.
My girlfriend hates it when we go out for dinner at a races with some of the other bike kids, and we get into long-winded, intricate debates of the merits of one type of tire to another. I swear that I can feel that file tread gripping the ground like Velcro and that mud tire ripping the grass out of the ground as I power through a turn.
But maybe it is all just perception? For sure it is. But when I “feel” it, and the feeling is manufactured in my subconscious based on what was discussed and debated over steaks and sausages the night before, does that make it any less valid than if I can actually perceive the grip variation coming from three-square centimeters of rubber contacting uneven dirt through about four feet of carbon fiber, aluminum, steel, titanium and leather? Who knows?
Go ask your favorite riders, or ask your inner self, I am sure they/you are full of meaningful insight into the inner workings of tire grip adhesion technology. Arent we all? Dont we know what tire is the absolute best? What tire will mean the difference betwixt winning and failing miserably, between victory and embarrassment?
If we think it is so, it makes it so!
I am going to go ride right now, but first I need to check the weather and wind forecast, along with humidity projections and barometer reading to ensure that I mount the correct tires. Don’t want to get out there and find my self unprepared. That would be catastrophic. It could lead me to forgetting about what tires I have on, and instead concentrate on pedaling or looking at the scenery.
And we all know about that slippery slope. Once we start going down the road of pleasure and fun, the tire debate goes out the window and all we’re left with is the bike, the world and the inner workings of our brains battling to be heard above the roar of endorphins unleashed by the perfect power slide though a tricky corner; the perfect balance of slip, grip and adhesion all aligning in perfect harmony.
What tires do I have on right now? They are the best!
Barry Wicks is a pro mountain biker and cyclocross racer with Kona.