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  1. #1
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    Experimented with race tires today

    My brother (age 41) and I (age 43) have been racing Expert class in Utah, and doing it on 27 and 26lb full suspension all mountain bikes. Fortunately, we are primarily roadies and are really strong climbers, so despite our heavy, squishy bikes, we have top ten finishes, but want to move onto the podium. I have the S-works Stumpjumper FSR 29er. I had been running All-Mountain tires. S-works Ground control (605gm) and Purgatory (2.2, which they no longer make in that size, and is around 650gm). Today I tried the S-works Renegade 1.95 (470gm) and Fast Track (520gm). So I dropped about 260gm of rotational weight, and decreased the rolling resistance. My brother is 25lbs lighter than me, 2 inches shorter, and a slightly better climber. We went and road the same climb we did Wednesday. The segment on Strava, which is most of the climb, takes us 17:39 seconds, and has me ranked 25th out of over 1,000 riders. Wednesday, and today, we did it twice at race pace (2 laps). He led every lap, on both days. I was hoping I would be able to easily stay on his wheel today with the new tires. Unfortunately, the change was not magical. We had more of a headwind today, but finished each lap within 5 seconds of what we did Wednesday. Because of the head wind, he felt like he had to push harder today than Wednesday. His heart rate almost never hits 170, and today he was in the low 170s several times. Today was still very painful for me, and it took all my will power to ignore the pain and stay with him, but my heart rate was a little lower than it was on Wednesday, and the pain level just a little less. On the second lap on Wednesday, he would gap me by 20-30 yards at times, and I was able to close it when it flattened out a little. Today, I was able to stay with him the entire time with no gap.
    So, the lighter, less knobby tires made it a little easier to stay with him, but it was a very small difference. Where I really noticed a change, is when we would go over a rise, and then a really short down section. The lighter tires accelerated very quickly because of less rotational weight. Once I figured this out, I actually started clicking two gears harder to take advantage of this acceleration, where I would seem to magically get all over his rear wheel and recover for a second. On the decent, the rear wheel was definitely skidding more with braking. I usually never skid and am proud of that ability. Maybe I need to get used to braking just a little softer on the rear with the new tire. The front never washed out, but I was definitely more scared going into sharp corners. The conditions were excellent today (hero dirt thanks to some rain yesterday). Only on the very bottom did we get into more of a dry sand type loose surface, and the front tire actually cornered great despite my fears, and I was able to stay with my brother.

    In summary, the lighter tires definitely accelerate faster any time the trail dipped down, and would be faster in a sprint. On the climb, they probably lowered my heart rate a couple beats compared to my brother, and let me stay with him a little easier, but the difference was not nearly as big as I hoped. Any time gained on the climb will be lost on the decent, and then some, if the soil is looser or the confidence is lower. I will ride them again next time, and report back if there is anything new to add.

  2. #2
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    P.S. - I have an S-works Epic WC on order, and I am hoping that dropping 5lbs and going to a much stiffer frame will make a big difference in my climbs, but after seeing minimal improvement after dropping more than a half pound of rotational weight, I'm nervous that it will be money down the toilet....

  3. #3
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    P.S.- Its not about the bike or tires. The tires you were running were not heavy by my standards. Those are good weight for general XC tires.

    I race on an Ardent front at 780g and older Bontrager XDX on the rear at 680g. I like traction.

  4. #4
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    Dropping that little bit in tires isnt going to make you podium. I would much rather be on a set of tires I liked than a set of tires I chose just because of lightweight. Likewise, I spend most of my time on the road bike. You'll lose more time running super light tires you bought just because of the weight opposed to a set you feel you can rail on.
    Become a better rider. Hit trails harder and faster. Spend more time working on your bike handling. Being fast on the road and being fast in the dirt doesnt always translate. Fast in the dirt requires more handling skill. Bike weight isn't always a factor.
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  5. #5
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    How do you figure that an XC bike frame is going to be stiffer than an AM frame?

