Fleecer Ridge and Noise Cancellation

We’ve got the new Fleecer Ridge 700C x 55 bikepacking/gravel/all-round tires in stock now. They come in the Standard, Extralight, Endurance and Endurance Plus casings. This means you can get the volume and groundbreaking tread pattern – more of that in a moment – with a full range of casings. At one end of the spectrum is our Extralight, the most supple casing you’ll find anywhere (except on FMB tubulars). At the other extreme is the Endurance Plus, key ingredient to one of the toughest gravel/all-road tires in the world. And in between you have the wonderfully supple Standard casing and the strong-but-ultrafast Endurance.

There’s more to the Fleecer Ridge than meets the eye: They are the world’s first bicycle tires to use noise cancellation. The knobs are arranged so that the noise from one knob hitting the ground has a frequency that overlaps the frequency created by the next knob. The frequencies cancel each other partially to make the Fleecer Ridge much quieter than you’d ever expect a knobby to be. Arranging the knobs so they cancel their own noise is such a new idea that we’ve filed a patent on this feature.

Really, it’s just the logical next step on our dual-purpose knobbies. I started thinking about this when Mark rode our first knobbies, the Steilacooms, and he commented that apart from the noise, they felt like our smooth all-road tires. That was a big compliment, since we just had raced down a twisty descent on pavement, leaning our bikes deep into the corners – not something you’d do on conventional knobbies.

The secret lies in the knobs being large enough that they don’t squirm, distributed in a way that you always have enough rubber on the road for optimum grip – and yet the knobs are small and tall enough so they dig deep into loose and muddy ground for the ultimate in grip.

Since the knobs don’t squirm, the tires are very fast and smooth, but the noise seemed inevitable – it occurs when the edge of each knob hits the ground as the tire rotates.

Most knobby tires have symmetrical rows of knobs, so you always have several knobs hit the ground at once, and they are especially loud. On some knobby tires, the effect is so pronounced that you can actually feel it: Knob, void, knob, void, knob… In effect, the tire isn’t round, but a polygon with many corners (one for each row of knobs).

To avoid this bumpiness (which isn’t just uncomfortable, but also slows you down), we made our knobs staggered. Instead of feeling a bump when a row of knobs hit the ground, each knob hits the ground at different times. That way, you always have a knob in contact with the ground, and the ‘bumpiness’ that you get with most knobbies is gone.

That got me thinking further: Could we tune the knob spacing, so that the noise frequencies created by the knobs as they hit the ground overlap and partially cancel each other? I won’t go into the complex analysis and calculations that were necessary to achieve this, but we’re happy with the result: The Fleecer Ridge is by far the quietest knobby I’ve ever ridden.

Lael Wilcox, the ultra-distance racer who’s worked with us developing these tires, agrees. In her first email after riding the prototypes, she wrote: “They are fantastic! So quiet and fast on pavement, and great on trail. I really love them.”

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that nobody has done this before. It’s logical, and it’s really the best way to make a tire for bikepacking and races like the Tour Divide that traverses the Rocky Mountains from Canada to the Mexican border. Over 4,425 km (2,750 miles), riders like Lael encounter everything from mud and snow on the highest passes to paved descents when they head into towns to resupply. There’s plenty of fast gravel in between.

Current tires for this type of event are compromises – usually semi-knobbies – that are not good at anything, but not too terrible, either. Rather than copy the status quo, we decided to make a tire that excels in all conditions. A tire with the traction of a true knobby and the speed and grip of a race tire on pavement. We’re excited that the Fleecer Ridge is meeting Lael’s requirements for the perfect Tour Divide tire. And if it’s perfect for a race with conditions as variable as the Tour Divide, it’s also great for all other adventures. That it’s so quiet is just an added bonus.

If you’re curious about how this tire was developed, check out the conversation with Tour Divide racers Lael Wilcox and Neil Beltchenko on Bikepacking.com – click above to view and find out what went into the tire.

And for all who’ve asked when the Fleecer Ridge will be released: It’s in stock now!

31 Responses to Fleecer Ridge and Noise Cancellation

  1. Vesa May 19, 2020 at 2:12 am #

    Any plans for applying this knob placement to the rest of your knobbies?

