Friday, December 21, 2018

Testing one, two: Drilling down.

Several more days and nights worth of rides have happened, but no new snow has fallen.  In a "normal" year there wouldn't have been enough traffic for us to ride at all thus far -- we're usually reliant on those poor saps that are gifted snowshoes to pack things down in the week between the two big upcoming holidays.  Some confluence of factors has given us both ample snow and decent traffic to leave behind rideable trail, and no complaints have been heard.

^ Being able to stand and climb, on snow, is a novelty to us.  Rare that things are zipped up tight enough to even think about it.

Pete was feeling sprightly on an early morning ride, and gave in to the notion by powering out of the saddle as hard as he could for a few strokes.  His rear tire broke loose -- loose snow being what it is, how could it not? -- and he damn near swapped ends before high-siding and slapping down on his shoulder.  He got up and continued the ride, and even joined us again the day after, but you could tell he was suffering a bit.

As Skippy likes to say, "Getting old isn't for sissies...".

We've compared these two tires in a somewhat wide range of conditions thus far -- from base pressures (somewhere around .2 to .5psi) when churning through snowmachine fluffed merengue or 8" of drifts atop a semi-firm base, to ~2psi when riding hollow hardpack.  That last is the kind where you're singing along at a decent clip, but always aware that the ephemeral crust could give way at any moment, swallow up your front wheel, and send you superman-style out the front door.  The net effect is, I imagine, how a long-tailed cat feels in a room fulla sweet geezers in rocking chairs.

Our trails simply don't get much better than this until spring thaw.

Because I've been riding the 2XL tires full-time on snow for a few seasons, I'm pretty well accustomed to their good and bad habits.  Their most admirable trait is how well they float compared to every other tire out there.  And worst?  Simply that they are slow on hardpack.  To the end of speeding them up I snipped the middle 5 rows of tread blocks, leaving the two outer rows intact.  This brought a compromise between soft-snow bite and hardpack efficiency, and I've adapted to it.  It's far from perfect, but it's adequate to the task at hand.  What would improve this tire even more would be for Vee to come out with a front specific tread -- something akin to Surly's Bud where this is virtually a carbon copy of Surly's Lou.  Bud and Lou were arguably the best snow tires ever made for the conditions we see most, they are simply outclassed in size these days.

Pete, Jeny, Creig and I have swapped bikes several times on different sections of trail, antennae tuned outward to sense minute differences as we traverse different varieties of snow.  Thus far -- and yes I'm aware that this is far from scientific -- we agree that if there is a difference between the J5 with full tread height and the 2XL with snipped treads, it isn't big.  As expected, the J5 is more grippy and thus more predictable when leaned, especially in corners.  We are evenly split as to whether one feels faster than the other: Jeny and Pete slightly favor the J5, Creig and I feel the 2XL is a wee bit speedier.

When we return from the holiday break we'll set up a controlled roll-down test to answer that question definitively -- at least for our backyard trails and conditions.  And we'll introduce the ENVE wheels to the mix.

Thanks for checkin' in.

1 comment:

  1. Might i suggest trying a 27.5x4.5" up front, paired with the 26x5" out back. Due to trying to use up some tires I have, I've been running a 27x3/26x4 combo, and was surprised to find i had more rear traction in deep/loose snow, without much loss in float on crust.