  6. #6
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    Faster tires are the ticket, especially racing, They probably saved 5-10 watts depending on what you swapped out for what. When racing, free power, assuming it doesn't compromise your cornering his huge. Tires like the Rocket Ron are nearly as fast as the fast track tire, but give you more grip.


  7. #7
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    Cool experiment, and thanks for taking the time to write it up.

    If you had power data vs. speed, it would be a lot more useful than HR data. Your HR might have been higher due to caffeine, fatigue, stress, dehydration... and isn't that closely tied to power output. All that really matters is how many watts you were putting out vs. how fast you went up that climb. Well, that and how much weight difference there is between the setups.

    I will agree with the above poster in that I will always trade off a slight bit of rolling resistance and weight for sufficient traction , especially in turns. Overall it's just faster. I like Rocket Rom front/Racing Ralph rear (both 2.25" x 27.5").

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by wetpaint View Post
    Faster tires are the ticket, especially racing, They probably saved 5-10 watts depending on what you swapped out for what. When racing, free power, assuming it doesn't compromise your cornering his huge. Tires like the Rocket Ron are nearly as fast as the fast track tire, but give you more grip.

    Fine if you race on a steel drum.

    You need only one tool to see if something is faster for you. A stopwatch.

    Ride the same course numerous times with the equipment you are comparing. Record the elapsed time. Fastest times = fastest setup. At least for that course.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Fine if you race on a steel drum.

    You need only one tool to see if something is faster for you. A stopwatch.

    Ride the same course numerous times with the equipment you are comparing. Record the elapsed time. Fastest times = fastest setup. At least for that course.
    while true, it can get a tad costly trying out 10 different tires...
    Put a mountain biker in a room with 2 bowling balls and we'll break one and lose the other - GelatiCruiser

  10. #10
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    Re: Experimented with race tires today

    I'd prefer a Race King or Fast Trak in the rear over that Renegade.



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  11. #11
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    Thanks for the replies. I wish I had a power meter on my MTB, but I only have one on my road bike. Based on what happens on my road bike on my climbs on days when I generate 5-10 fewer watts, I agree that saving 10 Watts with lower rolling resistance can be the difference between hanging with someone on a climb, or being forced to let them go. Love the graph on the Watt data for the different Specialized tires. I was considering the Captain over the Purgatory I had been running, but after seeing little difference in rolling resistance, the advantage there would be purely rotational weight. I think I will try a fast trak on the rear or a rocket ron as well and see if I can brake a little harder without skidding the rear tire so easily.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Le Duke View Post
    How do you figure that an XC bike frame is going to be stiffer than an AM frame?
    I am mainly referring to pedal bob more that lateral stiffness. My Stumpjumper FSR with the Brain locked out still lets the bike bob more than I would like when I'm standing. The Epic is supposed to feel more like a hardtail in that regard. I dropped 10lbs of body weight this spring, and had my fastest times ever on local Cat 1 and HC climbs on the road bike despite being another year older. I'm too skinny to loose any more weight, but I hope loosing another 5lbs from the bike will also make a noticeable difference on the climbs.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by SandSpur View Post
    while true, it can get a tad costly trying out 10 different tires...
    There is a heck of a lot more to a tire being "faster" on the trail than low rolling resistance. The tire still needs to have grip, cornering and braking ability, suit the conditions, suit your riding style, not flat, and give you confidence to go hard even when you are totally fatigued.
    Can not test those in a lab.

    Power meters have yet to show much useful info for mtbing. Not enough steady state pedaling in a typical course.
    And what feels "faster" may not be by the clock.
    Use elapsed time. GPS data also helps to see where the speed differences are.
    In testing I have done some of the slowest overall laps felt fast because the bike as moving around more and requiring more input to stay on the trail. The fastest laps were almost boring by comparison.
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  14. #14
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    Experimented with race tires today

    Quote Originally Posted by rdalcanto View Post
    Today I tried the S-works Renegade 1.95 (470gm) and Fast Track (520gm). So I dropped about 260gm of rotational weight, and decreased the rolling resistance. My brother is 25lbs lighter than me, 2 inches shorter, and a slightly better climber.

