Tires from UnboundJan Heine
We work with a number of top riders and racers to develop and test our tires. After big races like Unbound, the famous race across the Flint Hills of Kansas, we ask them to send back the tires they raced on, so we can look at how they fared. Seeing their strengths and weaknesses is key to improving our tires further. Last year, we got four sets of tires back after the big race. Let’s have a look at them!
Ted King (front) rode to 4th place just a few weeks after breaking his collarbone last spring. He chose 700C x 44 mm Snoqualmie Pass Endurance Plus tires for the challenging 200-mile race. Before switching to Rene Herse tires, Ted had tire problems on every Unbound he raced – but even that didn’t keep him from winning the race twice. We developed the Endurance Plus casings specifically for Ted, and they’ve performed flawlessly on every Unbound he’s raced on them.
When we got Ted’s tires, we didn’t really know what to expect. After all, they had been pounded across the sharp rocks of the Flint Hills for more than 10 hours at 20 mph! Would the tires be full of cuts and nicks, indicating that they barely made it to the finish?
Imagine our surprise when the tires look almost new. The rear tire, which bears the brunt of Ted’s forceful pedal strokes, has a little bit of wear in the center of the tread, but nothing more than you’d expect after 200 miles on smooth roads.
The insides of the tires look even better. There are some traces of sealant, but otherwise, there is no reason why you wouldn’t take these on another Unbound or similar adventure.
Jess Cerra asked us for tires at the last moment, when her sponsor realized that they could not get her tires due to the supply chain issues that affected much of the bike industry. We sent her a set of 700C x 42 Hurricane Ridge Endurance tires, and she rode them to an incredible 10th place in the women’s race, despite suffering a flat “on the smoothest portion of the course.” Jess lost little time plugging the tire and continued her race with no further issues.
Jess’ tires also remain in great shape, apart from the plugs, obviously.
The hole is quite small, and Jess says that, with more patience, it might have sealed. But she decided to shoot in two plugs so she could continue without delay. She’s not somebody to mess around!
The Unbound XL is an even bigger challenge than the 200-mile race: It’s 350 miles long, and it includes riding all night on even rougher roads. Lael Wilcox won the women’s race. She was running a 700C x 48 mm Oracle Ridge on the rear and a 700C x 55 mm Fleecer Ridge on the front, both with Endurance casings.
As expected after almost twice the distance and a full night of gravel riding, Lael’s tires are dustier, and the logos on the sidewalls are a bit more scuffed.
Looking closer, tread and sidewalls remain in great shape. From what we see here, we might recommend a slightly lower tire pressure: There is little wear, but all of it is concentrated on the center of the tread. But tire pressure isn’t just about speed and traction, but also on how you want your bike to feel. Every racer has different preferences, and one of the great things of wide tires is that you’ve got a lot of leeway in choosing your tire pressure.
Looking at the insides, Lael cleaned out the sealant, making the tires look like new. Lael usually races in events that are ten times as long as Unbound XL, so it’s good to know that her tires will last even over those distances.
Amanda Naumann rode to a strong 2nd place in the Unbound XL, not far behind Lael. She was on 700C x 48 mm Oracle Ridge Endurance tires.
Amanda’s tires have two lines where the sealant coagulated a bit at the edge of the contact patch.
Looking closer, the casings also look as good as new.
The knobs on the tread have a few nicks, as you’d expect when somebody as strong as Amanda powers them across sharp rocks for more than 24 hours.
All these tires have a lot of life left in them. Of course, all these racers will be on new tires for the big race this year. It’s encouraging to see that our tires worked so well under these harsh conditions. Of course, as Jess’ rear tire showed, there’s always a risk of a puncture, or even a sidewall cut, if you hit a particularly sharp rock. That’s unavoidable, but the good news is that it’s really bad luck if that happens. For the majority of riders, Rene Herse tires will last the distance of Unbound or Unbound XL without requiring as much as a thought.
Yet the toughness doesn’t come at the expense of speed. In our testing, the Endurance casing is as fast as the fastest gravel tires from other makers (only our Extralights are even faster), while the Endurance Plus still beats the performance of most gravel tires. Both get their speed and strength from high-end materials and smart design that’s based on the experience of racers like Ted, Lael, Jess and Amanda.
The Endurance casing uses the same ultra-fine threads as our Extralight tires. To increase the strength, we push the threads closer together in a denser weave. Then we add a protection layer that wraps around the entire tire to protect tread and sidewalls. The result is a tire that remarkably tough, yet incredibly fast.
The Endurance Plus uses thicker, even stronger threads to increase the resistance to sidewall cuts even further. An extra-strong protection layer adds additional protection The result is one of the world’s toughest gravel tires that doesn’t give up much speed over our other tires. Ted King said: “I love my Endurance Plus tires!” And we love that he rides them so well!
Photo credits: Andy Chasteen (Ted); Rugile Kaladyte (Lael); Jason Ebberts (Amanda).