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:14 am #

      All our knobbies have staggered knobs, so they don’t have the ‘thumpiness’ you get with so many knobbies. The noise cancellation is something we’ll certainly incorporate when we’re making new tire molds as the existing ones wear out.

      • Owen May 19, 2020 at 10:12 am #

        Just curious, how long does a tire mold typically last and what causes it to wear out?

        • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 10:49 am #

          All mechanical parts wear – just think of how a river cuts its bed even into solid rock… So pushing around rubber inside a mold will cause wear. You also have the constant heating and cooling, which can distort the mold. How long a tire mold lasts depends on many factors – how much you use it, the initial construction of the mold and even just plain luck. There are also different parts to the mold, and not all need replacing at the same time.

          • Owen May 19, 2020 at 4:37 pm #

            Thanks Jan. Also, I really enjoyed the video this afternoon!

  2. Jeff May 19, 2020 at 5:46 am #

    55mm may be too much tyre for my clearance. I can fit a 54mm measured tyre. Can you please provide a real world width measurement on a particular internal rim width?

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:26 am #

      The Standard casing measures 56 mm on an Enve 45 rim (21 mm internal, hookless), and it’ll probably grow a little more over times as the casing relaxes. The Extralight will be at least 1 mm wider, while the Endurance and Endurance Plus will be a little narrower. So they all won’t fit – especially since with knobbies, you really need extra clearance if you ride through mud, otherwise you can wear holes in your chainstays.

      You aren’t the only one who needs a tire that is just a bit narrower. We do offer the 42 mm Hurricane Ridge, but there’s room in the program for a tire in between that and the Fleecer Ridge.

  3. marmotte27 May 19, 2020 at 5:58 am #

    “Arranging the knobs so they cancel their own noise is such a new idea that we’ve filed a patent on this feature.”

    Wow!!! This is abpove even the BQ level form ten years ago, when every other number brought a groundbreaking innovation, rediscovery or scientific finding. Expect a long article on this in one of the next issues. Thanks !

  4. marmotte27 May 19, 2020 at 6:01 am #

    And if I may add, that’s truly “Rene Herse” level, too. I’m sure, Lyli would be proud.

  5. Todd May 19, 2020 at 6:17 am #

    Are there any plans to release a set of these in 32/33’s for all of the folks with older cyclocross bikes?

  6. alan May 19, 2020 at 6:35 am #

    Excited to see how these tires compare to Maxxis Ikons; bold to claim current tires are useless

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:09 am #

      We said ‘compromised,’ not ‘useless.’ I doubt you’ll find a tire on the market that works as well on mud and snow as the Fleecer Ridge, yet rolls on pavement and allows you to corner like a racing tire with minimal tread. The Maxxis Ikon looks like a very good tire. On dirt, it’ll probably perform as well as any knobby tire with large enough knobs and enough negative space between the knobs. I don’t think it’s designers really thought that much about its on-pavement performance, and that’s where you’ll notice its limitations: The knobs are arranged in rows, so you’ll have traction suddenly decrease as you lean the bike more and get from the center of a row of knobs to the edge. And they aren’t staggered, so you’ll have multiple knobs hit the ground at the same time, for that thumpy feel and roaring noise on pavement. Most of all, I don’t think their casings can equal the choice you get from ours. Our Extralight and Endurance will be faster, our Endurance Plus tougher than what you find from other makers.

  7. Steve Palincsar May 19, 2020 at 6:44 am #

    Does the noise cancellation effect change or diminish as the tires wear and the shape of the knobs change?

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:12 am #

      That is a good question. So far, it works, but we haven’t worn the tires down to the limit yet. That said, the knob spacing doesn’t really change as the tires wear, so it should be fine. One thing we’ve noticed that our knobs doesn’t round off as they wear, so you get the same bite on loose terrain. The knob height diminishes, of course, but Steilacooms and Hurricane Ridges with more 4,000 miles on the road still offer great traction.

      • Mike Stead May 21, 2020 at 5:52 am #

        Hi Jan – got any photos of 4,000-mile-old Steilacooms? I have maybe 1k on mine and they still look new!

        • Jan Heine May 21, 2020 at 8:15 am #

          We have a set somewhere. I’ll see whether I can take some photos. Glad you are enjoying yours!

