I've had a long standing relationship with Wilderness Trail Bikes. In the '80s, I was either using parts they designed for other companies or I was using their parts. About 30 years of using their parts, I'd reckon. I'm not sure what part or their design I used first - maybe it was the Araya RM20 rim. I know I started running WTB designed Specialized Ground Control (name contributed by Jacquie Phelan) tires soon after they came out. I do know that sometime in '87, I installed a set of WTB drop bars on my Salsa with WTB "sausage link" shift adapters for Suntour shifters. Then it was roller-cam brakes, pumps hidden in seat posts, Grease Guard hubs, toe flips for pedals... In the '90s and up until 2007, when I was the product manager for Haro, I spec'd a lot of WTB parts on bikes we produced - tires, rims, hubs, seats...and a fair number of the Koski branded parts (seats, stems, bars, seat posts, brakes) WTB was developing for Koski.
One of my favorite all-time tires came out in the late '90s. Introduced as the Nanoraptor and available only in 26" x 2.1" (imagine one tire size!), it became a favorite of mine because it suited my riding style perfectly. I like to ride fast and the Nano helped me do that. When descending, I go as fast as my comfort level allows, but I don't push boundaries nor do I push the bike hard in corners. The Nano's shallow knobs work perfect with my riding style. It was only a 2.1, but it was a voluminous 2.1. Then it became "the" tire when it was launched as a 29" x 2.1" tire in 1999.
When I started to develop my own cross frames in 2008/9 that would fit 45mm+ tires, I contacted Mark Slate at WTB and told him they needed to do a 700x45 Nano (I still think a 45 would be awesome). At that time, it was met with a bit less than feigned enthusiasm, but as it turned out these gravel bikes started becoming popular and the demand for 38 - 45 sized tires increased. Fast forward to 2015 and WTB releases their Nano 40 and became an instant hit. One of the key factors a tire manufacturer uses to determine if they'll create a new tire is the OEM demand. In 2009, there was no OEM demand besides my paltry amount. Today, there is OEM demand and it makes financial sense to produce this tire. And that's good.
After all this WTB history of mine, I was pretty stoked to hear from Will Ritchie at WTB this spring when he asked if I would be in a photo shoot for the Nano 40. Will was kind enough to send over a set of ChrisCross i19 TCS rims, Nano 40 TCS tires, and a sweet carbon railed Silverado saddle. Wheels built, tires, and seat installed, I met with Will and Abner Kingman one late afternoon on a day that saw rain earlier, but the post rain clouds were moving out and there was a good chance of good late day light. We weren't disappointed as we rolled back and forth on Bolinas Ridge getting shots of the tires, and terrific West Marin views of Black Mountain and Tomales Bay.
All photos by Albert Kingman.
So, what do I think of these parts? The ChrisCross i19 rims are a really good choice for folks who want a good affordable ($75), tubeless compatible, rim brake rim. As a wheel builder, one of the features in the WTB rims I like is their 4D spoke hole drilling that properly angles the nipple to the spoke so undue stress isn't placed on the spoke threads at the spoke/nipple junction.
The Nano 40 TCS tires seated tubeless on the rims with only a floor pump. Even after a small sidewall puncture a few weeks ago on a big ride, the rear tire only loses a few psi if the bike sits for several days. The front, however, would lose almost all the air overnight. I never really investigated why because it would hold all the air very well during any ride and reinflating was never an issue. That's changed within the past two days and the front now is holding air like the rear when not used for several days. I'm running these tires at about 30 psi rear and 29 psi front - give or take a few depending if I'm wearing glasses or not when inflating and trying to see the gauge. This works perfect on and off-road for my 165 lb. weight, and they also work very well on the road too.
Wheels good. Silverado seat, uh, not so good. I generally really like all of WTB's seats. I've spent years riding their SST saddle from the '90s. I rode the ProLong seat they designed for Specialized. I took off a well-worn WTB Rocket V to replace it with the Silverado on my cross bike. It worked fine for 2-4 hour rides, but it was the 8+ hour ride that did me in. It just didn't have any flex in the saddle and by the time I hit the 6 hour mark, it felt like it was sitting on an board. I started thinking about looking for hills to climb so I could get out of the saddle. The shape was good and if it had more flex in the shell, it might still be on my bike. It will find a home on a bike I ride for shorter rides. If I had a full-suspension bike, it would be a good bike for the Silverado.
There you go.
(What's playing: Overwhelming Colorfast She Said, She Said)