Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Summer Gear Wrap Up

Maxxis Ardent Race Review

I loaded these front and rear on my Santa Cruz Solo for Kenai backcountry riding. These are an ideal middle-of-the-road trail tire: light, sturdy, with medium-sized knobs. They’re a good step up from the Ikons if you need something a bit more meaty, but don’t want to give up too much weight or rolling resistance. These would only make sense as XC race tires for the burliest of courses, and even than I imagine they would still be overkill. For endurance racing or XC/trail riding though, they’re a great do-it-all.
While these tires have some meat, they will demand a little more precision and cadence control when the trails start to get wet. Had this year been drier, my plan was to run swap out the rear AR with an Ikon. Had this turned out to be a wetter year, or for the shoulder seasons, I’d just go with an Ardent.
The only problem I encountered with these was likely an operator error issue. I belched the rear tire one ride and incidentally created a small slit as long as a fingernail is wide, just above the bead. The slit killed the tubeless capability of the tire. I used a patch on the inside of the tire and ran a tube in it for the rest of the season. I blame myself; I think my tire pressure was too low. That being said, my related concern was durability. The lighter nature of the tire made me wonder how it would hold up if our trails featured more rock gardens and shark fins. Maxxis is known for making durable tires, so its probably a non-issue.


Maxxis Ikon Review

I had these tires mounted front and rear to Mavic Crossmax on my Scott Scale. Their primary purpose was ripping around the trails in town and XC racing, and they were awesome. I was continually impressed by these treads all season. The smaller knobs didn’t inspire any confidence, but they hooked up reliably, from loose over hard pack to slick roots, to soft sandy corners. Obviously, as with other small knob treads, in wet or loamy conditions, they will start to show their weakness.
In late September I purchased a Yeti SB95 that came with an Ikon 2.2 in the back and an Ardent 2.4 in the front. This was a pretty goofy combo, and after taking it on a couple rides in Anchorage and the Kenai in classic fall riding conditions, the best analogy I could make was a 350-pound guy walking a yip-yap dog…I think it’s clear which tire is which here.
I’m not sure what the logic was there, but it was an unfair assessment of the Ikon’s abilities as a trail tire given the pairing and season. I soon swapped the Ikon with a 2.3 Ardent.
A big plus in my view, was that for a light tire, the Ikons held up great. I was looking for a more reliable, but still light, XC racing tread, after an unsatisfactory performance from the over-prized Schwalbe Rocket Rons last season. By late summer last year, the former tires were literally unraveling with each ride. The Ikons cost slightly less than the Schwalbes and don’t charge a hefty weight penalty. Mine should be good to go next year.

Halo Headbands Review

Headbands? Really? Review?
This is one of those, if you ever thought this was a good idea, go invest $25 and stop being a moron…like me.
I should have got on board with these ages ago. I never really liked the idea of riding with a headband as it seemed, stifling.
My most recent helmet, a Bell Volt, the same helmet I’ve bought every other year for the past 6 year, seems to drain a lot of sweat down my forehead. I have no idea what changed, but I finally got tired of having streaky glasses within 20 minutes of riding.
I expected the band’s forehead gasket to simply divert copious sweat down the sides of my face to my temples. Instead, the band wicks the sweat circumferentially around the skull, and helps to act a bit like a radiator. Except for in the hottest conditions, very little sweat actually runs down my face now. I did notice a bit of “stifling” discomfort the first ride or two, but that fades fast.

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