This blog as a way to pass on merely race antics is hopefully pretty entertaining but I get a fair number of emails and Facebook messages on a regular basis asking what sort of “X” I use (or used for a specific event), or which gear I ran where. I also get a ton of parking lot eyeballs on whatever I run for a particular event. Folks who know me well and race with me often know my loadout doesn’t change a whole lot. I’m not typically a seeker of “marginal gains” in most equipment choices but rather try with the help of the folks at Blue Ridge Cyclery to make informed and rational equipment picks based on what my style and needs are and the huge number of options available to us at BRC.
Ill also answer first a question that I dont get a lot but I expect is asked a lot. I ride for Blue Ridge Cyclery not only because they enable me to do a lot of my racing in a variety of ways but also because riding for a shop provides equipment choices from here to the moon, and I’ve literally never come into contact with a better bike shop than Blue Ridge Cyclery! I spent time racing for Gary Fisher and Trek for a long time, in an era when they handed you a stack of Bontrager tires that everybody knew were rubbish, but that’s what you were told to run. So to step into a scenario where when Shawn Tevendale and I considered a hard tail mtb to race SS on a few years back we had dozens of viable options available to us at Blue Ridge Cyclery. So to say that most of my equipment choices are consciously made is an understatement; seldom slaved over, but always thoughtfully made.
Tire choice is absolutely the apex of the type of equipment choices I plan on going into in this series of blogs. Ive seen Shawn roll in from midnight laps at 24 hr races and swap out to different wheels with different rubber for changing characteristics and absolutely rip it up while others floundered as Shawn had picked juuuust the right tire for the job. And so setting into last year I started with a couple different pair to try out, Bontrager had just released an incredible new lineup and so I mounted up “the fastest rolling mtb tire ever tested;” the Bontrager 29-1 (now the XR-1). And boy was I impressed. The rubber just rolled in a straight line, just seemed to open up on a downhill coast, and on dirt still retained great vertical and steering grip and when laid over had a great round profile but still a very discernible break point. The XR-1 just kept surprising me. I run a 2.0 rear on some occasions but almost always a 2.2 front. As my season changed and I headed into Lumberjack 2014 I popped on a Bontrager XR2, a little bit broader spacing to grip on the loose Michigan sand, and paired a 2.2 rear up from my common 2.0. And damned if I didnt like that combo so much I’ve kept it on almost ever since. Just to repeat, same pair of tires on for racing and training from Jun 2014 to April 2014. Doesn’t sound like much but that’s 8 hundred mile races, La Ruta, and a whole host of other rides and races all over. I cant even think of the miles that have been on those tires in both racing and training. I even showed up at True Grit with “worn out” rubber according to my travel companions. Little did they know I always check my tires thoroughly pre-race and had determined thees tires were just right for the Utah desert. A refresher of Bontrager Sealant and off they went to another race victory. That rubber is probably better traveled than most adults! They’ve been bottomed out, bounced off of, slid around, and hooked up on everything from Costa Rican mud, to Michigan sand, to Utah Grit. ZERO flats and minimal maintenance. I always clean my tires with a soft bristle brush when I clean my bike and inspect when I do so. Id still run my training rubber at any race today. The sidewalls show a little wear but feel and look stout, the tread is worn in the center line but not done yet, and the overall feel of the rubber is still great.
So blah blah blah I love my tires. I have mounted up a new set on my i9 race wheels and expect the same long life out of them. I couldn’t be more impressed with the XR2/XR1 combo and absolutely encourage anybody to give this rubber a shot. You wont be disappointed!