Fat is a Great Ride

Sure enough, I gave it away in the title. I was skeptical at first, but now that I’ve tried it – I’m hooked. It kind of started when I bought this 2013 Ridley X-Fire with two sets of wheels. It got my mind crunching gearing vs. tires and I believe I’ve stumbled into something awesome!

For decades, I was the grinding roadie. I got my Panasonic DX3000 in 1987 and logged mile after mile on it. Race position and skinny tires – boom! I’m in love. That bike took me all over Pennsylvania, then when I moved to Colorado – wow! I rode all over that state and participated in breathtaking rides in the foothills and plains. The Elephant Rock Century, the Arvada Century, the Fort Lupton Century and training rides with coworkers or solo, way before Strava gave us a place to brag.

When I got the Ridley, one set of wheels were clinchers with 38mm cyclocross tires. The other set of wheels were tubular and sported 28mm tires with more of a road gearing set up. I decided to make one set of wheels for trail riding with my dual suspension friends, and the other set shod with Gatorskinz would be my road tires. One bike – two specialties. Since I love the positioning of the bike with its rider-friendly geometry, I’m all set.

Then I saw the ad for the San Diego Century featuring some decent climb numbers. The ride would be 102.5 miles with 7300 feet of climb. This would be a challenge. I pondered long and hard then decided to experiment. What if I took the larger geared cassette – typically used for off-road, but added a decent wide road tire? Would I lose too much speed? Would the rolling resistance increase too much to find success in the century?

To complete my set-up I ordered up a set of Continental Super Sport tires sized 700×32 mm. When they arrived I was pleased with the subtle but consistent tread across the whole section of the tire. The sidewalls were stiff and mounting them took all my thumbs could offer, careful not to pinch the tubes. When I aired them up, they looked both huge, but kind of sporty. They were rated at 32 mm but didn’t appear much thinner than the 38 mm tires I had been using on the trail.

When I got to the event on that fateful Saturday, I paid attention to the other bikes and their set-ups. I didn’t see anyone running anything wider than what looked to be 25 mm. As my group was let out on the ride I immediately felt it. The ride was incredibly smooth with all the little seams and ripples turned to minor thuds over previous jarring sensations. Of course, we are just getting started.

 

Did I enjoy earning the medal? You Betcha!!

Later in the ride, I start my first aggressive climb. While not feeling light and quick in my pace, I was able to maintain a respectable cadence. Then came the payback. Downhill was the best I have ever felt on this Ridley X-Fire. With the 25’s on it I would feel twitchy at anything over 35 MPH. With the new Continentals, I was able to maintain over 40 MPH with complete confidence and control.

 

So to complete my thoughts on the new tires, I turn to the ending of the ride and the pain in my rear. Realistically, I am feeling wonderful in comparison to riding on the skinny tires. What little I seemed to have lost in the climb speed, I more than made up for in downhill and flat speed. But the kicker – oh the kicker is the confidence and comfort. I love this set up so much that as I enter the month of June in the Great Cycle Challenge, I’ve left the set-up to log my 400 miles of the month. The cyclocross gearing spins up any hill on the street, and the tires plush feel give my fanny the will to log the miles. Sure, I may be out of step with some of my riding friends, but in the end, cycling is supposed to extend you joy.