First Impressions: Clement X’Plor MSO 700×32 Tires

In April of 2012, we reviewed Clement’s 700×40 X’Plor MSO tires. More than two years later, that review continues to be one of this site’s most-read articles. Riders searching for a high-volume 700C tire that can handle dirt and pavement are well served by the 40mm X’Plor MSO. But what if your bike can’t accommodate such a large tire? Clement has you covered with their 700×32 X’Plor MSO.

The 32mm MSO features the same low-profile tread pattern as its larger sibling, but scaled down slightly to fit the narrower casing. At the recommended maximum 75psi, our sample tires measured 32mm knob-to-knob (30mm at the casing) when mounted on Mavic Ksyrium Elite S wheels. Actual weight for our 60tpi tires was 325g (Clement also offers a 120tpi version).

Like the 40mm version, the MSO’s tightly-spaced tread pattern proved to be smooth and quiet on paved roads. While the larger MSO had more of a peaked profile, the 32mm size featured a rounder, more circular profile (which made for more sure-footed cornering). As with other similarly-sized tires, it took a little experimentation to find the best pressure for balancing comfort and flat/rim protection (60psi front and 70psi rear worked well for dirt and gravel).

While Clement’s 32mm X’Plor MSO may not offer the performance of a conventional cyclo-cross tire in loose or muddy off-road conditions, it’s perfectly at home on hardpack trails and gravel roads. Where the tire really shines, however, are those rides where you want to piece together paved and unpaved sections for a day of two-wheeled exploring.

Disclosure: Clement provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: J.Paks SnakPak

Thanks to the popularity of bikepacking and gravel riding, a cottage industry of bag manufacturers has emerged to fill the need for products not available from the big-name brands. One such company is Colorado’s J.Paks. Founded by industrial designer and avid adventure cyclist Joe Tonsager, the one-man shop offers a variety of stock and custom-made bags, including his popular SnakPak top tube bag.

The SnakPak is designed to provide quick-and-easy access to necessities such as snacks, cell phone, or camera. Measuring 9″ long and 2.25″ wide, the bag attaches to the front or rear of the top tube. For maximum compatibility, the hook-and-loop mounting straps can be repositioned to clear braze-ons, cables, etc. Single-body construction, combined with a waterproof YKK zipper keeps the bag’s contents dry. A strip of rubberized webbing along the bottom of the pack helps reduce slippage. If basic black isn’t your thing, Tonsager offers contrasting zipper accents in red, blue, green, yellow, camouflage, white, brown, or grey.

With a storage capacity of approximately 85 cubic inches, the SnakPak has room for those items that you don’t want to keep buried in a hydration pack or saddlebag. To give you an idea of just how much the SnakPak can carry, we were able to fit twenty (20) packets of GU energy gel in our review sample. For daily use, the bag comfortably held a wallet, cell phone, keys, some energy bars, and a bandanna with room to spare.

SnakPaks can be purchased directly from J.Paks for $40 + shipping. Turnaround time is approximately seven days for standard models. If you’re in Colorado, Golden Bike Shop and the Pedal Bike Shop both carry a selection of J.Paks products.

Disclosure: J.Paks provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: VP Components R73H Pedals

In the 30 years since LOOK debuted their first clipless pedal, the company’s single-sided design has proven to be extremely popular with riders and manufacturers alike. While there are dozens of LOOK-style pedals available, VP Components’ R73H model stands out from the crowd with a sleek, low-profile body, and an innovative two-piece cleat.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder VP Components R73H clipless pedal Look Keo

VP’s R73H feature alloy and carbon-composite bodies with stainless steel wear plates.

The R73H pedals utilize CroMo steel spindles and a combination of sealed cartridge bearings and LSL (Lightweight Self Lubricating) bushings. Installation requires an 8mm hex key, and release tension is adjustable via a 2.5mm allen fitting. Our sample pedals weighed 266g/pair, with the cleats and hardware coming in at 80g/pair.

GRAVELBIKE.com gravel grinder VP Components R73H clipless pedal Look Keo SRAM Force 22

The R73H’s naturally oriented themselves for easy entry.

In use, the VP pedals felt much like other LOOK-style pedals. Entry and exit were consistent, and confirmed by audible and tactile feedback (even at the lightest tension setting). The sealed bearings remained smooth during the course of our testing, and didn’t develop any play. Paired with Mavic’s Galibier road shoes, the unique two-piece cleats were pleasantly silent. Like most dedicated road pedals, the VPs performed best when restricted to paved-road use and walking was kept to a minimum.

When the R73H’s cleats do eventually wear out, replicating the correct position is a breeze thanks to VP’s patented two-piece design. Simply unbolt one portion of the cleat and snap in the replacement piece. Tighten the hardware, and repeat the procedure for the remaining section. VP’s two-piece cleat is 100% KeO-compatible, and can be purchased separately in fixed or floating (7°) versions.

Disclosure: VP Components provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.