You’ve read GRAVELBIKE’s series of articles on 650B conversions, and now you’re thinking about converting one of your own bikes. While the process is relatively simple, every bike (and setup) is a little different, and there’s always the possibility of a gotcha lurking in the shadows. After spending countless hours testing various wheels, tires, and other components, we’ve compiled a list of tricks, tips, and lessons learned that’ll make your 650B conversion that much easier.
Mind The Gap
Tire casings relax and typically plump up a few millimeters after being inflated for 24-48 hours. Check your tires’ clearance a day or two after the initial installation to confirm that there is still adequate clearance at the frame, fork, or fenders. When in doubt, opt for a narrower tire, especially if you’ll be riding in muddy or snowy conditions.
Keep It Simple
If you plan on swapping wheels for different terrain or conditions, try to use the same components on both wheels. Having to adjust brake calipers or rear derailleurs every time you change wheels can be time consuming and frustrating. Sure, practice can make the task easier, but when both wheelsets have the same hubs, cassettes, and rotors, you can spend more time riding.
Know Thy Limits
Fat tires and low gears can take you to some exciting new places. If you haven’t ridden a particular bike off-road prior to the 650B conversion, take it easy until you’re comfortable with the new wheels’ affect on handling and braking (both on- and off-pavement). This is especially important if the different wheels affect bottom bracket height or steering geometry.
Looking for even more info on 650B wheels and tires? Check out the 650B Google Group, or the 27.5 – 650B forum on MTBR.com
For yours truly, rain jackets fall into the Goldilocks category of cycling apparel. Some jackets are waterproof, but don’t breathe enough to keep you comfortable. Others offer superior breathability, but don’t offer enough protection for extended downpours. Showers Pass of Portland, Oregon, knows a thing or two about riding in the rain, and the company’s Elite Pro jacket succeeds in delivering the just-right blend of waterproofness and breathability.
Showers Pass constructs the Elite Pro from elite™ fabric using what they refer to as their trim cut. The end result is a fitted, lightweight (250g for men’s XL) jacket that still has some room for extra layers. The drop tail provides plenty of coverage when you get caught riding sans-fenders, and the shortened front hem reduces bunching when you’re in the drops. I would describe the jacket’s cut as form fitting, but certainly not Euro-Pro-tight. If you have long arms (like me), you thankfully won’t need to size up to get the proper sleeve length.
My first few rides wearing the Elite Pro jacket took place in mild weather (low- to mid-40′s) with light drizzle. On those rides, I made extensive use of the jacket’s core and exhaust vent zippers to stay comfortable. While I was initially skeptical of air flow cuffs’ capabilities, I found them superior to elasticated cuffs for increasing ventilation. The real test of the Showers Pass jacket, however, would be how it performed during extended periods of hard, steady rain that I often encounter on my evening commute. I’m pleased to report that the Elite Pro jacket came through in those conditions with flying colors. My torso remained dry in downpours so heavy that my cycling shoes would remain wet for several days.
Showers Pass offers the Elite Pro jacket in black or goldenrod (pictured above), and both colorways feature 360-degree 3M™ Scotchlite™ reflective material. Seams are taped for maximum protection, and the jacket can be packed into its ample rear pocket. Suggested retail is $230.
Disclosure: Showers Pass provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.
There’s a saying here in Colorado: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait five minutes.” While our weather can–and sometimes, does–pull an abrupt about-face, I’ve found that the large daily temperature-swings can be even more challenging. In the fall, it’s not uncommon for morning commute temperatures to be in the low-40′s (or colder), with late-afternoon temps reaching 60° or higher. Unless you want to lug around your entire wardrobe, selecting versatile clothing and accessories is key. To keep your feet dry and comfortable in those unpredictable conditions, Louis Garneau’s Bimax shoe covers are ideal.
Bimax shoes covers ($39.99 MSRP) are constructed from 3mm neoprene and Louis Garneau’s Wind Dry fabric. The latter features 3-ply construction for protection from wind and rain, while still remaining breathable. A seam-sealed rear zipper offers improved water resistance, and the reinforced rubber sole makes walking easier while fending off rain and road spray. Available in five sizes (XS, S, M, L, XL), Bimax shoe covers can accommodate shoes from size 36 up to 50. The large size (43.5-45) was compatible with 44.5 SIDI Dominator MTB shoes without requiring any special gymnastics or contortions.
One of the first things you notice about the Bimax covers is their compactness and light weight (153g/pair), which makes it easy to store them in a jersey pocket. Louis Garneau recommends the Bimax for moderate weather, and I found them comfortable down to approximately 40° (4.5°C). The Wind Dry fabric proved to be very effective at combining breathability with water resistance (dry feet are happy feet). Despite having only a rear zipper, they could be pulled on and off quickly and easily (even when yours truly was not 100% awake). While the uppers do feature reflective accents, I would like to see visibility improved with additional reflective material.
Disclosure: Louis Garneau provided product samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.