Six hours into the race the fatigue is real. Your hands, back, legs, all of them are screaming. But second place is 45 seconds back. You squeeze your eyes shut for a moment of relief from the pounding headache you have. You didn’t hydrate well enough. You’re close though, 10 minutes, and it will be over.
The last descent comes and you lay it all out there. This is it. Brake now and they’ll catch you. Leaning the bike over you’re going faster and faster. 25mph, whipping through the trees. In your depleted state, you lose focus, not keeping your eyes up the trail. It sneaks up on you, and suddenly you see it: sharp turn on the bench trail.
You now have two choices:
- Lock up your brakes and slide over the edge of the bench trail, but probably stop 10 feet down the steep hill. Hike back up to the trail and keep going, hopefully not losing too much time.
- Go for it, lay the bike over and try to make the turn at full speed, hoping your tires won’t wash out, sending you down the hill at full tilt.
It all depends on one question: how much do you trust your tires?
Two options, one question and the potential to win or lose the race based on your response.
Tires are possibly the most important part of a bike. After all, they do connect you to the ground, and when you’re mountain biking over lose dirt, rocks, grass, loam… being “connected” is a fluid concept.
In reality, traction is what you need, and knowing the very limits of that traction is the difference between winning and losing.
Enter the Maxxis Aspen. Endurance mountain bike races rarely involve one type of surface. In a 100 mile race I’ll go through mud, rocks, roots, loose dirt, hardpack, pavement, gravel and ten other varieties of trail. While changing tires every time the surface changed would be ideal, it’s obviously not possible, so the goal then is to find an all-around tire that works well for most conditions you’ll see on a given course.
For me, that’s the Aspen. I do have prerequisites for the Aspens that align with what they were designed for though. Namely, that it be a dry and mostly non-technical course. Smoother singletrack, gravel, pavement and roots are where the Aspen shines.
Why the Aspen
While your tires keep you planted to the ground while racing, they also can be your greatest enemy. Pick a slow rolling tire, and you will end up doing far more work over a long race than you need to. Rolling resistance is massively important.
The Aspen’s tread pattern speaks for itself in this matter. With low knobs in the center of the tire, you can roll very fast on even pavement, without losing too much speed to friction.
But cornering is also important, which is why the sidewalls get knobs that grip the dirt well when you’re into the tight and fast turns.
When you get the Aspens on a wider rim, they’re even more pronounced in their purpose. With the lower knobs lying even flatter the wider you set the tire, you can truly feel the ease in propelling their low profile forward. For this reason I’ll often race them in gravel races too, as they roll very fast.
For longer NUE races that have extended dirt roads or fire roads, like Cohutta, or smooth dirt Colorado mtb races, the Aspen is a great choice. Add in their low weight (but still decently robust sidewall) and they make climbing a dream. And yet, they will still handle the tough single track at the end of that race, when you need them to.
The Maxxis Aspen, a fantastic all around dry weather tire. Pick them up cheap HERE.