Celebrating Riders Fast and SlowJan Heine
It’s racing season, and so we’ve showcased a lot of really fast riders on our social media and in our Journal lately. We’re proud to work with some of the world’s best riders when we develop our tires and components. It’s no secret that somebody like Ted King, leading the Unbound pack across the Flint Hills of Kansas (above on the left), stresses his tires more than almost anybody else. When our Endurance Plus casings survive that 200-mile ordeal without as much as a scratch, we know they are ready for almost anything.
Race results also provide a validation of our carefully controlled tire testing. Any test is a model, and it’s important to make sure it replicates the real world. You don’t come first (Lael Wilcox) and second (Amanda Nauman, above) in the 350-mile Unbound XL if your tires aren’t performing at the highest level.
When Lael set out to post an FKT (Fastest Known Time) along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline over 858 miles (1380 km) on a course that is half paved and half gravel, she chose our Oracle Ridge dual-purpose knobbies. She completed the course in 3 days, 18 hours, 47 minutes. For us, that’s important, because it confirms that our knobbies roll as fast as slicks – even on pavement.
When the T°Red team used innovative bikes to win the Italian Fixed Championships, it not only confirmed the superior cornering grip of our all-road tires, but it also opened new avenues for research & development. Working with a team that pushes the envelope of bike design will improve our understanding of how bikes work.
As much as we value these fast riders, and we’re proud they choose our components, this doesn’t mean we glorify only racing, and don’t respect those who prefer to ride at a more leisurely pace. In fact, Rene Herse components are intended as much for slower riders.
It’s no secret that I like going fast, but some of my most enjoyable rides have been quite slow. On my first ride with Natsuko in Japan, we traversed a mountain pass in a typhoon. On the way down on the old road, we actually walked more than we rode. It was my introduction to passhunting, and it remains etched in memory as one of the best rides I’ve ever done.
Natsuko has been a driver of much of our product development, whether it’s ultra-compact cranks or narrow 37 cm handlebars for small riders – plus our selection of 26″ tires designed for small bikes. Natsuko is convinced that as a rider who doesn’t care about speed, she needs a performance bike even more than the fast riders. Because for her, the enjoyment of cycling lies in the discovery of nature and culture, and not in pushing her body to perform. And so she wants a bike that’s on her side and makes the ride as effortless and enjoyable as possible.
Perhaps Rob (@cyclolala) put it best when he wrote after riding around Portugal for two weeks: “Indeed ‘performance’ is not the same as going as fast as you can. Whenever a tire gets the ‘fast’ qualification, my head automatically translates that to ‘rolling easily.’”
To create race-winning components requires a lot of R&D and testing, plus the world’s best materials and suppliers. To us, the effort and cost are worth it. Because all riders benefit, whether they prefer to go fast or slow.
• Ted King’s report from Unbound, Lael’s story of touring and time trialing the Ruby Road in Arizona, and Natsuko’s article about why she loved mountain passes are in the Summer 2021 Bicycle Quarterly.
• The story of the ride to Hoshi Onsen during a typhoon was published in Bicycle Quarterly 54.
Photo credits: Andy Chasteen (Photo 1); Jason Ebberts (Photo 2); Rugile Kaladyte (Photo 3); Team T°Red (Photo 4); Rob (Photo 6)