Is there such a thing as a truly do-it-all bicycle? Gravel bikes–which are often praised for their versatility–come pretty darn close. Despite their flexibility, however, gravel rigs still share many of the design traits and limitations associated with conventional road bikes. Last summer those limitations became abundantly clear when I began including more technical off-road sections in my mixed-terrain rides. Despite the gravel bike’s wider tires and lower gears, its road-based design placed more emphasis on aerodynamics and smooth surface efficiency than off-road capabilities.
Around the time of my existential off-road crisis, a press release from Oregon-based bike wizard Jeff Jones found its way into my inbox. The press release announced that Jones was now offering a carbon version of his popular Loop handlebar. Having previously tested—and liked–the aluminum Loop bar, I figured the new carbon version might be just what I needed to improve my gravel bike’s off-road capabilities. After a series of email exchanges, Jeff suggested that I give him a call.
The Jones in its natural habitat.
Words and photos by Jon Doyle
While Terrene may not yet be a household name, the upstart tire company aims to change that with their line of knobby and all-road rubber. Debuting their wares at the 2016 Interbike trade show, Terrene’s lineup includes the 26″ Wazia for fat bikes, the 27.5″ and 29″ Chunk knobbies, and the 700C and 650B mixed-surface Elwood. Terrene labels the Elwood ($65 MSRP) a dirt road tire; up to the challenge of varying hard surfaces. It resembles a semi-slick cross tire, and would certainly be of interest to those looking for an oversized race tire. I put the 650B x 47mm Elwoods on my Rawland all-road bike and explored unpaved roads, trails, and the snow-covered urban landscape.
The Elwood comes in Light and Tough variations, the Tough containing an additional protective layer (TekShield) that is noticeable, yet still quite flexible when handling the two tires. My samples weighed 425 grams and 530 grams, respectively, matching Terrene’s data. The 47mm width was also as specified. Both tires utilize a soft, grippy 60A rubber with flexible casing and folding beads. In-hand they feel like a high-end MTB tire, sticky and yielding—not like a rigid touring tire. I installed the Light in front, Tough in back, where the risk of flats, cuts and sidewall abrasions is greatest.
The Elwoods fit snuggly onto my Velocity A23 and Pacenti SL23 rims. My first attempt at tubeless installation was unsuccessful, the beads just didn’t want to slide outward onto the rim’s bead seat. Soapy water and an air compressor couldn’t make it happen. After a period with innertubes installed, the second try went easily (My tubeless experience was similar–editor). Both the Light and Tough sidewalls weeped sealant considerably, but that’s not uncommon with light, flexible casings.
One reason for bikepacking-style seat bags’ popularity is their simplicity. Unlike panniers, the standalone seat packs don’t require dedicated racks. But depending on what you’re carrying, bikepacking seat bags–especially larger ones–can sway or sag. Arkel‘s new line of seat packs put an end to floppy, tail-wagging bags with the aid of minimalist, quick-release racks.
Arkel debuted their bikepacking line at Interbike in 2015. The first iteration resembled a traditional traverse-style saddlebag (read, Carradice) paired with a support inspired by the Canadian company’s Randonneur seatpost rack. After nearly a year of tweaking and enhancements, the sleeker Seatpacker 9 and 15 (so-named for their capacity) hit retailers’ shelves in summer 2016.
Have you ever tried inflating a car tire with a bicycle pump? For plus- and fat-bike riders, that’s about what it feels like when you use a pump designed for high-pressure, low-volume tires. Sure, you can do it, but it definitely ain’t fun. Thanks to Blackburn’s Chamber HV floor pump ($79.99 MSRP), airing up your mountain or fat-bike tires doesn’t have to feel like arm day at the gym.
Image courtesy of Blackburn Design