  8. Ed Devlin May 19, 2020 at 6:51 am #

    Tire looks great, how about a 2.35″ x 650b? I have your 650b Juniper Ridge, but would like an even wider tire for my bikepacking adventrues. I would definately take one of your a 2.35 x 650b knobbies on the Great Divide route next time.

  9. SteveP May 19, 2020 at 7:08 am #

    Wow! Now, do they come with a block of wood and a hammer for “tuning” my frame for fit? 😉

    On a serious note, it would be great to have actual physical dimensions since nominal tire sizes are really just ballpark figures

  10. Adam May 19, 2020 at 7:12 am #

    For your readers who happen to be acoustical engineers, please do shed light on the complex analysis and calculations. Are you saying the staggered lines of knobs are creating two waves that are out of phase from each other to create a noise cancellation effect? Or is the differing knob spacing creating differing frequencies of tire noise to make for an overall more broadband and less tonal (so less noticeable and perceived less loud) noise?

  11. Frank May 19, 2020 at 7:50 am #

    Very curious to learn how it was done. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests the primary wavelength would have an order of magnitude of a handbreadth or so at road speeds, which I would have thought to be too large for phase cancellation of the primary itself…

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:13 am #

      Many others have tried to copy some features of our tires (although they haven’t quite managed) that we don’t want to give away too many details. It’s not a total noise cancellation – for that, you’d need an active system with microphones and speakers that play exactly the right frequencies – but it’s still a very noticeable effect when you ride these on the road.

  12. Pam May 19, 2020 at 8:04 am #

    Fascinating. I love the Juniper Ridges I’m now using. Down the road, you foresee doing something like this in 650B?

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:33 am #

      We’d love to make tires in every possible size! Seriously, even though the Juniper Ridge measure 50-51 mm on most rims, there is room for a tire above that.

      • Korina May 19, 2020 at 9:48 am #

        Including 26″? Pretty please? 🙂

  13. Michael Wilson May 19, 2020 at 2:10 pm #

    Any possibility of these tires in 700×32 for those of us with older bikes that will not take 700×38 or 650 anything?

    Yes a new bike is a possibility but I like my PX10 and my Paramount and my Kona Zone.

  14. Benjamin Van Orsdol May 19, 2020 at 7:11 pm #

    Great video and looks like a great tire. Otsukaresamadeshita!
    Odd question but what kind of thermometer is that in your garage? I love old thermometers. Is there a story behind it? Pic?

    • Jan Heine May 19, 2020 at 8:23 pm #

      The thermometer is an old enamel sign, maybe from 1930s or 1950s? Aral was (is?) a German gas station brand. I found it hanging on the wall outside a plumbing shop in Germany, and we traded it for a complete overhaul of his late brother’s bike. I first experienced ‘planing’ when I took the old Bianchi for a test ride. Instead of just taking it around the block, I rode it for 50 miles that afternoon. I just kept going, and I marveled at how much better it climbed than my drainpipe Peugeot. At the time, I thought the Bianchi’s frame was so much stiffer… so yes, that thermometer evokes great memories for me.

  15. Derek May 20, 2020 at 9:53 am #

    Just curious, did you ever consider adding fine tread to the tops of the knobs, similar to your road tires?

    • Jan Heine May 20, 2020 at 12:09 pm #

      We thought about that, but it seems that the benefits would be small, if any. With the knobs, you already have a lot of edges that interlock with the road surface…

  16. Colin May 20, 2020 at 2:57 pm #

    I assume this is tuned for a particular road velocity. What speed? And I suppose there should be speeds at which constructive interference occurs. Feasible bike speeds? Perhaps would be drowned out by wind noise.

    I figure an easy and broader band way to reduce noise would be to put the leading and trailing edges of the blocks at a slant (or a point with slant on each side. A chevron is one example). The goal is that the entire block engages pavement progressively, rather than all at once. Similar principle to what you mentioned about staggering the warts. It looks like you kind of do that with the semi-round square shape, but perhaps it could be enhanced.

    My apologies if this was all covered in the video.

    • Jan Heine May 23, 2020 at 3:18 pm #

      There is a lot to this, as different knobs interact with others at different speeds and frequencies. I’d rather not share more detail – when you ride the tires, you’ll notice the difference!