Ted’s Cannondale and Jan’s Rene HerseJan Heine
Ted King’s been on a roll lately. After his superb video about our epic ride when we scouted new bikepacking routes in the heart of the Cascade Mountains, he’s made another short clip about our bikes. I think they look great all dusty, after riding all day, after climbing (and descending) four mountain passes. Both the Cannondale SuperSix Evo SE and the Rene Herse are dream bikes, but they are also workhorses. They exist to take us places, to give us experiences and joys that are out of the ordinary.
We were hungry after the long ride, so this was just a glimpse, when each bike really warrants an entire movie. Ted’s Cannondale and my Rene Herse may seem like polar opposites, but there are many similarities. Not just the Rene Herse tires, but we’re both running SRAM eTap One-By drivetrains. Both frames are superlight and have flex characteristics optimized for performance.
There are differences, obviously, not just in the frame materials (carbon vs steel), but also the brakes (discs vs cantis) and forks (stiff vs flexible). And Ted was running knobby tires, while mine have smooth all-road tread. During our all-day ride, I observed two major differences:
- The Rene Herse is more aero. On the ultra-fast descent from Chinook Pass, I could pull out of Ted’s slipstream, take photos, and easily catch back up to him. Sure, Ted is taller (and hence has a larger frontal area), but he’s also heavier. The speed difference was quite significant, indicating that the combination of aero fenders, narrow handlebars and a bag that serves as a fairing really makes a difference. (Once the gradient became less steep, I had to be more careful to stay in Ted’s draft, as I can’t match his power!)
2. Ted’s knobby tires worked much better on the Old Naches Trail. Parts of the trail were muddy, and—no surprise—his knobbies had much more traction than my smooth tires. More surprising were the dry sections, where hardpack was covered with a very thin layer of sand. Ted’s knobs cut through the sand and found purchase on the hardpack; my all-road tires didn’t. On the steep cambers of this well-worn trail, this was very noticeable. Ted could ride even in the places where my tires slipped.
Once we got to deeper gravel, the performance difference between our tires disappeared. In theory, my wider tires (54 vs 42 mm) should have offered a little more flotation, but it wasn’t enough to be noticeable without a direct back-to-back comparison. On deeper gravel, the advantage of the knobs also disappeared. With nothing for tire tread to dig into, we were both sliding a lot.
Just as significantly, Ted’s knobbies didn’t slow him down during the first half of our ride that was on smooth pavement. So perhaps Ted made the right tire choice: Even though his dual-purpose knobbies provided an advantage on just 1% of the ride, they also didn’t slow him down on the other 99%—a net plus in the end.
However, those are minor differences. Both bikes, despite their different appearances, were well-matched for almost all of the long ride. I wish I could say the same about Ted’s legs and mine!