This weekend in Louisville our Cyclocross Magazine team included OVCXer Brandon Grant. Grant combined his training in journalism and interest in bike wrenching by spending some time in the team tents during the weekend and reporting back on what he learned.
by Brandon Grant
Louisville got an impressive inch-plus of rain on Friday morning, leaving the course at Joe Creason Park thick and full of mud in several spots. Our start line tire checks showed PDXs aplenty for riders on Donnelly tires.
However, in Lousiville, not everyone was racing off-the-shelf tires. A couple of privateer programs opted for a different way of handling the mud.
Modifying tire treads for mud performance is nothing new in cyclocross.
In Sam Smith’s original “Transition” film from 2004, Mechanic Adam McGrath is shown cutting knobs off Marc Gullickson’s Hutchinson Pro Series Gold clincher to get better mud performance at the old Highland Park race in New Jersey. Have a watch below.
More dedicated mud tires have hit the market since 2004, so we were intrigued when we saw the modified tires of a couple of privateer riders. Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz / Donkey Label Racing) and Allen Krughoff (Allen Krughoff Racing) both modified their tire treads in hopes of finding the ideal tread for the tricky conditions of Louisville.
McTubbbin Makes a MXP Mud
Tobin Ortenblad has been riding Donnelly tires this year and used a modified MXP during his second-place ride at Sunday’s Pan-American Championship. McGovern said Ortenblad runs file treads 80% of the time, so the conditions at Joe Creason Park were a bit different for the team.
After Ortenblad’s tires got heavily packed with mud during Friday’s pre-ride, team mechanic Chris McGovern took a Schwalbe lug tool to their collection of MXP tires, removing the wider lugs from every other chevron, just as McGrath did to Gully’s chevron-based tires 13 years earlier.
Impressions from Saturday’s pre-ride were good, with Ortenblad saying the tire shed mud better and was less grabby. McGovern said they opted for the modified MXP over a PDX because they thought the course would be fast enough where the fast center tread of the MXP would be an advantage.
Ortenblad said the MXP experiment was a succes. “Yeah they definitely rode well,” he said about his modified tires. “That mud was so sticky and heavy there really wasn’t much need for a real ‘mud’ tire. Chris and I have wanted to try chopping some knobs off for a while now and it worked fairly well. The goal was to make some room for the tires to shed mud.”
Krughoff Trims a Terra
Allen Krughoff also MacGyvered his tires. Krughoff’s tire, bike and equipment sponsor, Specialized, recently updated its cyclocross tire lineup. The change brought new mud and intermediate options and discontinued the file tread.
To compensate, the intermediate Tracer was redesigned for dry conditions and was given a lower profile, while the mud-specific Terra received a more aggressive profile. For Sunday’s tacky mud, Krughoff needed the speed of an intermediate tire with more bite on soft surfaces. To accomplish this, Krughoff Racing trimmed the center knobs of a Terra for a faster straight line rolling speed but left the side knobs intact for plenty of bite for turns or off-cambers.
For reference, here is the untrimmed Terra V2 from our profile last month:
Krughoff said the nature of the course at Joe Creason Park was not the best test facility for the modified tire. “I’d say the modified Terras didn’t have a noticeable difference on the Pan-Ams course, specifically,” he said. “The consistent climbing and descending didn’t give a great gauge for pure rolling resistance. We were pitting between the A bike with the modified Terra and the B bike with the normal Terra and I didn’t notice much change. Both tires had great grip.”
He concluded, with a nod in support of his sponsor’s production product, “Maybe on a course that was much flatter it’d be more noticeable. Overall, we’re just really happy with the updated, supple casing on both the Terra and Tracer.”
Stay tuned for more tech news and race coverage from Louisville.