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Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires: first ride report.

Saturday, April 13, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

April
13
2013

Yesterday I did a 19 mile training ride at Wekiwa State Park, and it was my first ride on my new Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires. This morning I’d like to present some of my initial thoughts on the tires.

First of all, these tires are very light: they came in at 462g and 466g (verified weights). I’m running the tires (26×2.25, Evo) tubeless on my American Classic All Mountain wheels. As I reported yesterday, the tires beaded right up and I could detect no immediate leaks. The rear tire did lose about 4 PSI the first night after the initial mounting.

When I ride at Wekiwa I almost always run slightly higher tire pressure compared to what I run when I’m riding on more technical trails. Yesterday when I rolled out I was running 30 PSI front/34 PSI rear (I normally run 26 PSI front/30 PSI rear).

We desperately need rain here, and on Thursday we did get a little bit. Unfortunately Wekiwa only saw a very small amount of rain–just enough to make the humidity really high, but not enough to help with the sugar sand.

First ride on my Rocket Rons. This was about 14 miles into my 19 mile ride. I had to add air to the rear tire here.

First ride on my Rocket Rons. This was about 14 miles into my 19 mile ride. I had to add air to the rear tire here.

I decided to hammer the first 2.7 mile segment (Sand Lake Trailhead to Marker 13 – Red Blaze), hoping to take down my personal record of 10m29s on the new tires. My PR on that segment is extremely dialed in, and I’m familiar with every inch of the trail. Except for mud and rock, this trail has a bit of everything: sugar sand, hardpack, sketchy corners with lots of “brown ice” (dead leaves and pine needles) and some rooty sections. I figured hitting the first segment with everything I had would be an excellent way to see how the tires performed.

I was flying through the first section, which is a combination of roots and sugar sand. The sugar sand is not too deep in the first section, and the tires handled it well.

When I hit my first patch of really deep sand, my bike felt like it was being sucked down into it. It almost felt as if a magnet was pulling my bike down. This happened every time I hit deep sand.

So, I felt like the tires performed extremely well through moderately sandy sections, but they really seemed to struggle in the deep stuff. I’ll add that the tires tracked well through all of the sandy sections.

On hardpack the tires were absolutely phenomenal. The low rolling resistance combined with their light weight made a very noticeable difference. When corning they felt very predictable, and there were no dead spots. I took the corners fast, and never even once felt the tires break or slide.

There’s one particular corner on this segment that is very sketchy. I’ve fallen at this spot before, and even when I slow down my back tire almost always breaks loose in the brown ice. Yesterday I hit this corner a little faster than usual, fully expecting to wash out. I couldn’t believe it when the tire maintained excellent traction through the corner. I’ve hit that corner dozens of times, and so it was an odd sensation to round it with so much speed and traction.

I felt a little “off” yesterday (more on that below), and I wound up with a time of 10m51s on the first segment–22 seconds off my best time. The sand and strong headwind were definitely factors, too. Like I said, my PR is pretty hardened on this segment, but I feel with better trail conditions I will be able to take it down on these tires.

I was also very impressed with the performance of the Rocket Rons on roots. I was not gentle, either. I purposely sought out the toughest lines, and rode them hard. The tires never lost traction, even on the wet roots. Super impressed.

As dry as it is here, there was not a great deal of mud to play in. I did hit some muddy patches in some of the low-lying areas, but they were straight sections and not very lengthy. The tires felt fine, and didn’t seem to slow as much as they did in the deep sugar sand.

About 14 miles into my ride I stopped and checked the tires. The rear tire was very low on air. I didn’t have a gauge with me, but if I had to guess I’d say it was around 18 PSI. The front tire also felt low, but not quite as bad as the rear tire. I added some air to the rear tire, and finished the final five miles of the ride.

My Rocket Rons required a little extra attention to fully seal. Allowing the tires to sit horizontal to the ground for several hours per side will help the sealant work its magic on tires with porous sidewalls.

My Rocket Rons required a little extra attention to fully seal. Allowing the tires to sit horizontal to the ground for several hours per side will help the sealant work its magic on tires with porous sidewalls.

When I got home I discovered two problems: first of all, both tires had lost more than 10 PSI each.

The second problem? One of my front brake pads was rubbing on the rotor–bad. When I put my bike on the stand and gave the tire a spin it didn’t even complete a single rotation. Wow, no wonder I felt off yesterday: I was fighting my brakes the entire ride! I’d trued my rotors the day prior, and when I put the wheel back on I was certain that I re-centered the pads and checked for proper brake operation. I’m not sure how the rubbing pad escaped my attention. Quite an oversight.

As for the air leaks, I was actually relieved to see that the air was leaking from both tires. If the air was only escaping from the rear tire I would have naturally assumed that it was due to the ding I’d just repaired.

The Rocket Rons have very thin sidewalls, and I suspected that they needed some extra attention to fully seal. Yesterday I did the Stan’s “Shake and Bake” procedure, which is basically an extended version of the usual sealing process. The basic drill is to inflate the tires to about 40 PSI, hold the wheels horizontally, swirl the sealant around and then let the wheel sit in a horizontal position for several hours (see photo above). Then flip and repeat. I did this yesterday from the time I got home until bed time, and this morning I was happy to find that the front tire had lost no pressure, and the rear tire only lost 2 PSI. Hopefully that did the trick.

Overall I’m very happy with the Rocket Rons so far. Their lack of speed through deep sugar sand may have been affected by my rubbing brake pad (gee, ya think, John?), so I’ll reserve judgement there. Also, because these tires are so light and thin, longevity and puncture resistance remains a concern. I will say that they handled some pretty brutal roots yesterday, and I noticed no physical damage to the tires after the ride.

I’ll have more thoughts as I try the RoRos on different trails.

John Stone Fitness Comments

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