    In summary, the lighter tires definitely accelerate faster any time the trail dipped down, and would be faster in a sprint. On the climb, they probably lowered my heart rate a couple beats compared to my brother, and let me stay with him a little easier, but the difference was not nearly as big as I hoped. Any time gained on the climb will be lost on the decent, and then some, if the soil is looser or the confidence is lower. I will ride them again next time, and report back if there is anything new to add.
    I'm not a big fan of the S-Works tyre casing. They're thin and tend to be a bit fragile. There's not much point having light tyres if you're stationary with a puncture. For Specialized tyres the Control casing is a bit more robust.

    If you're comparing offroad tyres their cornering and braking abilities are just as important as riding up a climb. If you have no confidence then that can often outweigh any reduction in rolling resistance from a lightly treaded tyre. Did you make a note of the difference between tyre times on the descent as well as for the climb?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    There is a heck of a lot more to a tire being "faster" on the trail than low rolling resistance. The tire still needs to have grip, cornering and braking ability, suit the conditions, suit your riding style, not flat, and give you confidence to go hard even when you are totally fatigued.
    Can not test those in a lab.
    I completely agree. For me, with a limited budget, I tend to look at a graph like that, and can pick out which tires which have have the smaller knobs that I know wont work, then look at the ones I guess will have enough traction for my requirements, then pick one with a better rolling resistance to try out.

    a graph like that just helps me narrow my selection down to the next tire im going to try..
    Put a mountain biker in a room with 2 bowling balls and we'll break one and lose the other - GelatiCruiser

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdalcanto View Post
    Thanks for the replies. I wish I had a power meter on my MTB, but I only have one on my road bike. Based on what happens on my road bike on my climbs on days when I generate 5-10 fewer watts, I agree that saving 10 Watts with lower rolling resistance can be the difference between hanging with someone on a climb, or being forced to let them go. Love the graph on the Watt data for the different Specialized tires. I was considering the Captain over the Purgatory I had been running, but after seeing little difference in rolling resistance, the advantage there would be purely rotational weight. I think I will try a fast trak on the rear or a rocket ron as well and see if I can brake a little harder without skidding the rear tire so easily.
    I think that's the best option. The Powertap on my mtb has shown me that tires make a huge difference. While they won't bring you from the back of the pack to the front, if you're fighting for position saving any power makes a bit difference.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by wetpaint View Post

    Do we know where this graph came from? The reason I ask, is that looking at the Ground Control tire in my garage and comparing it to the Purgatory, they are fairly similar. The Captain looks like it should have a lower rolling resistance than either of those, but the data in this graph does not support that. Also wider tires are supposed to have lower rolling resistance than narrow tires, because of less deformation, and this graph is the opposite when comparing two widths of the same model...

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by rdalcanto View Post
    Also wider tires are supposed to have lower rolling resistance than narrow tires, because of less deformation, and this graph is the opposite when comparing two widths of the same model...
    Yep...I'm wondering the same thing???

  19. #19
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    Experimented with race tires today

    Quote Originally Posted by rdalcanto View Post
    Do we know where this graph came from?
    Specialized use Wheel Energy for their tyre testing.

    http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/articl...e-myths-29245/

