Looking back over 2021Jan Heine
Despite its many challenges, 2021 also brought out a lot of resiliency. We learned to live with the new circumstances, helped by the fact that riding bikes is actually safe, even in small groups.
For us at Rene Herse Cycles, 2021 was another year where our tires and components were tested to the max in epic races and adventures. For us, these big rides aren’t about marketing, but about finding out how our products perform under the most rigorous conditions. Carefully controlled tests are essential for our Research & Development, but what really counts is performance in the real world. We were excited to see that our tires and components lived up to their promise this year. Here are a just a few of the noteworthy performances this year.
Lael Wilcox rode the tires she helped design – our Fleecer and Oracle Ridge dual-purpose knobbies – to a convincing win in Unbound XL, the famous 350-mile gravel race in Kansas.
Amanda Naumann placed second (top photo), also on Oracle Ridges. Both Lael and Amanda opted for Endurance casings on the sharp rocks of the Flint Hills. Lael said after the race: “Wider is definitely better for descending. I’d find a lot of the people I rode with would slow down for the descents because they were rocky or rutted out. I felt like I could roll right through. Descending is fun!” Amanda added: “The 48s made sense from a comfort standpoint.”
Ted King (in the lead) came back from breaking his collarbone just weeks before the race to finish 4th in the 200-mile Unbound. He was riding smooth Snoqualmie Pass 700×44 mm all-road tires. Ted opted for the ultra-tough Endurance Plus casings, which we developed together with him especially for rough and sharp rocks like those of the Flint Hills. Ted wrote afterward: “Seeing BQ’s research has instilled in me the confidence to trust that grip on gravel comes from width rather than tread.” He joked: “Maybe the slick tires will start a trend. Lots of people are watching what I do.”
Holly Mathews (left) surprised everybody – perhaps even herself – by winning the ultra-challenging Rift Iceland. She rode the 700C x 42 Hurricane Ridge Endurance. She said: “Your tires are incredible and made the difference out there!”
Lauren de Crescenzo was ranked the #1 female gravel racer this year – by quite a large margin. After coming first at the 200-mile Unbound, she continued her continued her winning streak at Gravel Worlds, SBT GRVL and The Rad Dirt. During those last three races, she rode 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Extralights. Lauren wrote: “Extralights are so fast!!!”
For us, one of the year’s biggest surprises was the news that Francesca Selva won the Italian Fixed Championships – by a huge margin. The race this year was held on an indoor kart track, and Francesca’s Team T-Red also used 700C x 44 Snoqualmie Pass – the same tires Lauren rode with so much success on gravel. Francesca’s bike had 44s on the rear and 38s on the front, for the added traction on a course that was mostly corners. She commented: “The grip was like a Moto GP bike!”
The wild mountains of Kyrgyzstan are about as far from an indoor track as you can get, yet Sofiane Sehili also chose Extralights for the incredible Silk Road Mountain Race. He opted for 29″ x 2.2″ Fleecer Ridges. Even Sofiane acknowledged that the sturdier Endurance casing might have been a better choice for that ultra-rough course, but he won the event all the same. He told us: “Yes, you can ride the Silk Road on Extralights, and even win!”
It’s all nice and well to publish a book – The All-Road Bike Revolution – that explains how to make a bike fast, comfortable and reliable… Showing that all this new knowledge really works in the real world was one of the reasons to return to the Oregon Outback. My FKT (Fastest Known Time) ride was more than just a proof of concept, though – riding the entire length of Oregon was a lot of fun. (I ran 26″ x 2.3″ Rat Trap Pass Extralights.)
Annie Davis set an FKT on the short circuit of the Arkansas High Country Race, winning her category in the race. She rode 700C x 48 mm Oracle Ridge Endurance tires. Annie said: “The Oracle Ridge tires are insanely perfect for the gnarly terrain in this state.”
Adventures don’t come more epic than Anton Krupicka’s Sagebrush & Summits trip. It wasn’t just riding riding 3,700 km (2,300 miles) in 21-days – he also ran, scrambled and climbed up many of the highest peaks in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Anton rolled on 29″ x 2.2″ Fleecer Ridge in the ultra-tough Endurance Plus casing. He explained: “I chose these tires for their unmatched lack of rolling resistance while offering great traction on dirt and very predictable handling.”
The most important rides never make any headlines: just friends heading into the hills together for a day out on the bike. It’s for these rides as much as for winning races that we develop our components. And our goal here at Rene Herse Cycles is for all of us to get out on more of these rides in 2022.
Click on the photos to find out more about these rides and races.
Photo credits: Jason Ebberts (Amanda at Unbound XL); Rugile Kaladyte (Lael at Unbound XL; Oregon Outback); Andy Chasteen (Ted at Unbound); Omar de Lazzari (Francesca at Italian Fixed Championships); Danil Usmanov (Sofiane at Silk Road Race); Kai Caddy (Annie at AR High Country Race); Fred Marmsater (Anton during Sagebrush & Summits).