Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Off road tires for the commuter

When I bought my Surly in 2009, I had the expectation of riding the D2R2 on it but it would be primarily a commuter, a child hauler, an occasional dirt road bike, and maybe a touring bike.  I've done everything on it except tour and it's turned out to be a great, affordable bicycle.  I didn't have a firm idea for tires.  Roy Cervantes of Grace Bicycles, who did the build, suggested the Panaracer Protec commuter tire.  I went with the 700x32c version:

It  turned out to be a great choice.  While it wasn't stellar on the 2009 D2R2, it served well as a commuter and for hauling my boys.  The tires have over 4000 miles without a flat, including a lot of miles crossing Cambridge streets and some dirt road miles as well.  And there is still life in the tires.  I can't say the tires are very supple and getting the inflation right, depending on whether or not I had boys on the child seat, was key and then it still was a somewhat harsh ride.  Last year I rode 3 dirt road rides (as well as a lot of dirt paths here and there along the way): the 2013 Ride Studio Cafe Diverged Ride, the 2013 D2R2 (the Green River Ride), and a solo ride in Estabrook Woods in Concord.  It was these last three rides that I realized that I needed something else on my wheels to get me safely and comfortably over dirt roads and trails.  I've been looking hard and I was settling on either the Clement X'PLOR USH (700x35) and the MSO (700x40).  Both are appealing in that there is a center ridge (on the ISH) and closely spaced nobs (on the MSO) yet have aggressive knobs on the shoulders.  Either of these should be perfect for commuting and those days that I do get off road and one is coming up in 9 or 10 days - the 2014 Ride Studio Cafe Diverged Ride.

It happened that I follow Matt Roy on Twitter, watched the start of his west coast to Colorado trip, and met him at Ride Studio Cafe last August.  I put my money in for a ticket for the MM Racing End of Season Party raffle and got the chance to go to the party.  I'd like to report that I was the winner of the complete Seven but no such luck.  I was, however, the winner of the Clement X'PLOR USH 60 TPI tires that Clement generously donated to help Matt and Mo support the Amy D Foundation.  Needless to say, I was pretty happy going home that night.  This year is pretty hard financially and getting the new tires was a stretch, as was donating to the foundation.  Luckily, I walked away a winner.  So, in anticipation of the Diverged Ride, I put the new tires on the Surly and they look fabulous.  New fenders will have to wait until finances make it feasible.

The old and the new:

I'm sure I look dorky with the lowriders on my bike, mostly unused.  But I appreciate them when I'm taking a boy on the child seat and have to carry spare clothes, food, and maybe a lock.  The USH tire fills in the space between the lowrider struts:

The bike with bags and lights, ready to go to work tomorrow.  My neighbor called my bike a Mack truck the other day.  Could have been the lights or the racks and bags.  The tires won't help my bike look more delicate but I'm excited to try these on the Diverged Ride.  And I can't wait to try them out, including on some dirt trails on my way to work tomorrow!

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