Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tale of two tires...

Tire One

For the past 3 years or so, I have been trying to burn through a stash of cross tires I collected over the years of product management where tire companies throw tires at you in hopes of their getting spec on your bikes.  Those days are long gone, but the tires weren't.  My favorite tire out of all the cross tires I received was the 38mm WTB Interwolf with the high-end casing and folding bead.  Unfortunately, WTB discontinued this tire.  

I wore out my last Interwolf several months ago and the mental spiral has been deep.  At the time, a new tire from Vee Rubber came out:  the 12.  It's a really nice riding tire if your frame can fit a 1.95 x 29 tire.  Mine can.  I still really like this tire, but it didn't perform so great on my favorite cross loop.  This loop consists of about 5 miles on the road with a one mile road climb and then a dirt climb up a decomposed granite, loose trail.  In all fairness, not a lot of tires hook up well in steep, loose D.G.  However, the 12's really made the climb difficult.  I spent too much time concentrating on trying not to spin the rear tire in my 34/30 for the first 2/3 of the climb and then really had a hard time hooking them up when the climb got steeper and I dropped down to my 24.  

With the climb out of the way, it's a paved section to the beginning of a single-track descent on nice trail with plenty of pine needles.  The 12 did great here.  The next section of trail is a double-track on more decomposed granite that is fairly buff.  Again, good performers here.  However, the last 50 feet of this trail is a fairly steep descent to a short 50 feet of pavement before the fire road section starts.  It's this last steep descent that causes a lot of tires to be overtaxed.  Heavy braking, cornering...this was too much for the 12s and both the front and rear were continually losing traction.  The rear expectedly, the front unexpectedly, which causes some of those pucker moments.  

Upright, and on to the fire road that leads to a pavement descent back to sea level, the tires were great on the gentle rolling fire road and superb on the paved descent.  I fiddled a bit with air pressure and felt like the tires worked best at about 35 - 38.  Lower than that and they squirmed descending fast on the pavement pushing hard through corners.  I don't like that feeling.  I felt that they worked great at Annadel St. Park, but only so-so on my Inverness Ridge Loop.  The dirt conditions are very different between the two.  I've spent a lot of time riding decomposed granite trails in SoCal and am fairly adept at them.  For those unfamiliar with a decomposed granite trail, think of a super hard-packed trail (kind of like your kitchen floor) and then toss a bunch of ball bearings on the floor.  Yeah, slippery.  Well, that's kind of an exaggeration, but only kind of.

So, this all boils down to the Vee 12 being a good tire on the road, on dirt roads with moderate grades, and on dirt trails with somewhat tacky dirt.  If this is your riding, this is a good choice if you want the feel of a large volume tire.

Here's the best I could do to show the condition of the trail.  This section is probably a 10% grade and has all kinds of promise of lost traction.

Bolinas Ridge
 The 12 worked really well on terrain like this on Bolinas Ridge - and in fact it worked nicely on the whole of Bo-Ridge.

Vee 12
A refresher as to what the 12 looks like.

Next tire:  Clement X'Plor MSO 40.
(What's playing:  The English Beat Mirror in the Bathroom)


RubeRad said...

Hey, thx for the review. I'm looking to squeeze V12s into a Surly CrossCheck -- any thoughts, or measurements of true dimension when mounted?

blackmountaincycles said...

They are a bit under their claimed 1.95" (49.5mm) size. More like 46mm to 47mm wide.