Ted King’s Tips for Choosing Tires
Ted King made a video about how he chooses the tires for his gravel and road bikes. Watching it, I was reminded that we’ve been working together for 4 years now—and I found out that he’s been riding Rene Herse tires for 7 years. I had noticed the occasional photo of ‘The King of Gravel’ with our tires on his road bikes, so I finally called him and asked about the ideal tire for winning gravel races. He said something like “the speed and comfort of your tires, plus a lot more durability.”
Back then, we made our Standard and Extralight casings, which covered most of the conditions we encounter on our rides here in the Cascade Mountains, but also during forays to Japan and Europe. Talking to Ted and other racers, I realized that it’s one thing to ride alone or with a group of friends, where you can pick your line. It’s a totally different matter when you are racing in a dense pack where you don’t even see the rocks before you hit them. And I learned that the rocks in the Flint Hills of Kansas are really, really sharp. (I’ve since raced Unbound XL to personally check out those rocks.)
That phone call with Ted set in motion a long process of R&D and prototype testing. The results were our Endurance and Endurance Plus casings. For the Endurance, we took the ultra-fine threads of our Extralight casing, pushed them closer together in a denser weave for more strength, then added a cut-resistant layer that stretches from bead to bead. Thanks to the high-end materials, the Endurance tires give up very little speed, but gain a lot of durability. They have become the go-to gravel tire for many of the world’s fastest riders and racers.
For the really tough races, Ted wanted even more durability from his tires. That’s because he is tall and incredibly strong, and when he tackles rough courses, he tends to shred tires. From what I recall, he flatted in every Unbound race before we developed the Endurance Plus tires just for him. (He won several of those races despite the flat tires.) The Endurance Plus tires are probably the toughest tires you’ll find this side of a downhill mountain bike tire, yet they retain much of the supple speed and comfort that attracted Ted to Rene Herse tires in the first place. Our policy is that if Ted or one of the other pros we work with needs something, there are many others who’d want it as well, and so we make it available to everybody. That’s how we added the Endurance Plus to our program.
Seeing Ted’s new video, I realized once again how much we’ve influenced each other. Just as Ted’s experience has shaped our tires, so has our research and testing influenced Ted’s tire choices. Like many gravel racers, Ted was unsure what to make of our suggestion to ride slicks on dry, loose gravel, where traction is limited by rocks sliding on rocks, and not by the grip of the tire on the top layer of loose rocks. These days, he’s mixing smooth all-road tires with dual-purpose knobbies, depending on the course—and many other racers are following suit and racing on slicks as well. Because everybody is watching what Ted rides… and for good reason: He knows that to win on gravel, choosing the right tires is essential. And now you can watch Ted as well, in his new video (below). Enjoy!