Fleecer Ridge and Noise CancellationJan Heine
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. At the other extreme is the Endurance Plus, which turns the Fleecer Ridge into 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!