By Ashlin Barry
Tire selection has become a hot topic in recent years as we are now beginning to understand how important grip, casing, pressure and tread pattern are to comfort and performance. On my mountain bike, the terrain in which I ride is constantly changing so I was excited to try out a tire that was versatile in most conditions with low rolling resistance.
For the past two years I have been riding and racing on Maxxis Ikon tires (which seem to be the go-to race tire for many cross country mountain bikers these days) on my mountain bike but recently I’ve been testing the Fleecer René Herse tires with knobs originally designed for gravel tires. I have found the knobs to be a good size, as the tires are fast and grippy on the trails, but also easily shed mud. Although they are considered to be gravel riding tires I would encourage people to use them on their mountain bikes as well, as they’ll be switching out tires less often when the conditions change.
Over the past few months I have been mainly riding with these tires in the Don Valley trail network, where the conditions are constantly changing due to the seasons, terrain, and weather. In total, I’ve ridden about 1000 km with them. A real test for the tires was during a 100km challenge I did in the Don Valley. It was a ride over an entire day (100 km on the trails is tough!) on technical terrain. There are many different micro-ecosystems in the Don River Valley, so the trails transition from sand, to clay to loose dirt and to mud, and, as the trails are in the heart of the city, we ride over trash and metal, which can easily cut a tire. There are roots, rocks, jumps, switchbacks, rollers, and fast flat sections. It’s a cyclist’s paradise.
The Fleecer Pass tires aren’t yet used by many pros but have been used by Lael Wilcox who is a premiere ultra endurance bike rider. She’s ridden, and won, many endurance rides such as the Tour Divide and the Silk Road Mountain Race and finds them to be the ideal bike-packing race tire. Wilcox likes these tires because they are versatile on all surfaces and loves that they are medium-weight and tubeless ready. For her, the Fleecer Ridge 29″ x 2.2″ (700 x 55 mm) Endurance check all of the boxes she looks for in a tire.
She writes, “Bikepacking is really about adapting to ever-changing conditions, and yet there hasn’t been a tire that is designed specifically for bikepacking. Most racers are on mountain bike tires that are designed for technical terrain, because we need aggressive knobs to deal with mud and snow. But mountain bike tires come in many varieties, each designed for one type of terrain. The idea is that you switch tires for different courses. But we’re racing all the way from Canada to Mexico on the same set of tires.” She goes more in-depth on the casing she uses and her experiences in this link.
Ashlin Barry’s René Herse Fleecer Pass 29″ x 2.2 (700C x 55mm) tires mounted tubeless on DT Swiss XM 421 29″ rims with an internal diameter of 25mm.
On the Don trails, I find myself going up a lot of steep uphills and tight corners. In situations like these I find the tire maintains traction while it still rolls fast on the straightaways. They are good in dry sections on the trails as well as on more muddy sections where the square tread on the bottom felt very grippy as well as being fast on the pavement. Now, I have become accustomed to them I will definitely use the Extralight casing model when COVID-19 finally gets under control and we can race again. I typically run these tires at around 20 psi, depending on how wet or dry it is, and find that to be an ideal pressure on the technical trails for my weight (140 lbs / 63 kilos): fast yet grippy.