Staying grounded in life is key to success. Same advice applies to tire choice and how it can inspire confidence on your bike. Gravel riding is a fairly “new” discipline of riding, but in reality it can be safely said that many, if not most cyclists who live in the US have access to decent gravel roads at or near their doorstep. If it isn’t a stone’s throw away, gravel can often be easily found just outside suburban areas on surrounding county and country roads. One of the biggest complaints I hear from road cyclists is the concern over safety while sharing the roads with unpredictable drivers. Gravel roads are rarely frequented by car traffic and in my many experiences, drivers have been very warm and respectful towards their two-wheeled counterparts on the rare occasion I encounter them. With an increase in road cyclists becoming aware and interested in the gravel scene and gravitating towards this style of riding, there is some research to be done to adjust to the new type of riding surface. This is where a solid tire and the never-ending topic of tire choice comes into play.
Teravail is bringing their A-game in a field full of massive players in the tire industry, lately. Just four months ago I treated myself to a gravel bike. It’s purpose in life: to be my quiver-killer. I recently started to enjoy commuting on my hardtail to work every day instead of driving as of Fall 2018. Road rides have picked up again as spring and summer arrived, respectively and I do enjoy the occasional road ride with my lycra-wearing buddies. Finally, I do possess scores of gravel miles just outside my city that’s all to play for, so the gravel bike made total sense and I had no regrets from day one. Justification done, it’s time to play with setup and get the most out of my equipment and go get some miles! This means trying out some Teravail Rutland 700c x 38 tires during a few weeks of my usual riding practices involving plenty of glass-embedded tarmac, multi-surface gravel rides and maybe even some cheeky trail riding.
Initial setup of these tires was effortless. I set them up tubeless on my stock wheels with Orange Seal straight away with no struggle and they’ve been holding air without fail ever since. I threw these tires and myself into the deep end with an inaugural trail ride. Not only was I inexperienced on a skinny tire “road bike” with curly wurly bars on my local trails, but adding fresh tires to the equation had me filled with mixed emotions. I did run my pressures below recommended at around 40psi (suggested is 50-80psi) and benefited from the additional grip with my tubeless setup. I’ve spent a few hours on my sandy home turf with my previous set of tires, mind you with both wider and with shallower knobs. The corners were always treacherous and felt like the bike wanted to spit me off in half a heartbeat. While the turns still remained loosey goosey, the skinnier and knobbier Teravails did provide a sense of predictability in where I put my bike and delivered confidence that I’d come out of the corner upright with a smile reflected on my face. There was always some slide in the turns, but the Rutland’s would always find a place to bite and give me a good run out of a tight bend. Thorns are very prevalent on my trails and I was unfortunate to find one. The immediate two revolutions of the tire in the moments afterwards resulted in my sealant rapidly plugging the intruder’s entry wound. Phew! Now, if you’d excuse me, I’m off to go finish the evening’s trail ride!
Weekend over, it’s time to get to work. Literally. While my new commute is a full 6mi shorter per trip and less variable in terrain, I still get a daily reminder of puncture resistance with glass littering the bike lanes in randomly scattered patches. I’ve yet to not get to work on time and I still arrive happier since I’ve just ridden my bike. Can’t argue with the positives so far! There are also heaps of opportunities for local road cyclists to participate in a weekly group ride and I’ve been frequenting two on a regular basis as of late. Both moderately paced with an average of 17-19mph, one longer than the other (25 and 13 miles, respectively). Despite these tires being clearly designed with off-road adventures in mind, I simply used them as any tire I would use in my daily life and gave them hell on the tarmac. Without dispute, rolling resistance is an easy fault of them, but that has hardly any effect on what is capable on a bike like this even with aggressive skinnies like these mounted on. With my tires bumped up to near 60psi, I was able to maintain pace with aggressive aero road bikes and the like while still opting for the occasional gravel escape route for a quicker and more thrilling alternative. A win-win in my book.
Finally, gravel. I’ve put two quality 20mi+ rides on always-changing gravel roads and have had a blast each time. Our go-to route starts on soft powdery dirt, then transitions to rough and chunky caliche and then to rough and untreated tarmac almost as quick as you just read that sentence. Afterwards, some smoother tarmac extends for a few miles before throwing up a new pebbly variant of loose terrain before turning to smooth and hard-packed dirt road for a long while. This back and forth continues for the rest of the ride and provides an excellent testbed for bike setup, specifically tire choice. The Rutland remained compliant, yet efficient in my extended pedaling efforts and gave me confidence when things got loose and bumpy (often at the simultaneous). The bike squirmed on the uneven surface, but didn’t wish to deviate from its line unless instructed by the rider.
This tire didn’t disappoint and did everything I expected from a tire I dedicate my time and miles into. Sure, I used it for surfaces against its designed purpose and added premature wear, but as a gravel tire and bike, they should be up to any task. Without a doubt, it handled every surface and riding scenario I’ve thrown at it yet. I’m looking forward to using these until they give up the fight, but there’s no point in stopping now. I’m on a gravel bike!
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Words and photos by Mike Cartier