Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Pavement, Dirt, Pavement, Repeat

Any time I hear the words dual-purpose, dual-sport or hybrid I become skeptical since in most cases they represent compromise.  In my mind a piece of equipment that is a compromise means it probably does not do anything well.  A good mountain bike turned into a road bike is now a heavy road bike and a poor mountain bike.  It is probably not a lot of fun to ride on either surface.  Of course, there will be limitations between combinations, but they do not have to be a compromise in my opinion. 

My project to use one bike for over 90% of the  of my riding this year means that I am looking for that no compromise ride.  It is with that goal in mind that I built-up the MOOTS CX bike this fall and have tried various tire experiments.  To summarize, the bike and components work very well on spirited road and group rides, commuting, riding in snow and ice, and dirt/gravel roads with the right tire choices. 

This is all fine and good if you do not mind swapping tires all the time, but I am lazy so I have been searching for that no compromise tire which works very well for road, commuting and dirt/gravel. The criteria for this tire are fairly rigorous in that it must be tubeless, supple, durable, comfortable on all surfaces (with varied pressure) good handling and under 300g in weight.  My research has led me to try the relatively new Hutchinson Sector 28  tubeless tires and determine whether they are suitable as a true dual-purpose tire and without compromise.

I have over 700 miles on the Hutchinsons and they have proven themselves as an excellent road tire - period.  I have settled on 65 psi for purely road riding and have begun experimenting (with the highly scientific Goldilocks method) with various pressures off-road and exploring the limits of what feels best for my riding preferences and 200 pound build with the following thoughts:

Elder Road with moisture keeps the dust down while improving traction
 80/80 PSI F/R: Too hard! Good on the pavement with excellent flat protection and grip, but not as comfy as I had hoped.

70/70 PSI F/R: Pretty much the same as 80 PSI, but slightly more comfy.

Summer roads typically do not have gravel and get very soft and rutted during winter and spring

40/40 PSI F/R: Too soft! Decent on the pavement but slightly mushy with excellent flat protection, comfy with good traction off-pavement but prone to bottoming-out on rocks or washboards.

Tires hooked-up well even in the soft stuff but would not work if it was much wetter

65/65 PSI F/R: Just-right!  Perfect for pavement being supple, comfortable, low perceived rolling resistance without being mushy out of the saddle or folding-over in turns. Not as comfy off-pavement, bouncy on rocks and washboards, while not inspiring confidence in turns.

The sticky stuff only attaches to the diamond tread on the sides
 45/50 PSI F/R: Just-right!  Good on pavement being supple, comfortable, low perceived rolling resistance without being too mushy. Very comfy off-road, supple on rocks and washboards, and inspiring confidence in turns without bottoming-out (much).

Note the absence of tread in the soft stuff.  This means keep the butt in the saddle on steep climbs unless you have momentum
For me, the 45/50 combination was the best all-round performance if I know I am going to ride on/off pavement in the same ride or if I am strictly off/pavement.  If I am on pavement only, then 65/65 is preferred.

I checked the tires for nicks, cuts or abrasion but have not observed any damage after about 40 miles of off-pavement riding.

Am I ready to declare the Hutchinson Sector 28 Tubeless tires THE no compromise tire for on/off pavement?  Stay-tuned.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

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