Mountain Bike - June 00

Uncle Knobby
(On adding a suspension fork to a bike not designed for one). You can also try a more or less aggressive front tire. Try a VelociRaptor, for instance, and if that doesn’t work, try a WildGripper Sprint. Front tires have a strong influence on handling, and you might be able to make your bike livable by that simple change.

(Question on mixed road and off-road). The trick is that rubber compound is just as important – or maybe more important – on rock and roots than tread pattern. Knobs can actually get you into trouble. For instance, hit a wet, diagonal root that fits in between two center knobs, and the tire can go flying off down the root like a runaway trolley on a trolley track. I ride similar rocky and rooty trails, and I often run pretty racy, semi-slick tires with very good luck as long as they have a good rubber compound, which, so far, means they’re from Europe. Specifically, I’ve run Michelin WildGripper Sprints, Continental Double Fighters and Hutchinson Mosquitoes (www.hutchinson.fr/tires or 1.888.66hutch) on rocks and roots with happy results. I’ve been running a WildGripper Sprint on the front of my extreme technical bike, because I’m so jazzed with its grip on wet rock faces. These tires are all fast as snot on the street or hardpack, do surprisingly well in level mud and climb well if you’re in the saddle and keeping them well loaded. On the other hand, they’re pretty nasty in loose, dry dirt, they require great finesse when you have to stand up on a steep muddy climb, and you’ll lose the front end now and then. One of my favorite combos is to run a moderately knobbed tire like a Conti Explorer Pro on the back, and a “slick with side knobs” up front. The safest bet might be Explorer Pro’s front and rear – fast, yet grippy.

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Last Modified: March 9, 2008