Monday, May 5, 2014

There's a new tire in town...

It was probably over five years ago I started hounding both Kenda and WTB about tires.  I figured between one of them, I could get my ideal tire.  I had always longed for a big, fat cross tire.  Being selfish, I wanted it purely for myself.  Every cross bike I had I always wanted just a little bit fatter tire because I loved riding my cross bike on trails and that bigger tire would open up a lot of possibilities.  

Seven years ago, I opened Black Mountain Cycles and started the creation of my ideal cross bike that would fit the largest cross tire at the time - the Panaracer Fire Cross 45.  At the time, there was also a WTB 44mm MutanoRaptor, but those were soon to be obsolete.  The Fire Cross is a great tire in the dirt, but it's absolutely horrible if you ride on the road to get to the dirt.  What I really wanted was a 45mm NanoRaptor.  Or a 45mm Small Block 8.  But the Nano - yeah, that would be just about the perfect tire. 

Five years ago, the guys at WTB and Kenda were all, like, yeah, right a 45mm cross tire - who's going to buy that?  All the tire development was in 29" tires.  There wasn't a market for skinny 29" tires (fat 700c tires).  But I had a market.  My frames arrived and I outfitted bikes with Continental 42mm tires with budget casings and steel beads.  They were good tires, but not great.  I wanted great.

Then Clément came out with their 40mm X'Plor MSO tire and that was close.  When that came out, the whole Gravel Grinding thing was in getting into full swing and the MSO was aimed at the grinders.  The problem was I didn't grind gravel.  I rode dirt roads and trails.  I needed mountain bike like traction in a 40mm-45mm package that rolled well on the asphalt because I rode to the trails, sometimes an hour on the road.  

Enter Bruce Gordon and the reintroduction of his Rock 'n Road in the summer of 2012.  Now we're talking.  This is a tire with a high quality, supple casing, knobs that excelled in the dirt yet rolled well on asphalt and in a 43mm size.  Perfect.  Still is perfect for my use.

And finally, later last year, I heard from WTB that they were looking to come out with a "gravel grinder" tire and what did I think they should do?  My personal, selfish self said 45 Nano, knowing that the folks who actually race gravel grinder events would want something smaller.  I also talked about the retired 38 InterWolf - which was also a very fine tire that I was quite fond of and burned through many sets.  

In then end, they thought a 40mm Nano would suit the market's needs and that's what came out.  I got a set several weeks ago and have put some miles on and off road on them and now have them in stock for sale as well ($50 each).  The version available is their Race casing which is a foldable bead tire with a 60 tpi casing (not super supple like the Gordons).  

I had been running the Gordon tires tubeless on Pacenti SL23 rims with Orange Seal sealant.  I decided to run the Nanos with tubes because when I did a check of size with a tube, they installed easily and did not make that "SNAP" when the bead locks in place.  WTB supposedly is coming out with their tubeless TCS tire in the future - I hope it fits on other tubeless rims.  So, tubes in the Nano and on the SL23 rims, the tires are measuring a bit over 40mm.  Weight?  I weighed them but forgot how much they weigh.  They weigh what they weigh.  Not heavy.  Not superlight.  WTB's website says 470g and that sound about the same as what I weighed them at.

So, how the hell do they ride.  Well, if you're ridden Nanos at any point in time or if you were on one of the very first 29" wheeled bikes, you know the Nano does a lot of things very well.  It rolls on hardpack like a, like a (okay, I'm horrible at metaphors), they roll really fast.  They also had great tracking on a lot of different soil types.  And all that transferred over to the new 700 x 40c Nano.  I just wish the casing was more supple like a high end road tire.  Then that would make them top notch.

And now you're asking yourself "what tire should I ride?"  Here's a couple of scenarios:
1.  You do a lot of riding on the road with some off-road excursions that aren't horribly technical, but they are long, slightly chunky, and dusty.  I'd go with the Clément MSO.
2.  You like to push boundaries off-road - riding where most of the other bikes are mountain bikes, but you still like to ride to the trail.  The Bruce Gordon Rock 'n Road is for you.
3.  You think, well, I'm kinda between 1 and 2.  In that case, the WTB Nano would be a good choice.  

I've had fun on the Nano.  It has really good traction climbing in loose decomposed granite and that good traction translates to good descending and cornering traction as well.  I ran my Nanos at 38psi front, 40psi rear, but I think I'll probably do to 36/38 because of the stiffer casing.  I think I weigh about 175.  It's a good all-around tire for folks who have frames that can fit a bigger cross tire.  And it's a good tire to have in addition to the Clément and Bruce Gordon tire, because it's always fun to play around with different tires on different rides.

Oh jeez, did I really write that much?  Where's that editor?

The two missing Nanos are now in The Bahamas - seriously.

The loose, chunky, DG climb.  

Up close and personal with the loose chunkiness.

The view of Black Mountain from the top of Mt. Vision.

Black Mountain and part of the Inverness Ridge Trail

My favorite spot on the Inverness Ridge Trail

Some sweet single-track overlooking Tomales Bay

(What's playing:  Screaming Females Halfway Down/Fall Asleep)


Kurt said...

As always your insight was well thought out and informative. Thanks Mike! I too miss the old 38 interwolf I traded my last spare set of interwolfs to Stevil for some swag an on the next ride tore both sidewalks on my remaining set.

mr rogers said...

I get the gravel grinding thing. alliteration and all. But it only really applies to a very specific part of the country. Anywhere else, especially on the east coast, you have to ride pavement to connect all the dirt. And when you get into the Appalachians you have big fast descents, big rocks, mud..etc. Its nice to have lots of options these days.

Unknown said...

I'm shopping in the 700x40 market, and was wondering if you had tried the Surly Knard 41 and could share your opinion on how the ride compared to the MSO and the Nano.

I definitely find myself in between 1 and 2 as you mentioned in your review, but typically err on the side of on-road performance since I have to get across the city and the GGB before hitting any dirt.

Thanks for your insight.

blackmountaincycles said...

I haven't used the Surly Knard, but I've got them in the shop. It's knobs are a bit more aggressive than the Nano and it has a nicer 120tpi casing. I don't think you could go wrong with either the Nano or the Knard. For what you are describing, I'd say Nano based on the more interconnected center section. Both the Knard and Nano are $50.

Darren said...

I still got some interwolfs that I use for Gravel rides. Have you ridden the Smart Sam? comes in 40mm 42mm I have run those, they are good on trail, ok on road.