Last year I rode a few rides that pushed me, a lot. First I rode the Ride Studio Cafe Diverged ride. Frankly, I shouldn't have been there. It was a long ride through the woods, mostly on trails and I never rode on trails like that. But I really liked the idea that Rob Vandermark has about finding places to ride where you don't expect them. I also rode the Green River Ride (part of the D2R2 but far easier than the 100K version I rode in 2009). While the slopes were easy, Green River Road, a dirt road following the Green River in Vermont, was in comparatively rough shape with a lot of decent size rocks that you had to roll over or around. Then I missed the 2013 version of the Honey 100 and made up for it with a solo, early morning trip to Estabrook Woods in Concord. If I didn't think I needed better tires before Diverged 2013, then I certainly knew I needed them after Estabrook.
I plotted and planned and decided what I wanted was either the Clement USH (700x35mm) or the Clement MSO (700x40mm). Then I hemmed and hawed (or whatever that expression is) and finally just didn't do anything. Then I went to the MM Racing end of season party and won these:
I sort of liked the idea of the wider MSO tires and I sort of thought that the 120 TPI tires would have given me a more supple ride but, hey, I had these in hand, so I was sort of all set. Sort of, because my then current narrow fenders wouldn't fit. In fact, the rear fender bounced off the tire on commutes so I knew I needed to change the fenders. Money, as always, was tight so even though I really wanted the Portland Design Works fenders, it wasn't happening. I had some money in my REI dividend remaining and they sell the SKS Longboards, which isn't a bad choice, just not as aesthetically pleasing as the PDW fenders. And they came in the right size for my bike and wheel. So I was ready to roll. My new tires looked so clean and new compared to the Panaracer commuters I had been using:
Which really isn't all that bad. The rear tire looks a little more worn but the central ridge, for riding on pavement, is still in decent shape. In fact, one fellow rider on the 2014 Honey 100 said mine looked as good as her new USH tires. I have done a decent amount of dirt road riding on them. That dirt road riding includes:
And the 2014 Diverged ride. It also includes a diversion on my way to work the week after Diverged:
I also did an extended version of the Green River Ride, including 4000 feet of climbing, a very shortened version of the 2014 Honey 100, about 5 miles a week on dirt and gravel on my daily commute, and this:
This is for @robvandermark - a training ride for the test ride. 23 miles, mostly bike path and trail: http://t.co/CsZRJG4jNC home at 11:59PM
— NE Bicyclist (@NEBicyclist) June 1, 2014
So, what do I think of these tires after 1200 miles and some off road riding? I love them! First, 60 TPI vs 120 TPI may make a difference but these 35mm tires, inflated to 65 PSI front, 70 rear when commuting or carrying one of my boys on a rear rack seat, and 60 front, 65 rear off road are comfortable for me. Maybe there are other issues that come up but they are great for now.
These tires are great on the commute. They are not noisy (and noise = energy lost) and I have not had a flat crossing the sometimes less than optimal roads of Cambridge and Somerville and a lot of very rough surfaces. I'm knocking on wood now.
But where they really have helped me is off road. I really enjoyed the 2014 Diverged ride and was amazed at what I could ride over. In addition to their ability to climb over rocks, they were good enough (and much better than my old commuter tires) on muddy sections of trail. They were fabulous on the Green River Ride, which for me included a decent amount of climbing on pretty sketchy roads. I was alone, off route for a number of miles, and I rode confidently on these tires. I relied on these tires for my solo night ride (in preparation of Rob Vandermark planned Solstice over night ride that didn't happen, yet). I was moving relatively quickly over generally good dirt surface on the Reformatory Branch Trail and found my footing to be confidence inspiring.
These tires really came through on the 2014 Honey 100. The trail conditions in places was what, in the past, I would have called impassable. But everyone in my "fun" group was riding over it and after a tentative start, I started to gain confidence. I started to just gun it, if you really call riding as fast as you can in a 30/30 gearing gunning it. And I made it up every hill I tried, which turned out to be the rest of the hills, and I made it down a lot of gnarly descents. I think my test hill, if there was one, was a very rocky ascent with some pretty big flattish rocks. I remember rolling over some big rocks that I thought - this is it, I'm tumbling over. And I didn't. The wheels just rolled over them and I smiled and thought, this is possible. Wow. These are great tires and I have some experience and confidence that comes from that experience on good equipment. I'm still a relative novice and while I'll tackle more dirt roads and single track, I think I won't do it alone and at night.
So I think I was lucky in winning these tires and I will definitely not be going back to a commuter tire anytime soon. These Clement USH tires are too much fun and get me to places that I wouldn't easily get to otherwise.