With just thirteen days left until Iceman, everyone is looking for a late burst of fitness before we hit the start line. This weekend provided ample opportunity to get outside and put in some miles, with stunning weather on offer Saturday and Sunday here in Northern Michigan. I can report from my ride on the VASA on Saturday that the course is in incredible shape. If the temps drop and we keep getting some moist weather, the race could be the fastest it's been in years.
Part of getting your race dialed in is picking your bike set up. For my entire racing life, I've never really put much stock into tires, tire pressure, wheel size, and the like. When asked which tires I was using for a given race, I'd usually reply, "The black ones. With air."
But over the last week, I did some top secret testing for the Einstein Cycles-Short's Brewing team. So top secret, in fact, that I wanted to do a quick post on my findings. I've been running B+ wheels with 3-inch tires on my Bearclaw Balthazar all summer, and I really didn't think this set up could be improved upon. However, Cody threw some 29+ Ricochet (made by Bearclaw bikes) wheels on late last week and told me to rip it up and let him know how I liked them.
My first impressions? Meh. I climbed on my training course behind the State Hospital in TC and found the wheels dragging when going up, and a bit like clown's shoes going down. I did notice that my grip going uphill was better than on my B+ wheels, even though I had my 29+ running much higher PSI than I normally would on my B+ set up. I also knew that it'd take a day to get used to the higher center of gravity that comes with riding the 29+ wheels, so I wanted to withhold any firm judgment until I had more time on them.
The next day, I took the 29+ wheels out to the VASA with my teammate, Mike Walters. It was here where the 29+ wheels really had a chance to shine. I felt more momentum, less rolling resistance, and an extremely smooth ride on the flatter, faster VASA, compared with my very hilly course behind the State Hospital. The smooth ride, in particular, was very impressive, with no sore wrists or back to report, as can sometimes be the case on my B+ wheelset.
For my final day of testing, I went back to the State Hospital and put in 2,000 vertical feet on the 29+ wheels. Call it a learning curve, but I felt much better on the climbs and even the descents the second time around, and even set a new PR on a particularly gnarly downhill. After three days of testing, I can fully recommend running 29+ Ricochet wheels with 3" tires for Iceman. On a course where keeping momentum in the sand means expending less energy and, well, just going faster, the 29+ is probably the best ticket around.
I, however, will be back on my B+ wheels for Iceman. As the saying goes, all good things must come to and end, and so it seems to be true with my time on the 29+ wheels. When the Team Boss (Cody) wants his wheels back, us lowly peons must oblige. But a huge thank you to the guys at Einstein Cycles and Bearclaw Bicycle Co. for letting me try out one incredibly impressive wheelset.
26 inch, 29er, or cardboard box, ride what you got and ride like hell. Can't wait to see everyone in just a few short weeks!