    http://www.wheelenergy.com/

  20. #20
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    Update:
    We have ridden the same ride now several times on the new tires. My best climb is 25 seconds faster on the lighter tires than I could do previously on the bigger tires. Not a huge difference in a 17 minute climb, but could be significant in a race. We've been riding on hard pack conditions, so the narrower tires with smaller knobs should not matter once you stop thinking about the fact that you are on thinner tires. I have actually gotten 50 seconds faster on the decent than I was able to do previously, over a 9 minute long decent. This improvement is not directly from the tires, but from learning this technical decent full of banked hairpins, small table top jumps, turns through the trees, etc. But the point is, the racing tires are not slowing me down on the decent now that I have learned to trust them. There is no reason they should not hold on hard pack as well as a wider tire with soft knobs. In fact, they might hold better since big knobs flex. My brother upgraded to a Scalpel 1 with Racing Ralphs, so his climbs have gotten faster. He is now KOM on the loop that includes the 17 min climb and 8 min decent (no longer 9 min), and I'm just a few seconds behind him, beating out the hundreds of other riders that have Strava'd the loop, including several pros. My plan for now is to stay with the lighter tires for the racing season next year.
    Don't know if my Strava loop from today will post, but here it is:
    Mountain Bike Ride Profile | Corner Canyon 11/9/13 near Draper | Times and Records | Strava

  21. #21
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    Re: Experimented with race tires today

    Quote Originally Posted by rdalcanto View Post
    ..... He is now KOM on the loop that includes the 17 min climb and 8 min decent (no longer 9 min), and I'm just a few seconds behind him, beating out the hundreds of other riders that have Strava'd the loop, including several pros. My plan for now is to stay with the lighter tires for the racing season next year.
    Don't know if my Strava loop from today will post, but here it is:
    Mountain Bike Ride Profile | Corner Canyon 11/9/13 near Draper | Times and Records | Strava
    The "brother" here - I just want to be the one to point out that being KOM for the loop is a bit of a "Stravatard" move since the top of the climb is near a parking lot and trailhead and most people probably stop for a few minutes to take a breather before descending. One of the guys that is a couple minutes behind us in the loop timing has a PR climb a little faster than me and a PR descent about the same as mine. So unless he can't put both of them together, he must have stopped for a few minutes, perhaps waiting for a friend.
    Now, back to the topic at hand. I went from Nobby Nic tires on the "wider" 29er Cheap Chinese rims on my Niner RIP RDO to Racing Ralphs on Reynolds carbon rims that are 2mm narrower on my Scalpel. Obviously I can't compare the tires as well as my brother did since the bikes and wheels themselves are apples and oranges. But, I do feel like the Racing Ralphs bite well in the corners. That said, the lower volume of the tire and rim combo does require that I run a higher pressure, especially in the rear (28-30 vs 25). When I ran the lower pressure, I felt the tire squirm in hard corners. I do miss the supple nature of the higher volume tire and rim combo, but for racing (which every ride with my brother is a race) I will accept the harsher feel in return for a faster tire.



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    I used to ride the Geax AKA TNT's. They are bombproof but slightly heavy. I switched to the specialized fast track and they are great tires. Down here in Arizona it's pretty rocky. I have beat the crap out of these tires without ever getting a flat. They are a lot tougher than I thought they would be. I will use these tires for endurance mountain bike racing as I feel they are a good combination of low rolling resistance lightweight and flat protection.

  23. #23
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    I agree. I see people criticizing Specialized tires, but I've had great luck with them over the years. I always run S-works tires and can't think of the last time I had a flat or side wall issue, and I've scraped them good against rocks and roots. My brother has already had a flat with the Racing Ralphs that was too big to seal with Stans, and we had to through a tube in to finish the ride. Don't know if that was just bad luck or if they aren't as tuff as the Specialized tires. We will see what happens as we log more miles on our tires.

  24. #24
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    Fast Traks are awesome.

    As far as the big knob tires... I wouldn't roll anything like Nobby Nics on hardpack, only stuff like Fast Trak, Race King, Racing Ralphs, geax AKA etc. Big knob tires on hardpack is silly.

  25. #25
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    Re: Experimented with race tires today

    The big knobs out here were reassuring because we often are on loose, sandy dirt on top of hard pack. It just seems like the big knobs would hold better. I've been amazed at how well the Racing Ralphs hold, though I do feel then drift a little more than the nobby nics did, especially through high-speed mild chicane turns where the turn isn't really tight enough to have to lean the bike over far but it is tight enough that the tire drifts out a little. Now that I'm used to it, I have confidence that it won't wash out, but it was disconcerting at first.


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