Race Wins — What They Mean for YouJan Heine
Maybe you’re getting tired of us talking about the races won on our tires. Like proud parents, we just can’t help mentioning yet another big win, like when Sofiane Sehili repeated his win in the toughest bikepacking races of all, the Silk Road Mountain Race, last weekend. Most of our customers don’t race, so why should they care?
For us, racing is part of our R&D. A big race like the Silk Road pushes rider and bike—especially the tires—to the very limit, more than almost anything we can replicate in the test lab or even in the field. In a bikepacking race, there’s no time to mess with equipment. To win, riders need to focus on riding, eating and sleeping. Any bike or tire issue is a distraction that can make the difference between winning or not even finishing. Especially if the race is as close as this year’s Silk Road, where second-placed rider James Hayden came within just a few kilometers of Sofiane after more than a week of non-stop racing. (James finished less than an hour after Sofiane.)
Sofiane reported that his 29″ x 2.2″ Fleecer Ridge Endurance tires performed flawlessly: “I had no tire problems whatsoever. Zero punctures. No pressure loss. Everything went extremely well. And as always, the tires roll incredibly fast, no matter the terrain.”
What does that mean for the rest of us? Apart from the fact that Sofiane is good at setting up tires tubeless — no pressure loss over 1,863 km and more than 7 days of racing on the roughest roads imaginable! It also confirms that the Endurance casing can handle pretty much everything you’ll encounter on the road—any road—while still rolling faster than most other gravel and adventure tires. (We’ve tested that under carefully controlled conditions, but all tests need to be replicated in the real world.)
But there’s more to it: Sofiane will send us the tires he used in the race, and we’ll examine them to see how they can be improved further. Because as good as they are, they can always be better. We can’t wait to see what his tires look like after that incredible race, and we’ll section them to see how their internal structure held up.
Also last weekend, Lauren de Crescenzo won Gravel Worlds and set a new course record. (She covered the 150-miles at an average speed of 20 mph/32 km/h!) We’re not going to claim that this amazing performance is due to anything but Lauren’s incredible legs, lungs and heart.
That said, it’s nice to see that her 700×44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Endurance tires didn’t slow her down. Most of her competitors chose narrower tires for Nebraska’s relatively smooth gravel, yet second-place finisher Paige Onweller was more than 14 minutes behind Lauren. It’s another confirmation that we don’t need to worry about ‘too much tire’ when we’re riding supple high-performance tires.
Narrow tires still have a place, as Francesca Selva (left) showed last Sunday when she won the Zuricrit road race in Switzerland against a world-class field. Francesca raced on 700×26 mm Chinook Pass Extralights. She wrote: “That was my first road race on your tires, and my first win in a road race!” (Francesca’s specialty are fixed-gear races…) It’s good to see that our road tires can compete with the very best.
Despite all the excitement about racing, it’s important to remember that most of our customers don’t race. There are things that matter to them, but which are less important for racers.
Fortunately, one-half of our leadership team—Natsuko—has no interest in racing. She loves exploring forgotten roads and lost mountain passes at an unrushed pace. Her perspective guides our product development as much as the needs of the world’s fastest racers.
One example: Racers may be able to put on new tires every 1000 miles or so. For the rest of us, tires should last longer than that (especially wide ones). That’s why our all-road tires have a little more rubber in the center of the tread. This adds only a few grams in weight, and the performance difference is too small to measure. (We have tested this, of course.) However, thanks to the extra thickness where the tires wear, our tires last two or three times as long as ‘event tires’ that use ultra-thin tread rubber.
Natsuko also reminds us that rolling resistance has an even greater effect at lower speeds. Superhumans like Francesca (above), Lauren or Sofiane are battling wind resistance first and foremost, but at a more leisurely pace, rolling resistance makes up a much bigger portion of the bike’s overall resistance. It’s one of many ways in which racing and performance benefit all of us, no matter how fast or slow we choose to ride.
- A story about climbing a forgotten pass in Japan that has nothing to do with racing.
- Performance test results of Rene Herse tires under carefully controlled conditons.
Photo credits: Tristan Boogard (Sofiane); Cinch Rise (Lauren)